I'm Helen, and I'm passionate about helping you take steps towards positive changes in your life.

Creative Goal Setting

Have you ever stared at a blank piece of paper trying to set some goals? The harder you tried, the less inspiration you felt?

SMART is an acronym commonly used to help set goals. It helps someone to look at their goals within a framework of them being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound (there are different variations). It is a great way of making goals concise and measurable. Using it can help someone get down to the detail in goal-setting and action planning.

It is more about the end result though and may not spark creativity or help someone think about ideas initially. If used in isolation, it can by-pass the stage where someone really checks their goals are want they want. A bit like running in a new pair of running shoes that haven’t been tried on, to see how they fit and feel first. Then finding out they are too small and uncomfortable!

Sometimes setting goals can feel as if is something that we should be doing, rather than want to be doing.

The other day as I waited at a new doctors’ surgery, a large TV screen displayed page after page of health and fitness targets for patients. The possible health consequences of people not meeting these were made abundantly clear. I’m not sure if this helped the mind-set of people waiting anxiously to see the doctor! I wondered how many people changed something in their lifestyle, as a result of this.

Of course, sometimes people have to change, something happens in life which forces them to or circumstances change. The decision of whether to change is taken out of their hands.

Other types of change are more gradual though, someone may feel a growing sense of dissatisfaction in life.

Deciding on goals to write down can sometimes be hard, especially when faced with a blank piece of paper. The paper may end up being screwed into a ball and thrown at the cat/dog/pc! Of course, I mean throw lightly, our cat loves playing with paper. How cats love to tease!

So, how can the goal-setting process be made creative and inspiring? There are plenty of tools and ideas that can be used to generate ideas, which can then be fine-tuned.

Here are a few of these:
  • Wheel of life – this is a really useful tool for looking at areas of life; where you are now and where you want to be. Here is an example, wheel of life. Of course in reality life doesn’t fit into neat little segments, everything is linked, intertwined and there may no clear boundaries. This tool can be really useful though in providing a starting point in deciding where to make changes. It provides a structure to help people look at where they want to be. Lots of times I’ve seen that where someone makes a change in one area, this has a positive effect in other areas too, e.g. if someone makes a positive change at work they may find they have more energy outside of work and take up new hobbies or make new friends.
  • Values – these are what we consider to be important to us. I’m not talking about a vintage pair of socks here, but something deep within us that can act as our internal compass! I say ‘can’ as our values may become compromised, which can lead to us feeling unhappy or dissatisfied. If you know your values, it can help you set goals you will feel motivated towards achieving, e.g. if you value being with others, taking up running on your own may not be much fun. If you take the step of joining a running club though and meet some new running buddies, you may find the miles flying past! This article on understanding your personal values has a good description of values and how to identify them.
  • Collages – collages can be great for setting a vision of where you want to be. You can be creative and use anything to hand to create a picture of things you want to do e.g. photos, paint, pictures, material, words, phrases etc. Once you have done this, you can prioritise and set specific goals and actions. I’ve done it using a pin board and then put this up in my study so I see it every time I work.
  • Mind mapping – mind mapping is a way of brain-storming your ideas in a relatively unstructured way. There are different ways of doing mind maps and software packages you can use too. The important thing though is that there is no ‘right’ way, especially if it is just for you. The basic idea is that your put main thoughts and themes in a circle and then subsidiary ideas radiate out from these along lines. This can be a great way to put your ideas down about your goals in a visual way, which you can then prioritise and fine-tune. This is an example of one I like, art is fun.
  • Being in the moment – Some of our best ideas can come to us when we are not trying and it can be helpful to capture these. Sometimes letting go of a process for a while, can be the key to unlocking our creativity and ideas. It can be useful to jot ideas down or record them as they come up, when you are just ‘being’. This doesn’t mean you have to be a spiritual guru though! It is about finding time to relax and be present with what you are doing, whether that be perhaps going for a walk in the sunshine, listening to music or singing in the shower!

These are some of the things, which can help with the goal-setting process and developing your ideas. Using these tools and techniques you can set priorities and goals, and then break these down into small steps with specific deadlines.

Your final creation, be it a piece of paper with SMART goals on or beautiful collage, can be placed somewhere obvious. If you have a cat though, just make sure it is beyond their reach – you wouldn’t want them destroying all of that work!