Designers Mind: Goal Setting Mindset

17th February 2023

Designers Mind contributor Kael Gillam looks at the concept of New Year’s resolutions, and the importance of giving yourself realistic, achievable goals.

Returning the office after the Christmas break can be a bit of a shock to the system for many. Slipping back into having a routine is no small effort, finding our feet after being able to shirk some of the rigidity that the usual Monday to Friday grind entails. Many of us also feel the pressure to set new goals and challenges for the year, running into those commitments headstrong while still finding our feet. Trying to plan out this much activity and change can make us more frustrated and anxious than it causes elation and excitement, but we are capable of flipping that narrative on its head and setting meaningful goals for ourselves.

A few years ago, Designer’s Mind had a roundtable discussion on Clubhouse about New Year’s resolutions and how really, on the whole, they’re a bit of a red herring. Committing to big change and expecting to be able to implement these new goals immediately can often be more discouraging and defeatist than making no change at all. Perhaps worst of all is the all-pervasive culture of comparison that comes with goal-setting; we feel ‘weak’ or ‘incapable’ when we see other people achieving the things that we want with what appears to be relative ease. We are, after all, creatures of habit, and forming new habits is not an all-or-nothing or immediately actionable venture, and some changes will inherently come more easily to different types of people. New Year’s resolutions often take the form of ‘I will start to do x every day of the week’ or ‘I will change the way I do x, starting tomorrow’. But how does that fit into the routine you’re just getting back into? What’s the time, money, or energy commitment to this goal, and how has it been factored into your current commitments?

Instead of an aggressive, all-or-nothing approach to improvement and/or change, it is best to start with introspecting about our own capacity and needs. What aspect of day-to-day life feels like it needs improvement, and what do I want to prioritise? What long-term goals do I have, and what change would make them easier to achieve, or more rewarding to achieve? This will vary for everyone, and our answers may vary from day to day. Our commitments to ourselves and to others are only able to be fulfilled when we feel that we have the internal resource and external support to do so. Big changes often feel like they require sacrifice, which is inherently detrimental to the ideal of improvement and betterment. 

The goal, then, needs to become more intangible and flexible to best allow for our efforts to feel meaningful. For example, instead of a commitment like ‘I will get eight hours of sleep every night’, instead reframe the prompt to ‘I will create time for myself in the evening to be able to relax’. With this framework, if effort gets put into creating a comfortable environment to signal the physical and chemical needs of encouraging sleep, then it feels like a win. And when most attempts feel like a success, this encourages us to continue these learned behaviours and turn them into habits, ultimately guiding us to that quantifiable goal.

But, if tangible goals are more in line with your personal satisfaction, then creating a plan with milestones might be a good alternative. The ‘Couch to 5k’ scheme is a good example of incremental goal setting. If you’ve never run before, you cannot expect yourself to have the endurance or strength to achieve your end goal on day one. Instead, it is a balance of paces and distances to acclimate your body to the act of running. Like the sleep goal, you’re priming your body and mind to a new way of doing things in a patient and thoughtful way. You could also go down the ‘gamifying’ route (which we love here at DM) with wearable tech to track your movement and vitals. With this added layer of external support, you can start to be more conscientious of how your body feels throughout the day on your ‘active’ and ‘rest’ days.

Changing our habits and our lifestyle necessitates that we are kind to ourselves, and recognise that some days our goals simply won’t be achievable. By starting with incremental change, that is less rigidly measured, we inherently create a more forgiving and welcoming attitude around the change we want to accomplish. To add extra motivation, you can also involve friends and family in your goal setting, and have a shared accountability for your journey. External validation and encouragement during periods of change can be massively rewarding and spur us to stay true to our resolutions when we feel the care and support of those we hold dear.

We wish you all the best for the year ahead, and encourage you to create a space for wellness as part of your new routine.

Image: Unsplash