Karin Lawson is a licensed psychologist, certified eating disorder therapist and writer in private practice. She’s located in Miami, FL. Dr. Lawson is currently the Vice President of the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals – Miami Chapter, as well as the President-Elect of the Miami-Dade-Monroe Psychological Association. Dr. Lawson discusses the idea of S.M.A.R.T. goals in this week’s blog post.
Dr. Kristen Neff acknowledges in her writings and her academic research, self-esteem is created by comparison and evaluation. It’s the work, school and sometimes even the play environments that most often builds or tears down our self-esteem. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of the comparison route. We do enough of it already and are schooled in it literally. However, I also believe that rare is the thing that is “all bad” or “all good.” So, how can we utilize this idea of self-esteem stemming from evaluation into a well-thought-out self-esteem boost?
We can set some very intentional, realistic goals. But these goals can’t be just any ol’ goals. To really set ourselves up for success, we need to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Smart stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound.
What does this look like in real life?
Is there something you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t gotten around to? Perhaps you started a project a while ago but have yet to complete it. Deep down this lack of completion has caused your self-esteem to take a hit.
Let’s say you’ve been wanting (and very much needing) to clean out the garage. You’ve probably said to yourself, “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out.”
That’s an okay start, but as goals go, it’s pretty vague. Let’s use S.M.A.R.T. goals to get the job done.
Here’s a Specific goal: “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage.”
That’s good. Now how do we make that Measurable? Let’s add some words that will help us know when and if we complete our goal. “I am going to clean out and reorganize the garage so both cars and all of our bikes fit.”
You’ll also want to be able to measure your progress toward your goal to be certain you are staying on track. So, you could decide to spend two hours each Saturday and Sunday for the next 4 weeks. If you do that, you will know you’re on the right path to achieving your goal. If you don’t meet these milestones, you’ll know you’ve gotten off-track.
Now let’s talk about whether or not your goal is Achievable. Well, other human beings have cleaned out and organized their garage, so you know it’s possible. You have the desire and you’ve carved out an appropriate amount of time to complete the job. Yep, this seems like a very achievable goal!
Instead of cleaning out the garage you already have, your goal could have been to build a new garage by yourself all in one weekend, but no, that would not have been an achievable goal.
You know your goal is achievable, but is the schedule you’ve set for yourself Realistic? Do you actually have 4 hours on the weekend to devote to this project, or with your work and family time, is half an hour more realistic? While it’s understandable you want to get the job done as fast as possible, you also don’t want to set yourself up for failure. So be sure your schedule is realistic.
And lastly, you’ll need to set a Time-bound deadline for the attainment of your goal. Will this task be completed in 4 weeks? Will it take two months? Choose a deadline that’s reasonable and motivating at the same time. It’s a balance between being practical and pushing yourself slightly. A date too far in the future could kill your motivation.
Let’s recap. We started with the vague goal of “I’ve really got to go through the garage and throw a bunch of stuff out” and ended up with “I am going to spend four hours every weekend for the next four weeks cleaning out and reorganizing the garage so that both cars and all of our bikes fit.” Now you have a specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (SMART) goal with built-in milestones to get you there. But more importantly, you’ve made a promise to yourself, and keeping this promise is what will enhance your self-esteem.
Of course, sometimes it takes a little more work than reaching a goal to lift our self-esteem, although they sure can feel good and help us with feel self-efficacy. There are also without a doubt experiences in our lives that can truly devastate our sense of self-worth, and often we need the guidance of a therapist to help us recover our sense of identity and other concepts that give us value beyond the idea of self-esteem.