Why setting small goals is key to a happier 2021

Why setting small goals is key to a happier 2021

Thu 07 January

Every January brings the same old question; ‘have you set any New Years resolutions this year?” But for many people, especially those living with – and affected by – a brain tumour in the current climate, making grand resolutions probably feels like the last thing you want to do.

That said, setting goals and achieving them can have hugely positive benefits for your mental wellbeing. So this year, with another period of uncertainty ahead, we’re encouraging you to set small, achievable goals for a happier daily life in 2021.


Here’s how to set them, and why having them is so important.

The benefit of setting small goals

Setting achievable goals can bring many positive benefits to your life, here are some of the key ones…


Give structure to your day


On days where you don’t feel like getting out of bed, having a small goal you’re working towards can give you the push you need to crack on with your day. As long as the goal is realistic, making daily progress – little by little – gives a sense of achievement and structure to your routine.


Help you avoid isolation


Your mental wellbeing may sometimes make you feel unsociable and isolated – especially during another lockdown. Setting a goal relating to conversation and communication can give you the push you need to talk to your loved ones. You may not feel like it at first, but even just a text to a friend can make you feel so much better.


Increase motivation


Having something to work towards can motivate you into taking action and give you focus. For example, if your goal is to eat five portions of fruit or veg a day, you know exactly what you need to do to achieve it. Even better, once you’ve done it, you feel a sense of success despite how big or small the goal is.


Taking back control


Life may feel completely out of your control right now, but being completely clear about what you want and how you’re going to get it – no matter how small what you want might be – can give you back an element of control which can feel empowering.

Why you should set small goals


Sometimes big goals – running a marathon for example – are so big that their pure size stifles us. We want to take action, but the steps to get there are so astronomically large that we just can’t see the goal ever happening.


Not only are we then setting ourselves up for failure, but our mental wellbeing takes a hit as we tell ourselves over and over again that we’re rubbish for not being able to achieve the goals we set. Big goals also don’t give us achievement for a long period of time, which delays the sense of gratification.


Instead, we recommend building lots of small habits that lead to bigger successes. If we take the example of exercise, a small goal could be to go for a 20-minute walk every day. This is enough to provide a challenge – especially in the winter months – but is also within grasp. Once you’ve mastered the 20-minute a day walk, you can set another small goal that’s a bit more challenging.


Over time you’ll find yourself consistently hitting small goals which makes you feel good, gets that positive energy going and helps you see progress almost immediately. 

Tips on setting small goals


Identify the areas of your life you want to improve


The first step is to look at the areas of your life you want to improve. Maybe your relationships need more work, or you’re not moving enough. Or perhaps you feel like you’re lacking knowledge or you wake up every morning feeling exhausted. Pick a couple of areas you want to improve and then you’re ready for the next step.


Make your goal smart

The SMART method of goal setting is a tried and tested way of making your goals achievable. The key is to make sure each goal is:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

Setting SMART goals – even when your goals are small – will provide the clarity, focus and motivation you need to achieve them.

Remember your why


Having a clear ‘why’ behind your goals will help you in the moments when you don’t feel like doing the things you need to do to achieve them. It’s important that you feel an emotional connection to your ‘why’ as this will help you overcome any obstacles when things feel tough.


Make your goals positive


There’s no place for negativity in goal setting. Weight loss goals are a good example of this, focusing on the positive health benefits, rather than being unkind to yourself about your current habits, can really help you re-frame the way you think. For example, “I will go for a 20-minute walk every day and make sure every plate of food has a fruit or vegetable on it’ is much more positive and achievable than ‘I will go on a diet and dramatically reduce the amount of food I eat’.


Visualise what you want


Visualising yourself achieving your goal can help you to train your brain into believing you can do it. It’s a powerful process with many great benefits. Learn more about visualisation here.


Take time to recognise your achievements


Make sure you take the time to recognise when you hit small goals and celebrate them. Life feels very hard right now and there’s never been a better time to recognise small wins.

Examples of small goals you can set


So what kind of small goals can you set for a happier 2021? Here’s some ideas:


  • Journal every day
  • Attend a YBTC support group
  • Walk for 20-minutes every day
  • Do a 30-minute run once a week
  • Do 20 press ups a day
  • Save £15 on the food shop every week
  • Learn how to bake bread
  • Learn how to knit
  • Text a friend
  • Clean one area of the house a day
  • Read a book by a minority author
  • Track your monthly budget
  • Reduce your screen time
  • Cook one new meal a week
  • Sign up for the 1.8 Challenge


We hope this post has helped you identify some small goals that can help you have a happier 2021. If you feel you need more structured support following a brain tumour diagnosis, get in touch with us on info@yorksbtc.org.uk.

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