Creating the Future you Deserve
When you think about your life and the weeks, months and years ahead, what comes to mind?
Are you filled with enthusiasm at all of the possibilities? Or overwhelmed with a sense of dread and uncertainty? Looking forward to a future full of health, joy and potential, particularly in recovery is something everyone deserves. You want to create a future that inspires and delights you…but how to get there?
Your future isn’t a far-off reality. It’s yours for the making and the taking and it starts right now! By embracing an approach that’s goal-focused then taking steps to gain self-worth, self-confidence and resilience, creating the future you so richly deserve can be a beautiful reality.
A goal properly set is halfway reached. ~Zig Ziglar
Setting goals sets you up for success. In your life, continued recovery and in that future you’re looking to create. Goals create a sense of purpose to move forward, and personal accountability to something that’s important, specifically, to you. Just as significant, there’s a causal relationship between goal setting and well-being making it an exercise you can confidently lean into as both fulfilling and worthwhile.
How to Effectively Set and Follow Through on Your Goals
1. Define what matters to you
There’s a whole world at your future feet! Wondrous, yes, but that can be slightly paralyzing too. How do you decide which goals are best for you? Set a time when you can sit, comfortably, uninterrupted and without distraction and try this brainstorming exercise:
- Think about and write down what the most meaningful and/or important things in your life now or in your future are. Sometimes, this allows you to see patterns in your priorities you aren’t expecting and can inspire or help better direct the next part of the exercise.
- Jot down anything and everything you might like to see in your future. Remember, this is just a brainstorming activity. There are no wrong answers. Nothing you come up with is too big, too small, set in stone or made for anyone’s eyes but yours, so allow yourself to go well outside of the box! Challenging goals stretch your mind and get you to think bigger (1) and more creatively. This can open up a possible future even more abundant than you’ve dared dream of before.
2. Clarify your goals and create your roadmap
With all of the possibilities laid before you it’s important to get clear about which goals you’d like to include in your future plans.
- Look with fresh eyes at your brainstorming. You’ll likely be surprised by the scope and variety of goals you’ve come up with!
- Choose which goals speak to you most. See which ones naturally stick out as most important, exciting or inspiring. Look to what you noted as meaningful earlier for guidance.
- Transfer your curated goals onto a new piece of paper and put the other page away. Again, don’t worry about choosing the “wrong” goals or feel like you’re dismissing those that don’t make the cut. Anything can be changed, whenever you like. Your goals, like your future, will likely change over time.
- From your new, shorter list, it’s time to choose the goals you’ll actually be working toward. When making your decisions, bear in mind that over 90% of the time, keeping goals specific and slightly challenging leads to better performance than when they’re too easy or far too difficult. (1) Try to keep your goal list short, concise, exciting yet also realistic.
- Start up one last page and write down your final chosen goals.
Your goals are now tangible, congratulations! You’ve already begun moving toward them. Now, to help maintain your clarity and your momentum, you can create your roadmap to reach them.
To create your map, break down each of your goals into the smallest, most manageable steps and actions. The more precise and approachable each step, the better. Give each step a deadline in order to keep things moving. Imagine you’re plotting a realistic route straight up to your ultimate goal - why not make it as simple, engaging and friendly a journey as possible? This approach greatly increases your chances of success by providing a visible path forward, being tailored to your unique capabilities and giving you lots of small victories to celebrate along the way.
3. Deal effectively with stumbles and setbacks
Inevitably, they’ll be missteps and obstacles, but these bumps in the road don’t have to take you completely off course. Remember, that a setback is just that. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a failure and neither are you so don’t linger on it as such. Your stumble may be a valuable learning experience that’ll help you succeed later. So, take note of what’s happened, accept it, learn from it when you can and try to move on. Perhaps your most effective tool in doing this is your goals road map.
All of those small actions and steps you so thoughtfully laid out to make it to your goals are a pragmatic way back to realizing it. When you refer back to the steps you’ve broken down, it may be painful seeing where you’ve fallen - but take heart, be proud, and draw motivation from all the tasks you’ve successfully completed already! Then, you can re-evaluate how you might get over the roadblock - or put it on the backburner for now and tackle the next small step. Just keep moving forward.
Reaching out to your support network when things become difficult can also be enormously helpful. This can include friends, co-workers, relatives, support groups or even a trusted mental health professional. A new perspective, guidance or warm words of encouragement from those on your team can revitalize your optimism, help you re-strategize if necessary and put some spring back in your step.
Finally, bear in mind that any of the customized coping strategies you’ve learned to apply in your recovery may also be effective in navigating your way through these new challenges and are always available to you.
Fostering Your Self-Worth and Self-Confidence
In order to visualize and begin creating the future you deserve, you have to believe you’re worthy of it and have the confidence to reach for it. Self-worth is at the core of our very selves (1), “a sense of [your] own value as a human being” (2). Conversely, self-confidence isn’t an evaluation of yourself but a feeling of confidence and competence. (2) There are subtle differences in the two but more often than not, they are profoundly intertwined, and tightly bound to our behaviours, thoughts and feelings. To cultivate your self-worth and fire up your self-confidence:
Prop yourself up.
Make a list of your strengths with specific examples to back them up. Add some of your achievements and proudest moments too. Keep that affirmative accounting of positivity someplace you look regularly, like a mirror or your refrigerator door, and add to it as your strengths and achievements grow. You are awesome! And for those moments you find that hard to believe, steer your eyes to your list: it’s right there, proof-positive, you are.
