Goal-Setting and Achievement

You and I engage in goal-setting whether or not this is conscious. Unfortunately, unconscious goals can be self-defeating. You know those six components of whole health I repeatedly refer to? To flourish, we need to set goals for ourselves in each component and then implement them.

How might this look? Let’s take our counsellor Joan as an example. There have been a number of challenges for her since her sessions with Mary and she finds herself feeling…well…futile. She has decided not only to survive (stop negative thoughts) but to thrive, to take positive steps.

But first she has to take a baseline on where she is at – and where she wants to go. And she will need an accountability partner along the way since doing nothing is easier than doing something.

Six Components of Whole Health

Note: Joan knows these off by heart – but you may want to revisit the checklist.

1. Physical Health

Joae has put on twenty pounds and stopped going to the gym. While she still eats nutritious food in the daytime, she has developed a bad habit of munching potato chips at her computer at night. She has discovered gin and tonic and the shots are getting larger. She is sleeping in and while she gets to work on time, she doesn’t have time breakfast or grooming. She knows massage therapy is helpful for her – but just hasn’t had the organization (or energy) to pick up the phone.

2. Social Health

All is well here. Things are well enough with her hubby and her three kids. Still, she craves more talk time with all of them – plus her mom who lives some distance away. She and her hubby get together with their friends once a month and that is awesome. She tells her gal pal that she is feeling in the dumps and is happy her friend just listens rather than telling her to do a list of things. Joan is not ready to act in any event.

3. Emotional Health

Joan has stopped doing nice things for herself. Her roots are grey and her hair is shaggy, her clothes don’t fit but she can’t be bothered getting larger ones. One of her pastimes used to be walking dogs at the shelter, but she has stopped even doing that. She spends too much time on the computer.

4. Spiritual Health

She enjoys her church life well enough and visiting the sick and shut in. She reads her Bible daily (she is Christian) but reads a lot of junk too. Junk in – junk out. She knows this. But much of her life doesn’t feel purposeful. She feels on autopilot.

5. Intellectual health

She feels dull. Full stop.

6. Occupational health

Joan has always enjoyed counselling but hoped in the small community health centre she works in that there would be an opportunity for her to do management work too. But in fact there have been cutbacks. Her pay is good enough but she anticipates another round of layoffs and thinks she could be a casualty. Financially there are fine. Her hubby works as a millwright in a mine and he likes his job and co-workers.

So what is her problem?! Joan books some time with a fellow mental health worker who is in private practice. This person will be her accountability partner in goal-setting.

People who seek change need immediate, short term and long term goals.

I recommend daily, weekly, monthly and yearly markers as part of goal-setting and achievement. There are a variety of to-do lists and calendars available at the Microsoft Office On-Line Templates.

Daily – The To-Do List. As well as doing the things that need to be done, you need to be incorporating your goals into your day-to-day living.

Weekly – What Things Get Done When. If we slot in the time to work on specific tasks, as well as to play, we are going to see more progress.

Monthly – Taking The Pulse. Have I made any progress in achieving my goals?

Yearly – diploma time. Have I achieved the goals I planned? If not, why not?

How might goal-setting look for Joan?

1. Physical Health:

Overall Goal: - Get in healthy shape:

What will this look like?

• Weight of 140

• Able to walk for thirty minutes without fatigue

• Social drinker only

• Eight to nine hours sleep

• Good joint mobility

How can I do this?

- Eat low fat high fibre food

- Drink 4 glasses water daily

- Limit the gin and tonics to social occasions

- Stop the potato chips

- Go to gym three times a week

- Have a 30 minute fast walk three times a week

- Go to bed and get up around the same time – no more than 9 hours

- Have monthly massage therapy visits

Joanne can start on this today.

 Today she can get rid of the chips.

 Within one week she can have implemented all but the loss of 20 pounds.

 By one month she can anticipate losing 5 pounds.

 By one year – 20 pounds.


6. Vocational Health

Overall: - find meaningful paying work that is secure (enough)

What will this look like?

• No less that $25 / hour, no less than 32 hours per week

• Unionized

• A benefits package is not necessary in her case, but it’s good to have in case of job loss by spouse

• Counselling with the option of promotion

How can I do this?

- Update my resume

- Create a cover letter than can be adapted to each agency

- Start reading the classified ads

- Let trusted people in different agencies know

- If no contacts, volunteer for an agency that will get you some

- Send the cover letter and resume to places where there may be an opening

- Get physical appearance (hair cut and interview clothes) ready

Joan can start on this today.

 Today she can get a haircut and pick up a modest interview suit on sale (or borrow one.)

 Within one week she can have her resume and cover letter ready, and be scouring the ads.

 Within one month she can have made contacts.

 Within six months she can have applied for jobs

 By one year – she could have a new job or in a better position to get one.

Your Turn for Goal-Setting

Overall Goal(s) for Physical Health


What will this look like?






How can I do this?






Today I Will:

By One Week I Will:

By One Month I Will:

By Six Months I Will:

By One Year I Will:


Repeat for Social, Emotional, Spiritual, Intellectual and Vocational Health


Note: Some things – going back to school, leaving an abusive partner, recovering from an illness or accident, or getting free of an addiction can take more than a year. In these cases, you may need to add:

By Two Years I Will:

By Three Years I Will:

By Four Years I Will:

By Five Years I Will:

Some things cannot be achieved in our life-time because of abject poverty, war, disability, and disease. But life can still be purposeful. This is when we particularly need to have an existential perspective - we need to examine living a purposeful life even when...

Further Reading and Video


“I'll Sleep When I Die: How to Achieve Twice as Much with Half the Stress” by Adam Worgan, Troubador Publishing Ltd, 2004

“How to Make the Most of Your Workday” by Peg Pickering and Jonathan Clark, Career Press, 2001


Writing down goals for success with “the Red Sweater Lady.”


The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. - Steve Covey

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