Define success goals, recognize wins to set yourself up to flourish in mental health
One beneficial mental health charger comes from the last letter (A) in Martin Seligman’s PERMA model. Accomplishment, also known as achievement, mastery, or competence, is a fuel for emotional well-being.
Feeling a sense of accomplishment generates positive emotions when we look at what we have achieved and experience a sense of pride.
You can increase your opportunity to flourish by setting meaningful personal goals and working to accomplish them. This micro-skill is congruent with my approach to teaching mental fitness. There are no shortcuts or, as my mother would say, “free lunches.” You must be motivated and willing to make an effort to accomplish anything. Those who set challenging goals and do the work to succeed enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
What does a good life look like for you? A challenge for some is never stopping and writing out what a successful life looks like. Too many focus on doing without pausing and being clear about what is being done is meaningful.
What a good life looks like depends on what is most important to you, which comes from your core values. Some people put money ahead of health. They work constantly and pay little to no attention to their health, not realizing that without health, they have nothing.
Create meaningful personal accomplishments one at a time
Avoid the urge to try to improve or change more than one or two things at a time. Self-growth and learning are lifelong processes, like the lifelong journey of achieving and maintaining mental health.
Focusing on at least one challenging personal goal is one approach to supporting your mental health. Setting personal goals is good for you, whether flourishing or languishing. Personal goals provide purpose and a mission.
I coach my clients that chasing goals is good for them. However, they should reflect on accomplishments that give them a sense of pride. It is OK to know they are good enough as they are but still have goals because they want to keep growing and continue the quest to live their best lives.
How well are you doing? Ask yourself how well you are doing regarding money, career, relationships, and physical and mental health. Relationships can include community and spiritual activities. Where are you doing well, and where do you have gaps?
Pick one area where you have a sense of accomplishment. Write out the aspect of life you are proud of and why. Focus on this area for a few minutes and notice the sense of pride. Why do this? Focusing on areas of life in which we have less pride or a sense of accomplishment can distract us from acknowledging what we have done well. Mental health is positively impacted by enjoying our achievements.
Pick one area where you have a gap. Define the gap and area you want to improve and name the goal and why it is important. A common mistake is setting a goal to lose 10 pounds, achieving it, and within a few months, gaining 12 pounds. This happens because of failing to focus on the why. To have a lifelong sense of accomplishment, set a goal that promotes health. Feeling fit and confident because you created healthy lifestyle habits will deliver an ongoing sense of pride. The point is to pick goals and challenge yourself to answer the why.
Design your goal, and what success looks like. Once you know what you want and why, create how you will achieve the goal and what success looks like along the way to this accomplishment. You can focus on realistic expectations by thinking about what success looks like. Any challenging goal will take time and be demanding. Some days will have setbacks that require self-forgiveness and refocusing on your goal and the path to achieving it. Lock in success. It is OK to reset the goal once you achieve it, but be clear about what you’re striving for so you know when you have won.
Reflect on past accomplishments for fuel. While achieving a personal goal, reflect on past accomplishments to spark positive emotions to help you recall the value of sticking with your quest. This reflection can remind you that accomplishing goals brings positive emotions that fuel a sense of pride. In a society with much criticism and judgment, there is nothing wrong with feeling proud of being a good father, partner, or community citizen and enjoying physical and financial health. When pursuing a goal, acknowledge accomplishments along the way (I made it to the gym 90% of the time). Celebrating and accepting you are not perfect and that success is rarely a straight line supports you on your personal goal journey.
Dr. Bill Howatt is the Ottawa-based president of Howatt HR Consulting.