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13/Feb/2018

hearts

With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching, and the holiday seasoning winding down, I found myself reflecting on the important people in my life, and how we choose to celebrate these people.  When we think of birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and other important holidays, what do we think of?  For me, the first thing that pops into my mind is gifts.  Chocolates and flowers for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries, expensive presents, gift cards, and even money for other important occasions.  But is this how we really want to celebrate the most important people in our lives?

While gift-giving can be a great way to show a loved one that you’ve been thinking about them, spending quality time with loved ones is also extremely important.  A study outlined by NPR in a December article suggested that people felt most loved during times of interaction rather than when receiving gifts.  However, during busy holiday times, such as in December, people often feel additional stress at having to rush to spend time with people close to them.

During these times of high stress, such as Christmas, we often lose sight of being present.  We become consumed with worries about making it to every family gathering, getting the right gifts, and planning out every detail of our holidays that we may forget to stop and enjoy the moment.  Christmas may be over for this year, but we can still practice being more present with our loved ones.  Take some time to breathe and ground yourself before attending that birthday party or anniversary dinner – leave the stress from work and home where they belong, and practice being in the moment.

Instead of focusing on gifts for your upcoming anniversary or birthday, why not begin a tradition that involves spending time with one another, or going on an adventure every year?  Maybe you and you partner decide that every year on your anniversary you will try a new restaurant in a different city, or that every Christmas you will plan your annual trip together.  Try shifting your focus from giving and receiving material items, to making new memories and living a fulfilled life.

holding-hands

All in all, I think we sometimes lose sight of why we take time out of our busy lives to see the people who are important to us.  We want them to feel loved and appreciated, and know that they are important to us.  So maybe try something new – make some great memories that will last a lifetime with the people that are most important in your life.

jenny-thomson

Source: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence 


29/Dec/2017

res·o·lu·tion

 noun; a firm decision to do or not to do something.


That time of year when our use of the word RESOLUTION tends to skyrocket is just around the corner. As a new year approaches, we often naturally find ourselves thinking about what goals we would like to set for ourselves in the upcoming year.  We make promises to ourselves, and perhaps also to our friends or family, about what we plan to do differently, what we plan to start, and what we plan to stop.  Creating New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to not only make plans or set commitments for the upcoming year, but also to reflect on the past year.

2017

Although it may sound like a simple task, many of us struggle with it.  Some of us may feel that we cannot narrow down our list and may feel overwhelmed by the number of things we would like to accomplish, while others may feel that they cannot think of anything they would like to start, stop or change in the New Year.  Even for those of us that have a clear idea of what we would like to achieve, we may find ourselves doubting whether we can actually do it, or whether we actually will.

We would like to provide you all with some useful steps to follow when setting your New Year’s Resolutions this year.  These strategies will help you to narrow down what you value in life and set commitments in accordance with those values.

STEP 1:  REFLECT MINDFULLY

First and foremost, take some time to reflect on the past year.  Take out a blank piece of paper and answer the following questions:

  • What did you accomplish this past year that you are proud of?

Remember, this is something that YOU are proud of accomplishing and not only something from which you received recognition from others. What is important is not the size of the accomplishment or the reward of that accomplishment, but rather that it was an accomplishment at all.

Accomplishments may not always provide pleasure or reward and they may not always be recognized by others as accomplishments, and that’s okay.  For example, if you had been avoiding asking someone out on a date, but then did it, even if they rejected your invitation and left you feeling let down and embarrassed, you may still consider the act of asking the person out an accomplishment.

  • What were you grateful for this past year?

Thinking about what you are grateful for can highlight areas of life that are important to you.  It can identify people or things that you value and cherish, which can act as foundations upon which you set goals for the future.  For example, if you identify that you are grateful for your job and the lifestyle it allows you to live, you may be more inclined to set New Year’s Resolutions that help you to grow within your job or further develop your skills for your job.  Whereas if you find yourself noticing that you are not grateful for your job at all, perhaps that realization will allow you to set resolutions for change in that area of your life.

  • On a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = not at all, and 10 = completely), how connected did you feel within each of the domains listed below over the past year?

If any of these domains are not at all important to you, feel free to skip them, however, if you hold any value in the domain, reflect on how connected you were in that area of your life this past year.  Also, feel free to add your own domains if you think of one that is not listed here and is important to you.

