Setting Realistic Goals – And Achieving Them – Is a Good Way to Build Resilience

We’re all faced with issues like losing a loved one, getting laid off from a job, or getting into dire financial straits at some point in our lives. Stressors are a natural part of the world, but sometimes they weigh us down. Reliance is the ability to bounce back, even in the face of that adversity.

Keep It Real

According to the American Pyschological Association (APA), one big contributor to resiliency is forward movement toward goals. Making progress boosts your confidence and increases your ability to handle life’s challenges because you get a taste of success. The goals must be realistic, as resilience is fueled by the sense of achievement. If you have a pie in the sky goal, like winning the lottery, it’s going to knock you down a peg every time you buy another losing ticket. However, if you set a more realistic financial goal, like reducing your debt, you’ll feel better every time your credit card statement arrives and your balance is lower.

Realistic goals also tie into resiliency because they require decisive action. The APA says that you fuel resiliency every time you take control and make a positive step rather than trying to ignore issues. They don’t just go away; instead, they often escalate when ignored. They won’t get to that point if you build a sense of control and deal with them decisively.

The SMART Technique

Independence University says you’ll make sure your goals are realistic if you use the SMART acronym: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. The first two factors are tied closely together, as you can’t measure a goal if it’s not specific enough. Making it time-bound gives you a way to keep yourself on track. Attainable goals are not always realistic, so do a reality check. For example, you might want to build your savings up to a certain level within a specified timeline. You could do it on your current paycheck, but it would mean severe financial sacrifices that you’re not prepared to make. That makes it unrealistic, because you’re not likely to stick with it due to the negative impact on your lifestyle.

By developing realistic SMART goals, you give yourself a positive focus. That makes you more resilient by giving you something to look forward to, even when problems crop up. No one is immune from crisis, but the continual positive build-up of working toward a goal gives you more strength to deal with any stumbling blocks that might arise.

Staying the Course

In turn, being resilient also helps you achieve your goals. The APA likens life to a raft journey on a twisting, turning river. You know your destination, but the currents and rapids often pull you off course in unexpected directions. It takes some work to get back on track, but when you know where you’re going, you’re more motivated to correct your course, even if it takes some work. Each goal is a destination that gives you that extra push.

If you set realistic goals and work on your personal resiliency, you’ll benefit your mental health. The Mayo Clinic says being resilient helps you avoid depression and anxiety and offsets the effects of earlier traumatic experiences like being bullied in childhood. It also makes life more comfortable because you don’t focus on fear and worry. Instead, you create a solid foundation that gives you the skills to handle whatever life has in store.