We’ve all been there: we get stuck in our ways and everything seems uninspiring, important, and insignificant. Despite going to a college that loves saying “my heart is in the work,” I fall into a rut all too often. At least for me, it often boils down to feeling like I’m re-living the same day every day. I feel miles away from where I want to be without getting any closer.
I used to not believe in setting concrete smaller goals. Because I always strived to do the best, I thought that sufficed. I learned about the importance of goal-setting in my courses, especially Organizational Behavior and Communications. However, I realized that simply aiming for perfect scores or any summer internship made me feel aimlessly running around. Retrospectively, it was because that was exactly what I was doing. I needed something more concrete and with more structure to help me attain my larger goals.
A therapeutic technique I was taught in group therapy a year ago is setting two small goals daily: a practical goal and a therapeutic goal. A practical goal is something that needs to be done for that day (I’m staring at you, pile of dirty dishes). It’s not the most enjoyable thing in the world, nor will the act bring you much joy. However, having them done provides a sense of accomplishment and setting a goal holds you accountable, thus making you more likely to fulfill it.
A therapeutic goal isn’t necessarily self-indulgent, although it can be. It’s something more enjoyable to help you handle stress and negative influences. Often, mine ends up being avoiding excessive caffeine (which is difficult for a coffee and tea aficionado!). Although my morning cup of coffee helps me stay alert throughout the day, more than that can sometimes interfere with my focus, overall productivity, and wellbeing.
Ever since I completed the group therapy, I basically abandoned the technique. I thought I was well-equipped for whatever life could throw at me to the point that I didn’t need to set these kinds of daily goals. Even for those who face an average amount of daily stress, I have found that setting micro-goals leading to a macro-goal can be beneficial.
Do I do this every day? No. Sometimes I forget. I only very recently decided to re-implement this habit, but I have seen that whenever I do remember to do this, my day seems to become a little more manageable. My seemingly endless to-do list looks approachable. Even on days where I fail to reach my goals, it gives me something concrete to work on in the future. That’s a lot more than I can say about living in a cycle of regret and beating myself up.