Family relationships
Intimate relationships
Friendship
Work
Health
Spirituality
Community involvement
Leisure
Personal growth

See if you can identify some domains that were lacking compared to others this past year, and perhaps that will help you to set New Year’s Resolutions targeted to improve that domain in the upcoming year.

STEP 2:  IDENTIFY VALUES

Once you have finished reflecting on the past year, use the information you gathered to identify who and what is important to you.  This will help you later on when you are ready to set some resolutions because you will be able to recognize who and what you want to move towards in the New Year.  For example, if you noticed that you were proud of your accomplishment of asking someone out on a date, you were grateful for your friends who supported you when you were turned down, yet you were still feeling disconnected in the intimate relationship domain of life, perhaps you can use this information to set a resolution that will help you move towards becoming more connected in that domain despite the disappointment you had endured in the past year.  It is a New Year, a perfect time to try again, and it is always worth it if it is something that really matters to you.

STEP 3:  SET S.M.A.R.T. RESOUTIONS

Setting New Year’s resolutions, in more generic terms, is goal setting.  Some of you may have heard of SMART goals in goal setting.  Making your goals SMART increase the likelihood that you will be successful in achieving them.  It allows you to structure them in such a way that they almost feel that they can be held in your hands as an object rather than feeling like they are floating somewhere in the clouds.

** In brackets I added some substitute words that I found on Project Smart which I felt are also relevant to the objective of SMART goals, and particularly in setting New Year’s Resolutions (https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php).

S – Specific (Significant)

Make sure each resolution that you set is clear to you and that it is specific enough that you would be able to explain it to someone else in just one sentence leaving as few unknowns left as possible.  See if you can answer who, what, where, when, why, and how for each goal you set.  For example, saying that your goal for the New Year is to be healthier is not a specific goal, whereas saying that your goal is to be healthier by exercising four days a week for at least 30 minutes and eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day IS a specific goal.

M – Measurable (Meaningful, Motivational)

Make sure that you are able to measure your progress with your goal.  Are you able to identify when you are moving towards that goal or away from that goal?  For example, are you able to measure if you are being healthier if you don’t have anything to reference that goal with?  What does ‘healthier’ mean to you?  A measurable goal would be like the example above of exercising 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes – you would easily be able to measure whether you had done this or not.

A – Achievable (Attainable, Adaptive, Action-oriented)

Make sure that you have the means to achieve your goal.  Are there barriers to achieving your goal that are completely out of your control?  If you are setting a New Year’s Resolution that has the time-frame of one year, is this goal achievable in that time-frame?  For example, if your goal is to become a doctor, is it possible to complete all the necessary education and training to do that in just one year?  This does not mean that you should not set resolutions that will take longer than a year, but perhaps the end goal needs to be broken down into smaller, more achievable goals.  For example, if becoming a doctor is your end goal, then perhaps your New Year’s Resolution could be to have all your medical school applications submitted by the end of the year.

R – Relevant (Realistic, Reasonable)

Make sure to check in with your values to identify whether the goals you are setting are actually relevant to YOU.  Do not set your goals based on what other people want you to do (unless your underlying reasoning is because it is important to you to make that person happy), and do not set goals based on things you feel you should do.  For example, if you set a goal to attend Church weekly solely because your family is very religious and want you to attend Church regularly, is this goal truly relevant to YOU?

T – Time-based (Trackable)

Make sure your goal has a target date.  With New Year’s Resolutions, this target date is usually sometime within the year, but the more specific you can get with your time-frame, the better!  You can ask yourself questions like:  What can I do this week?  What can I do in the next month?  What can I do in 6 months? And so on, that may help you move towards a long term goal.

A new year provides opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.  We understand and can appreciate first hand that setting New Year’s Resolutions can seem like a daunting or overwhelming task, but we hope that the strategies above help you to identify what is important you through mindful reflection and set goals that are in line with what you value.


From all of us at JMA, we wish you a very Happy New Year full of values guided living!

jessica-rickus1


28/Sep/2017

Kerry Foster wrote an excellent blog, Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker With A Psych Injury Too Sick To Work?’, summarizing two compelling articles: ‘Is your patient too sick to work?’ by Dr.’s Gregory Couser and Gabrielle Melin of the Department of Psychiatry and Psychology at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine Rochester; and ‘If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause?’ by Joe Marrone and Ed Golowka from the Institute for Community Inclusion in Portland.  Foster and the authors of these articles have, in our opinion, hit the mark on the topic of staying off work due to psychological illness or difficulties.  We have been working with a population of individuals who are off work due to chronic mental and/or somatic health difficulties for many years and the trends we see are directly in line with what these authors are speaking of.