Establish a daily personal hygiene routine that includes the necessities like brushing your teeth, flossing, showering and hair brushing, but also incorporates small details to make your rituals special: a shower gel you love or an extra fluffy towel for some luxury.
Do the same with all-important sleep: be sure to get your seven to nine hours each night by keeping a routine and schedule, but add elements that evoke joy like a lavender pillow spritz or a super cozy weighted blanket. Your day should also include a balanced, nutritious diet and some form of sustained physical activity.
Do your best to adopt or further cultivate a growth mindset, one where you embrace challenges, seek out growth and view setbacks as opportunities to learn. (2) Look for positive challenges that appropriately push your comfort level and kick-start your curiosity to feed your brain and encourage a growth mindset. When you falter or an undesirable outcome occurs, don’t focus on the negative, rather, examine what’s happened and be thoughtful about pulling the lesson or potential value from it before moving on. Simply glossing over mistakes or shying away from the importance of short-term failures as pathways to long-term success can undermine potential growth. (3)
Resilience is the ability to bounce back stronger, wiser and better able to face future challenges; (4) it can also involve profound personal growth.(5) Resilience can be learned and grown indefinitely, with research showing we can improve it, our mental health and emotional strength just like we do our physical well-being. (6) Focusing on your connections, planning and flexibility, and finding purpose are just a few ways to boost yours.
Your connections to family, friends and other community members can be invaluable in supporting you, now and in the future. So, take stock of the relationships that encourage, buoy, teach and reassure you and endeavour to deepen them even more. If others in your life aren’t as supportive or complementary to your wellness, understand that it’s all right. Relationships, like people, are ever-evolving and keeping your distance or respectfully changing aspects of your interactions is not only okay but healthy (often, for both parties). This can be difficult, especially in complex family dynamics or relationships whose contexts may be less in your control. But you can do it. Whether you’re more comfortable starting with small, subtle changes only you notice or have decided on more apparent ways to engage (or disengage), give yourself permission to set your personal boundaries or re-define, without guilt, the connections in your life.
Planning and flexibility.
Developing, planning and moving toward your goals enables you to take positive action towards things you want to accomplish, instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable. (8) Exercise your willpower and persistence, everyday, by setting a variety of goals that propel you forward and give you a sense of satisfaction and achievement. Simple things like, “clean up the kitchen” or “finish studying for my exam” are fine, just be sure to keep aiming for new things as you reach your objectives; Growth-minded people constantly create new goals to keep themselves stimulated (10) Using your goal-setting roadmap to re-visit your objectives and priorities, can also help you maintain perspective and keep the bigger picture in mind.
Flexibility in dealing with new, unexpected or stressful circumstances or events is key in building resilience too. Learn to accept and adapt to change instead of resisting or having it overwhelm you. Resilience can be finding creative solutions to adverse situations and remaining calm in times of turmoil, (7) so allow yourself to experience strong emotions but consciously weigh your emotional options: Should I step forward to deal with this challenge right now? Or is better for me to step back, rest and re-energize myself? (9)
Moving toward established goals while continuing to initiate new opportunities to learn and expand your point of view can, in turn, add to or redefine what is meaningful in your life. Try taking up a new hobby, interest or even reading more. Finding and connecting with ideas and people that resonate with you can act as a mirror and may help you see more clearly what matters in your own life too. (11) Looking for something more altruistic? Those who volunteer have a markedly greater sense of purpose in their lives. (11)
Embracing goal-setting and actively charging up your self-worth, confidence and resilience sets the stage for a life - and recovery - you can really get excited about.
Your healthy, best future is being shaped right now. And you deserve every single fabulous part of it.
1. Riopel, Leslie. “The Importance, Benefits, and Value of Goal Setting.” PositivePsychology.com, 20 Nov. 2019, positivepsychology.com/benefits-goal-setting/.
2. Ackerman, Courtney E. “What Is Self-Worth and How Do We Increase It? (Incl. 4 Worksheets).” PositivePsychology.com, 4 July 2019, positivepsychology.com/self-worth/.
3. “Self-Worth.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-worth.
4. Abrams, Allison. “8 Steps to Improving Your Self-Esteem.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, LLC, 27 Mar. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-self-com...
5. Marlin, Katz. “What's a 'Growth Mindset' (and Why Does It Matter)?” The Orange Dot, The Orange Dot, 12 Dec. 2017, www.headspace.com/blog/2017/10/30/whats-growth-min...
6. Bergland, Christopher. “Self-Compassion, Growth Mindset, and the Benefits of Failure.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 30 Jan. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/2...
7. “Building Your Resilience.” www.homeweb.ca, Homewood Health Centre, homeweb.ca/articles/57ea75e38a1aafd8238308dd.
8. “Building Your Resilience.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 1 Feb. 2020, www.apa.org/topics/resilience.
9. “Developing Resiliency.” www.homeweb.ca, Homewood Health Centre, homeweb.ca/articles/5641f54f3e71225e72873d0b.
10. Briggs, Saga. “25 Ways to Develop a Growth Mindset.” InformED, 13 Feb. 2020, www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/features/develop-a-growth-mindset/.
11. Smith, Jeremy Adam. “How to Find Your Purpose in Life.” Greater Good Magazine, UC Berkley, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_find_your_purpose_in_life.