Having goals to look forward to

‘What are you looking forward to?’ For me this is a great litmus test for my mood. When I feel good I’ll be able to give you plenty of answers, but on a shabby day I’ll struggle to name just one.

Having keen anticipation for anything can be a marvellous feeling, but the opposite is also true. Any reminder that you see nothing positive on the horizon can knock a severe dent in your wellbeing.

Low mood nibbles away at your enthusiasm and energy. It leaves you feeling negative rather than positive, pessimistic rather than optimistic, and rear-looking rather than forward-gazing.

And with such a glass-half-full disposition it would indeed be surprising if you suddenly started setting yourself significant goals. However, when you’re sailing through troubled waters mood-wise it’s worth remembering that even small goals are better than nothing, especially when they’re achievements to which you could look forward.

There’s a handy little acronym which can help if you’re thinking about giving yourself a modest goal or two.

They should be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

Let’s look at this model in terms of getting you out to meet a friend (making social connections are a great way of giving your mood a nudge).

1. Specific – Rather than saying ‘I want to meet friends’ let’s be specific. Who do you want to meet, and where, and when? ‘I want to meet Jules for a coffee’ is the kind of thing you should be aiming for.

2. Measurable – how will you know you’ve done it? Well, meeting Jules for a coffee is pretty measurable, isn’t it? You’ll know you’ve met up.

3. Achievable – is the goal realistic and attainable? As long as you’re not feeling too awful, it might indeed be realistic to get yourself out of the house to meet Jules.

4. Relevant – it’s important to choose goals that matter. If you like Jules, meeting her for coffee probably is a good idea, whereas painting the living room ceiling when you’re feeling low very likely isn’t.

5. Time-bound – quite simply a good goal needs a timeframe. You might say ‘By this time next week I’m going to have met Jules for coffee.’ Don’t leave it open ended. It’ll probably never happen if you do.

I think this system is helpful when setting bigger goals, but it can be just as handy when it comes to giving yourself some kind of more modest objective on a down day.

Please don’t only leave goal-setting to your better times.

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