First of all, when we meet with clients for our initial assessment and we ask them what led up to their leave from work, they start off by listing the stressful events and/or the limiting symptoms, and then go on to say that when they met with their doctor, their doctor suggested that they take some time off work to recover.  In many cases, through going off work, the client has now eliminated from their life a key part of their identity or role in this world.  They have deleted the human interaction that may have accompanied their job, they have opened the door to possible financial pressures and isolation, and they have closed the door to productivity, financial contribution to the family, and maybe even a sense of accomplishment and purpose that they may have once obtained from their job.  They have also now entered the mindset that the difficulties they are facing and their work cannot co-exist, and that they must wait until they feel better in order to do their job.  The problems here are that with chronic conditions, the individual may in fact never feel completely better with symptoms at times persisting regardless of treatment. It is the case that until these individuals resume working and actually immerse themselves into their work environment again, they will never be able to learn how to allow their difficulties and their work to exist simultaneously.    Whether it was a decision made independently, or one made by their doctor, it is often one that can hinder a client’s recovery rather than encourage it.

The next problem that arises is that as people continue to sit at home waiting to feel better enough to return to work, the time keeps passing, the challenges continue to exist or become even worse, and the idea that they are disabled from doing their job gets further and further reinforced.  Often times, when we see clients who have been off work for two years or more, we are automatically faced with additional challenges in helping them Portrait of an upset businessman at desk in office. Businessmanget back to work, primarily because this notion and conditioned belief that their symptoms and work cannot co-exist has been carved into their minds.  The earlier clients are referred to us, the better results we see.  If we see clients at the point that they go off work, or even when they are still working but are having challenges, we can work with them to learn how to manage and cope with their difficulties in such a way that they do not have to give up a pivotal part of their life.  We can provide strategies to manage their difficulties while AT WORK, and can teach them how to address and deal with issues as they arise.  Furthermore, we can help them identify the value that their work brings to their life.   Even if someone does not go into work every day thinking I LOVE MY JOB, we can often still help them identify what it is about working that is meaningful to them – whether it is financial security, status, sense of accomplishment, financial contribution within the family, setting an example for their children, the ability to live a comfortable lifestyle, or the means to keep their family healthy – there is rarely an empty response.  From there, the client may notice that in being off work, they are moving away from that value rather than towards it, which is causing additional suffering to their already quite full plate of difficulties.

Early intervention is important, but is not always granted.  There are a number of reasons for this, but one that I will discuss is the issue of individuals needing to feel that they CAN open up early on and that they will be heard.  In order for early intervention to be possible, it is essential that the individual suffering feels that they have someone they can open up to as soon as they start to notice their struggles so that they can be dealt with immediately rather than allowing them to persist and likely bring on additional suffering.  Workplaces need to create open and inviting environments that make employees feel comfortable to speak up about their difficulties and to receive the support needed, rather than having to go off work to deal with things in the privacy of their own home.

At JMA we offer intervention services to individuals at any stage, whether they are still working and are struggling or whether they have gone off work and are looking for help to get back on track.  If you, or someone you know could use some support and guidance towards getting back to where you want to be, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.  We are also able to provide educational programs to employers about mental health at work and about how to best support your employees if they approach you with challenges they are experiencing to lessen the risk of prolonged disability.

Kerry Foster’s full blog is available here: Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work?

jessica-rickus1

References

Crouser, Gregory, P. & Melin, Gabrielle, J. (2006). Is your patient too sick to work? Current Psychiatry 5(9):17-25.

Foster, Kerry. (2014, April). Best Practice: Is Your Injured Worker with a Psych Injury Too Sick to Work? Retrieved from https://activeohs.com.au/best-practice-2/best-practice-is-your-injured-worker-with-a-psych-injury-too-sick-to-work.

Marrone, Joe & Golowka, Ed. (2000). If Work Makes People with Mental Illness Sick, What Do Unemployment, Poverty, and Social Isolation Cause? Speaking Out (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal) 23(2): 187-193.


11/Jul/2017

It is not uncommon for people to describe how they may have wished they had dealt with a situation differently — whether they feel as though they may have let someone take advantage of them or on the flip side, they may feel they reacted too aggressively.  It is times like these when utilizing assertive behaviours to deal with not only day to day issues, but also perhaps stressful or uncomfortable situations, is usually most beneficial.

