How to Set and Achieve Goals using CBT Techniques
How do some people stick to their goals while others fail? Onebright looks at how CBT techniques can help you set and achieve your goals
Before you change any behaviour, it’s important to understand exactly what you want to change and what differences you want to see. This part is not always easy to know because we often only examine challenges subjectively. This can give the feeling we’re sitting inside the problem rather than looking at it from the outside, ultimately separating ourselves from it. For example, you might feel that you need more control of your life, so viewing this problem from a distance can clarify the facts and separate them from how it makes you feel.
How to set goals using CBT techniques:
- Define what is bothering you
- Describe in detail what the problem looks like
- Write down your goals and identify the smaller steps
Step one: Define what has been bothering you. This could be anything from anxiety, low mood, loneliness, guilt, shame, anger, or changing habits – any problem you’re having or any challenge affecting your life will get results when worked through with a CBT therapist.
The reactions and attitudes to the problem often cause the biggest problems. Consider how a particular habit has led to your decision to quit it. For example, drinking might make us anxious about what happened or what was said the next day.
Step two: Describe what that problem looks like in your life. Be specific because many issues can look different for different people. This part of goal setting is essential to be as detailed as possible. It helps to consider how you may describe physical pain to a doctor; there is pain, but where is the pain? What makes the pain worse? How strong is the pain? What eases the pain? What does the pain feel like? Do certain thoughts, actions, and emotions go along with the problem?
Now with a clear understanding of your starting point, it is time to think about the goals you want to achieve. If you were to skip ahead to your final CBT therapy session, what does it mean to “get better,” and how will you know if you have improved? An example of goal-setting could be looking at what you hope will be different in your life. Are there things you hope to be able to do that seem too difficult right now?
Step three: Write down your goals. If it is giving up smoking, giving up alcohol, or reducing sugar intake, writing it down means you are less likely to dismiss or forget the thought. As a CBT technique, capturing thinking patterns and perceptions on paper is often more important than the actual act of not doing a behaviour/habit.
The strength of including CBT techniques to set and achieve goals comes from it being both short-term and solution-focused.
It may be challenging to write them down and to think about the changes you want to make on your own, especially if you have been trying to avoid thinking about these problems or if you have been feeling this way for a long time. Any life change can seem complicated without the proper information, guidance, and support to set yourself up for success.
Using CBT techniques for goal setting
The goal-setting process can be a powerful skill in an individual’s personal and professional life. Not only are clearly defined goals essential for creating a structured path to achieving them, but they also keep us on track. And what’s more, research shows that people who write their goals down are far more likely to achieve them than those who just keep their goals in their heads.
Once an individual understands how goal-setting works using basic CBT techniques, the process can be repeated to solve new problems and reach bigger goals.
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