How Goals Impact Your Mental State

Written By: Heather
Heather Kempton Coquitlam Couples Counsellor

Are you thinking about setting a goal? Have you been disappointed in the past when failing to reach your goal? It may be time to learn how to redefine your goal so that you are no longer placing limits on yourself.

How to Set Goals

The process of setting clearly, defined, measurable goals will help you choose your direction in life by helping you to focus your acquisition of knowledge, as well as, organize your time and resources so that you can live the life you want. When taking a look at personal goals you may wish to focus on the “big picture” of what you want your life to look like. You can do this by brainstorming ideas that capture your main life areas.

Prioritize your Goals

There are two ways to go about prioritizing your goals. You may wish to rate them individually on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 symbolizing the goal is extremely important to you right now, and 10 symbolizing that it is not a priority. Or you can write down a time frame beside each goal in which you would like to have accomplished it (1 week, 1 month, 6 months, 1 year etc.). If you have chosen to do both exercises you can look at which goals were rated important with the shortest time line.

If you are struggling during the brainstorming portion and are feeling at a loss as to where to begin in establishing a goal, try answering the following questions:

Which goal do I think about the most?

Which goal would give me the most energy if I could commit to it now?

In ten years from now, how important will this goal be?

Which goal is in line with my values?

Which goal is fully within my control, and not dependent on other people or circumstances?

Is this goal an external “should” or an internal desire?

If I could take action in spite of my fear, what would I want for myself right now?

Which goal gives me a lethargic sensation when I think about it?

Which goal gives me a positive “rush” of endorphins when I think of it?

Which goal fits best with my current lifestyle?

Positive Motivation

When creating a goal it is important to think of the purpose behind the goal and the positive consequences associated with it. Questions you may wish to ask yourself:

How will achieving this goal give me more momentum and leverage to achieve my other goals?

How does staying committed to this goal increase my self-esteem?

Who will I become a role model for once I achieve it?

What new opportunities will present as a result of achieving this goal?

What will I have learned as a result of achieving this goal?

Negative Motivation

On the flip side are the thoughts and feelings that arise when you envision not achieving your goal. Questions you may wish to ask yourself:

What is at risk if I stay in my comfort zone for too long and do not apply change?

How am I making my life more difficult by not achieving this goal?

In what way am I living below my standards if I’m not fully committed to this goal?

How will I feel one week from now, or several months from now if I don’t achieve this goal?

What is my greatest fear if I don’t commit to achieving this goal?

How will my situation worsen if I don’t commit to this goal, and if I don’t achieve it?

Identifying and Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

Limiting beliefs will have a profound affect on the type of goal you set and whether or not you become successful at achieving it. Your mindset and thinking patterns will either help you or prevent you from achieving what you want, as your beliefs become your reality.

Questions to ask your self in order to identify limiting beliefs:

What rules have I created in my life that could be limiting my ability to get started with my goal?

What pessimistic thoughts reoccur in my head every time I think about pursing my goal?

How are my standards about “what” and “how” things “should” happen, be negatively affecting my ability to go with the flow in order to make my goal achievable?

Do I value something that contradicts what I want to achieve?

What self-defeating thoughts have I created based on past failures with important goals?

How do these self-defeating thoughts become barriers?

What mental scripts do I play over and over again that disempower me?

Questions to help create new beliefs:

What words could I use to describe myself that increase my confidence?

What evidence do I have that disproves my limiting belief?

Identify positive affirmations with each limiting belief.

Think of a person who has already achieved your desired goal. What attitudes, ways of thinking, and mindsets do they adopt in order to be successful at what they do?

What types of behaviours or actions could I take that would strengthen my beliefs?

What rituals or habits would build my belief and make it stronger?

Changing Habits and Behaviours

The purpose of answering the following questions is to identify any behaivours that may prevent you from achieving your goal, or significantly slow down the process.

Which of my behaviours have the strongest negative impact on my goal?

Which behaviours have I struggled with the most?

What behaivours do I engage in simply due to conditioning; as to opposed to my preferred choice for how I want to behave?

Which behaviours lead me into a vicious cycle of self-sabotage?

What behaviours in my lifestyle drain me?

What behaviour, if changed, would give me the most control toward achieving my goal?

Once you have identified these behaviours, it is essential on forming new habits and behaviours. The following questions will help you to create new behavioural alternatives:

Write a supportive behaviour beside each limiting behaviour listed above.

What new actions would give me the most momentum for permanently stopping and changing habits that hold me back?

What actions could I add to my life that would make achieving my goal easier?

Answer the following questions in order to help support making your new positive behaivours concrete:

What is different this time around with respect to my motivation and changing habits?

How bad do I want this new habit in my life?

What other significant achievements do I have? How did I stick to them? How can I apply these same motivational and disciplinary actions to my new habit?

How will I benefit if I make this behaviour a habit?

What are the consequences if I fail to make this behaviour a habit?

In gaining a better understanding of your mindset and behaviour, you are able to set realistic goals that will contribute towards a more fulfilling lifestyle. By setting goals with limited self-awareness you place yourself at risk for failure or underestimating your capabilities.


Heather Kempton, MA, RCC, Life Coach