The easiest way I like to describe assertiveness is learning to find the balance between being passive or aggressive.  It’s that middle ground where you wish to communicate your point without intentionally hurting others.  An assertive person expresses his/her opinions, needs and feelings without ignoring the opinions, needs or feelings of others.  In contrast, aggressive people react to their emotion and attack or ignore others’ opinions in favour of their own, while passive people don’t state their opinion at all.

assertive

For different people, depending on the situation, they may feel more or less confident in using assertiveness skills.  These situations could include dealing with a boss or senior figure at work, family, friends, and authority figures, or even as customers.  No matter the situation though, if you learn how to incorporate more assertive behaviours, it should help you be able to feel in charge of your own behaviour with a method and specific goal in mind for a given situation.

Here are some common ASSERTIVE Behaviours you can start including in your daily life to help build on your assertiveness:

  • keeping good eye contact
  • maintaining a relaxed posture that says you are open to what is being said
  • maintaining an expression that goes along with the message that you want to deliver
  • using a conversational tone
  • speaking openly and to the point – start, change or end a conversation – address issues that bother you
  • make requests and ask favours – refuse a request if you don’t want to do it
  • expressing positive and negative emotion as well as honest thoughts and feelings
  • reaching goals without hurting others in process

My challenge to you now, is to try the above behaviours throughout the next couple of days; as a customer, with your boss, with family and friends.  See if you can notice not only how you may have acted differently, but also how the other person responded and how you felt afterwards.  Did you reach your goal?  If you did, you are definitely working towards finding the balance of assertiveness!

kathryn-camacho1


17/Feb/2017

I would like you to imagine a scale, not the scale that we stand on in the bathroom, but a balance scale with a load on either side.  Now I want you to imagine that on one side of that scale is work (career, job, work-related responsibilities), and on the other side is life (lifestyle, health, pleasure, family, leisure time).  I don’t necessarily like the common terminology of ‘work-life’ balance because I feel it separates work from life, where, for many of us, work is a very large part of our ‘life’.  However, for our purpose here, let’s keep things simple and use the word ‘life’ to represent all that defines our life outside of work.

Most of us struggle to find work-life balance.  We have so much piled on the work side weighing us down that it may consume us and we may even feel that we are buried underneath it all.  Now go back to the mental image of the scale and picture the work scale filled with all your papers, notebooks, appointments on your calendar, your phone, your computer, and all your responsibilities – of course it is heavy!!  It is perfectly normal for this side to be heavy, but it is when the life side doesn’t meet or exceed this weight, that problems will arise.

So how do we keep the scale balanced?  How do we make time for what matters to us in both areas?  How do we make sure that we are not neglecting one side at the costly expense of the other?

Here are some simple strategies…

ASK YOURSELF

Ask yourself some important questions…

  • Do you cancel plans with friends because you are too busy with work?desk
  • Do you feel like you spend as much time doing leisure activities as you do working?
  • Do you often work after hours?
  • Do you think about work as you are trying to fall asleep or do you worry about work-related problems while you are at home?
  • Do you feel that your conversations with friends and family are mostly about work?
  • Do you skip some vacation days because there is just too much to get done?
  • Does your work and income define you?
  • Do you feel that you have to be perfect at work?
  • Do your friends or family complain that you work too much?
  • Do you feel that you have no ‘me’ time because of work?
  • Does your social circle exist only at work?
  • Do you feel that you cannot leave any task for the next day?
  • Do you feel too tired from work to do anything afterwards?

If you answered YES to any or some of these questions, the work side of your scale may have become too heavy, and may be outweighing the life side, therefore, it is time to take a deeper look into what matters to you most and set goals to maintain balance.

The first step is awareness achieved by noticing when the scale is off balance, and deciding what actions will  create the equilibrium that you need.

jumpingTRY THIS…

NOTICE.  Identify what is important to you in each area, and then notice where you are at with respect to living a life that balances those values.

Starting with work, write down 3-5 work-related values. (i.e. commitment, team work, etc.)

Now, take a moment to think about how closely you are living out each of those values at work (on a scale from 0-not at all to 10-completely); Write down your score.

Do the same for the life side.  Write down 3-5 life(style)-related values (i.e. enjoyment, quality time with family, etc.) and now give yourself a score from 0 to 10 in how well you feel you are living out those values.

