Should I be a goal-setter?

Sophie is 61 years old and doesn’t have a habit of setting goals in life. She asks psychologist Dr Emmanuella Murray whether that is something that everyone needs to do for motivation.

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Q. Sophie
I’m 61, and working part-time. I don’t set goals. Should I? Should everyone, no matter what their age? Is that how most people motivate themselves?

A. The question we always like to pose to ourselves is – should I? Setting goals is not compulsory. Some people set goals daily, weekly, monthly, and some even long-term goals. I think goals can be helpful because they are the steps we take to move towards the things we want. The trick is, if you set them, don’t wait to feel motivated. If we wait to feel motivated, it may not happen; so what we need to do is build momentum, and then we are more likely to feel more motivated to repeat that behaviour again.

Setting goals that are achievable can lift our mood because the act of doing so produces a sense of achievement. So, I’d always say setting goals is a good thing and, yes, it doesn’t matter what age you are. You just need to do it.

Here are a few small tips on how to set goals:

  • Make sure the goals are small and achievable
  • It’s best to change one aspect of behaviour at a time
  • Set meaningful goals – then you are more likely to keep them
  • Share your goals with your loved ones and let them support you
  • Setbacks are inevitable – we all have them, so be kind to yourself and simply recommit.

So, Sophie, go out and set some goals, and see how you feel.

Dr Emmanuella Murray is a clinical psychologist who has been practising for more than 10 years. She works with children, adolescents, adults and couples, and presents to professionals and community groups. Go to her website for more information.

If you have a question for Dr Emmanuella Murray, please send it to [email protected]

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