Welcome to Part Two of setting personal goals without anxiety. Even if you struggle with anxiety, you may still have a desire to pursue goal setting in the new year. The problem of course remains, how to avoid the usual anxiety in doing so. My objective in this three part series is to provide a better understanding of goal setting for a person who struggles with anxiety. Followed by a gentle process of goal setting.
In Part One of the series we explored reasons goal setting causes and worsens anxiety, basic mechanics for goal setting and the pitfalls of goal setting. If you missed Part One of the series, you can read it HERE. I strongly recommend you start with the foundation principles in Part One, before coming back here to actually move into setting personal goals without anxiety. Successfully setting your personal goals for the new year is a process requiring thoughtful consideration and time. Please do not rush the process.
a gentle goal setting process
I like to take the month of January for finalizing my goals for the new year. I know some people want to hit the floor running with goals in place on January 1st. This can create a good deal of anxiety with that deadline and the holiday demands. Such a hectic time often leads to poor decision making and goal choices. Once past the holiday season, my mind is ready and focused on new things. Which makes for a gentle transition into a new year rather than a shotgun start.
Setting personal goals without anxiety works best if you take time for a year end review of the previous year prior to setting your goals. I outlined a process for both a brief and an in depth year end review complete with downloadable worksheets in my previous post HERE. Just like the sightseeing maps with a big star or arrow, and the words, “YOU ARE HERE”, you can’t establish where you’re going unless you know where you are.
Once you review the previous year, even if you have some goals in mind, schedule a time to sit before the Lord. It is important to bring your desired goals before Him and receive His direction. Find a quiet, undisturbed place and begin your time with mindful breathing. You can grab a FREE copy of my “Calming Techniques Guide” below which includes several effective breathing techniques.
Practice mindful breathing for five minutes. Allow thoughts to come and go, but don’t engage them. Slowly begin your time with the Lord in a prayer of gratitude for the previous year, whatever comes to your mind. Then bring before Him any goal ideas you have on your mind. Notice how you feel as you bring these before God. Notice any anxiety or feelings of apprehension, without judgment. Ask Him what He has for you to do in the new year. Close in a time of praise and gratitude. Be sure to write down any new goals that come out of this session.
Setting Personal Goals
If you have never set goals before or struggle with anxiety, I recommend you set a maximum of three goals for the new year. For someone with chronic anxiety, it is far better for them to reach one goal by the end of the year, than to end the year with multiple unfinished goals. Setting and accomplishing one goal gives them the confidence for trying more the next time. It also shows them they can overcome their anxiety.
My recommendation for anxiety sufferers includes first a spiritual goal, then a wellness goal and finally a relational goal. Developing a spiritual goal improves their relationship with God, helping them overcome anxiety as their faith in God grows. A wellness goal helps the physiological component of anxiety, as nutrition and exercise play a huge role in overcoming that aspect of anxiety. Lastly the relational goal helps with conflict, unrealistic expectations and communication issues that can fuel anxiety.
setting personal goals is a process
Once I settle on the areas I want to set goals, I write down some goal ideas for each area. This includes any goals that came to mind as I sat before the Lord in the “Goal Preset”. Then I go through a three step process before finalizing my goals for the year. It’s actually “three planning sessions” over the course of a week. Each session lasts anywhere from thirty minutes to one hour. I put these on my calendar and protect the time. I begin each session with a brief time of mindful breathing in quietness, then prayer.
Session one is a brainstorming session. I look at the areas I chose to work on in the new year. From my recommendation above that would be spiritual, wellness, and relational. I spend time narrowing down 3 goals for each area as “ideas”. I don’t spend a lot of time here, just whatever comes to mind first. That’s it for the first session, I never make any final decisions in this session. I close in prayer and spend one or two days thinking about the possible goals for each area and praying over them.
Session two is the refinement session. After considering and praying over my three possible goals for each of the areas, I choose one goal for each area. I review the goal to ensure it is specific, aligned with my values and within my ability to achieve. At this point I close session two in prayer laying before God the specific goals I chose. I seek His direction and wisdom for each goal, remaining open to changes He may prompt me to make. No final decisions are made in session two. As I did for session one, I spend one or two days thinking about the goals I chose and continuing in prayer.
