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Knowing Your Values for Effective Goal Setting

Introducing a little blog post to kick start part one of a goal setting series.

Goal setting is something that you might be familiar with therapists (all kinds) talking about. Setting goals gives both the clinician and the client something to work towards, to know if therapy is working. Otherwise both therapist and client are just bumbling around, not quite sure if therapy is working or how far they’ve came.

As a mental health occupational therapist, we work with clients with goals such as gaining a drivers licence, attending university, managing finances independently, cooking four nights per week at home or managing medication independently. And there’s a million reasons why a client may experience challenges in managing these occupations (e.g. mood, motivation, concentration, thinking skills, sedation from medication, active symptoms etc).

Let us start by saying goal setting is an art. It’s not just as simple as pulling something out of the air and making it happen. The process is influenced by values, habits, motivation, and sometimes our understanding of the stages of change.

Research shows that the first 6 weeks after a “major event” (e.g. hospitalisation for mental or physical health event), it’s quite easy to make changes. But after that, old habits start to creep back in and changes are more difficult to maintain. So it’s important to set goals in a way that will set you up for success, so we avoid cycles of disappointment or feelings of “failure”.

Values
We thought it important to first start with the notion of values. Often we set goals because we know they’re what other people are expecting of us or we know it’s what we should do. But we don’t often reach these types of goals, because they’re not in line with our values. They’re not true to us. This, like I said, can create negative cycles and feelings of “I’m no good”. We can steer away from this by having a good understanding of our values and using them to guide us.

What you value is a reflection of who you are as a person. Your values often relate to those things you consider most important in life. These things are unique to you so understanding them is important and a great place to start when setting goals around treatment – or just life in general.

Now, there’s lots of methods for figuring out your values. For example, using a large inventory of values to identify your top 8 and then reducing down to top 5. Or thinking of people you admire and respect and identifying common themes. But one quick way is to look at where you are spending all of your:
–  Time
–  Energy
–  Money

These areas of your life will give you huge clues to what you prioritise naturally. Caution: you might find that when you take a look at this, it’s a bit alarming (“one of my top values is Uber Eats?….” or cigarettes or substances – you get the picture…). You might realise that you currently spend time, money or energy on things that are not actually in line with what really matters to you. But don’t panic, see this as an opportunity to review and refocus.

Being clear on our values helps us set clear goals that we are likely to remain motivated and interested in during therapy (and also life in general). Your Occupational Therapist should be able to support you to understand what will be meaningful therapy goals.

For now, we task you with pondering the following:

1. What do you currently love to spend your time and energy doing?
2. What do you always make time for, no matter what? Healthy or unhealthy 

3. What do you wish you could spend more time doing?

 

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Heather Moore

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