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Psychology: Setting goals

As 2013 draws to a close many people are setting goals for the New Year. These goals are usually about improving our lives. We can’t improve things unless we make a decision. This decision making process is important, but many people fail to think the process through and so fail to achieve their goal.


In the movie the Shawshank redemption, the escape is made by chipping away at the cell wall with a rock hammer. Chipping away at something is often the way to do things.  Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and it’s all or nothing. Some people just stop smoking, like it’s a challenge to their will power. Other people cut down, chew nicotine gum and try lots of things to make it easier. I think giving up most addictions is a matter of weaning yourself off it, but smoking and alcohol are probably addictions that can be faced head on.


Many people will be trying to control their diet and lose weight in the New Year. A balanced approach is probably the best idea. No one loses weight very quickly and so a balanced low calorie diet is a good way forward. I don’t think fad diets promoted by celebrities are a good idea. Spending money on slimming clubs might give you some emotional support, but are probably a waste of money.


Getting control of your finances is another goal many people set for the new year. This can take just as much strength as giving up an addiction. For many people shopping is an addiction. When you shop, you are buying things and giving yourself rewards. You might need to find a different way to get those emotional rewards, rather than eating chocolate or trying on new clothes. I have to admit to checking the stock market many times a day and do feel like I have withdrawal symptoms on weekends when it’s closed! We can get emotional rewards in many ways. I’m going to plant the garden better in 2014, because picking vegetables that I’ve planted as seed and nurtured to a crop, that I can pick and eat is very rewarding. It saves me a few pounds too…

The rewards for saving money come slowly, but as you see your bank balance rise, that in itself is a reward. You won’t see it rise unless you monitor your bank balance on a regular basis. It can also be rewarding to watch your debts slowly melt away as you pay them off. Monitor your debts on a regular basis too and those emotional rewards will make you feel better.

Be nice

It’s good to be nice to other people; be polite and play by the rules. Even being courteous when driving has a beneficial effect. You are courteous and helpful to one person and they pass it on to someone else. Your actions make society a better place. If you’re nice to people and helpful, you reap the reward because they will tend to think highly of you and help you when you need it. Don’t forget to be nice to yourself. That doesn’t mean buying yourself a cream cake and a bar of chocolate when you’re shopping. It means thinking about emotional rewards and doing things that are rewarding. Set goals that will bring you emotional rewards. You might not have the same goals as me, picking runner beans in the garden on a summer’s day might not appeal to you very much, so find something that does.

You can comment on this post and ask questions. You can also follow me on Twitter and send tweets. Do set goals for 2014 and make them realistic and achievable. This time next year, your life could be better as a result.

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