Happy Sunny Day, CASS family!
With the warmer weather we’ve had lately, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about summer in Calgary 2021. I started imagining the vegetables I’d like to plant in my garden, the hikes I’d like to walk, and the annual summer events I’d enjoy with my family this summer. These blissful thoughts were sidelined by the intrusive thought of “what if….?” What if we’re not allowed to gather outdoors for a period of time this summer? What if Calaway park is closed for the summer or Sunfest is cancelled again? It made me wonder whether there was any point in planning my summer at all. I felt a pang of discouragement.
Then I heard a friend say that her partner’s mental health is highly dependent on planning something to look forward to. I think this is an important consideration in managing the stress of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
When we plan for the future, it gives us hope. Hope that we can get through today and the days leading up to our plan, however tough those days might be. Hope that we will reach that goal and be able to do that thing we’ve planned for and celebrate the success of achievement.
Planning also gives us purpose. It gives us a reason to keep on keeping on, even when it’s a struggle to move through minute-by-minute of the day. There is something to work towards; something to look forward to.
It also gives us good feelings to plan for the future. Just imagining ourselves participating in an enjoyable activity can release those feel-good chemicals in our brain just as if we were actually doing it (remember the email on visualization a few weeks ago?)
Planning for the future also gives us a sense of control. Many times I’ve mentioned how little control we have amidst this pandemic. Yet, planning for the future – like planning an event for the summer – is something we can control. We may not be able to control whether outdoor gatherings will continue to be permitted, whether Calaway park will be open, or the Sunfest postponed for another year, but we do have control over the planning. Let’s not focus on how we’ll feel if our plan doesn’t work out (that would be fortune telling; a cognitive distortion we talked about in an email months ago). Today, let’s focus on making the plan and doing whatever we CAN control to make it happen.
Setting goals successfully requires a S.M.A.R.T. plan.
S – Making the goal specific. Rather than “I’m going to kayak this summer”, making it more specific like “I am going to kayak on Barrier Lake in July”
M – Making the goal as measurable as possible. Rather than “I’m going to Kayak as much as possible this summer”, I could plan to “kayak on at least 3 lakes this summer”
A – Aim for achievable goals. Set a goal that is challenging but not impossible. This one can be tough during a pandemic because whether or not we can accomplish our goals may change depending on the safety restrictions in place. Set a goal that is as achievable as possible with what you know right now. For e.g., “I am going to go to Calaway Park with my family once this summer”.
R – Set goals that are relevant to you. Your goals should relate to activities that inspire, entertain, and are meaningful to you.
T – Set a time frame for achieving your goals. Is this a long-term or short-term goal? Setting a time frame allows you an anchor in the future, at which point you can assess the degree to which you have achieved your goal. “I am going to kayak on Barrier Lake in July” gives me a reminder, in the beginning of August, to check whether I’ve achieved the goal.
If you find your goal has not been achieved in the way you planned, or by the deadline you set, assess what changes are required. Do you need more time? Do you need to be more specific with your goal? Do you need to modify your goal to reflect the resources that are available to you? Make changes to the goal to make it more specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, or timely. Then, try again. And again. And again.
Having a goal in place is a benefit to our mental health. Not achieving a goal is not failure; rather, it’s an opportunity to learn and adjust what WILL WORK for each of us. The only goal that is never achieved is the one that is not set in the first place.
“Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure. So that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” ― Maya Angelou
“Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ― Nelson Mandela
References: Quotes obtained on March 24, 2021 from: https://blog.hubspot.com/sales/learning-from-failure-quotes