Session three is the finalization of setting my personal goals. I review the one goal I chose for each area, and if I am still at peace with the choice, I proceed to outline any steps necessary to complete the goal. This would include any necessary timelines, or materials I need to obtain. I write my goals, the steps and any notes in a journal I keep for that purpose. Closing in prayer, I now look forward to what God will accomplish in my life through the goals He directed me to set.
a final step for goal achievement
The last piece of setting personal goals without anxiety is scheduling regular reviews of my progress. I know this sounds scary, but it is the best part! Once a month I set a date on my calendar for review. I keep notes on my progress, inspirational quotes, Bible verses and anything God reveals to me regarding my goals in my goal journal. I use my journal as a compass, keeping me focused on my commitment. Beginning with a quiet time of mindful reflection and breathing, I open in prayer and review my journal notes for the following areas.
Progress Towards Goals
Reviewing any progress I make on my goals accomplishes two things; shows me where I continue moving forward, and shows me where I am stuck. Much like a map it reveals if I am still on course to my destination. At the end of this part of the review I celebrate these things:
- All steps and progress achieved towards my goals. Baby steps, toddler steps and big girl steps! Even though I may not have made the progress I hoped, any progress is HUGE, as I continue moving forward.
- I remain on course. Some goals are easily measured. For instance, “read my Bible everyday”; I see what days I did and did not read. Other goals don’t have daily or even weekly progress. Especially relational goals, they depend more on opportunity. For example, “show kindness to my co-worker who complains often, rather than avoiding her.” Perhaps I didn’t have opportunity to act on this goal, but remain open and looking for opportunities.
Lack of Progress Towards Goals
When reviewing progress towards my goals, I uncover areas and goals where I did not make progress. Under those goals in my journal, I note the reason(s) why I made no progress. Many reasons contribute to lack of progress on goals not all of which are in my control. For instance, I may have a wellness goal, “attend Yoga class three times each week”, however I fell short. The reason could be neglect, laziness, illness, injury, class cancellation, or family crisis.
Turning my attention to the reason(s), I first explore the “neglect, laziness, lack of motivation” reasons without self-condemnation. Reviewing in this way allows me to see underlying reasons I may have overlooked in setting the goal. I adjust the goal or simply recommit to doing better in the next month. For the reasons out of my control, I consider if they were of a temporary nature or more long term. It may require simply looking forward to getting back on track next month now that the setback passed. For more long term obstacles, I determine the value of picking up the goal later in the year, or removing it altogether. At the end of this part of the review I celebrate the following things. YES I celebrate lack of progress!
- Courage and maturity in accepting any setbacks with grace, self-compassion and honesty. I celebrate the willingness to explore underlying issues, facing them and committing to trying again the next month.
- The courage to make changes, accept things out of my control and admit a goal may be beyond my current ability to achieve.
setting personal goals without anxiety
When we better understand what causes anxiety in setting personal goals, we can choose a slow, gentle process avoiding the overwhelm common with pressured, rushed approaches. Spending adequate time reflecting and seeking God’s council, yields personal goals we can be confident pursuing. This in turn results in setting personal goals without anxiety because ultimately we allow God’s sovereign will to guide our choices.
Incorporating a scheduled review process on a monthly basis provides a safety net, helping us address setbacks early. This also provides an “escape clause” of sorts, in the event we set a goal that proves beyond our ability or life’s circumstances intervene. Another huge benefit of incorporating a review process is, it eliminates the dreaded “overthinking” up front. We can set personal goals knowing at the monthly review process adjustments will be made.
ready, set go!
At this point you have the entire process for setting personal goals without anxiety. Regardless of your past goal setting or achievements experiences, I encourage you to try my proven technique in this new year. Above all, remembering as you continue seeking God’s council for your goal paths, abiding in Him, you will have peace knowing His sovereign purpose for you will succeed.
Feel free to contact me through my Contact Form with any questions. Next week, I’ll close with Part Three of the series, outlining some creative ways to keep your goals fresh and your motivation high.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”