SET GOALS

If you find that either of your scores are not where you would like them to be, see if you can set goals that will help you increase that score.  For example, on a 10 point scale with 10 being excellent, if you scored 5 in the life domain, what actions could you take to move you closer to a 10?  Could you dedicate more of your time to family or friends?  Could you make a commitment to not answering work emails in the evening when you are at home with your family?  Can you schedule more leisure-type activities into your calendar the way you would schedule work meetings?  If you scored 10/10 with respect to your work related values, that’s great, as long as having a perfect score in this area is not at the cost of pursuing values in your personal life.


I leave you with a simple, yet very important question.  What does work-life balance mean to you?  We may not all define it in the same way, and so it is important to identify what it means to YOU personally.

Here are some responses I got when I asked friends, family, and colleagues this same question:

“Work-life balance is not having my work intrude on my personal life and having the freedom to come and go as I need to.  It means not being tied to my desk.” -Vicky

“Work-life balance is the ability to prioritize one’s personal time as we do our work time – recognizing that it is as important if not more.” – Anton

“Work-life balance means trying to complete my 40 hour work week as efficiently and effectively as possible so that I can enjoy my time outside of those 40 hours with the ones I love or doing the things I care about.  I think there are times we all have to be flexible, as from time to time, work may require something more from us, but to me, as long as this is the exception and not the rule, you can still establish a healthy work-life balance.” – Kathryn

‘’It means having the flexibility to do the things I love.  More time not working in the summer so I can garden.  Fridays off so that I can have a “me” day.  I don’t mind working on a Saturday or Sunday at times because it is uninterrupted work time.  I also don’t mind working early in the morning and sometimes in the evening.  Being able to flex my schedule to spend time with grandchildren is crucial.  Having time to travel and unwind.  Work is also very important to me so at times it is the priority.’’ – Janet

“To me, work-life balance means giving my all and being the best person I can be at both work and home.  It means making compromises and sometimes choosing one over the other temporarily in certain situations.  It means taking care of myself so I can give to both areas, and noticing the signs when I feel like I’m burning out.’’ – Kayleen

“Work life balance means making time for the important things in life outside of work hours.  I really love the quote “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.  It reminds me that self-care is important and in order to do my best at work, I need to take part in other activities that fill me in other ways.  For me, that means taking time for walks, working out, practicing yoga, spending time with family and friends and cooking/baking.” – Stephanie

Whenever you notice that you are struggling to maintain a work-life balance and feel that you are missing out on important parts of your life because work has taken over, try some of these strategies to get you back to the balance you desire.  If you are having a hard time using these strategies or if they are simply not working for you, consult a friend, family member, or even a professional because losing balance in your life can lead to psychological, social, and even physical consequences.  We at J Marlin and Associates Inc. offer private, on-on-one counselling services for anyone looking for help with creating and maintaining a balance in their lives, and living in accordance with what matters most to them.


Contact us at info@jmarlinandassociates.com or 905-317-8890 if you are interested in hearing more about the services we provide.

jessica-rickus1

 


15/Dec/2016

res·o·lu·tion

 noun; a firm decision to do or not to do something.


That time of year when our use of the word RESOLUTION tends to skyrocket is just around the corner. As a new year approaches, we often naturally find ourselves thinking about what goals we would like to set for ourselves in the upcoming year.  We make promises to ourselves, and perhaps also to our friends or family, about what we plan to do differently, what we plan to start, and what we plan to stop.  Creating New Year’s Resolutions can be a great way to not only make plans or set commitments for the upcoming year, but also to reflect on the past year.

2017

Although it may sound like a simple task, many of us struggle with it.  Some of us may feel that we cannot narrow down our list and may feel overwhelmed by the number of things we would like to accomplish, while others may feel that they cannot think of anything they would like to start, stop or change in the New Year.  Even for those of us that have a clear idea of what we would like to achieve, we may find ourselves doubting whether we can actually do it, or whether we actually will.

We would like to provide you all with some useful steps to follow when setting your New Year’s Resolutions this year.  These strategies will help you to narrow down what you value in life and set commitments in accordance with those values.

STEP 1:  REFLECT MINDFULLY

First and foremost, take some time to reflect on the past year.  Take out a blank piece of paper and answer the following questions:

  • What did you accomplish this past year that you are proud of?

Remember, this is something that YOU are proud of accomplishing and not only something from which you received recognition from others. What is important is not the size of the accomplishment or the reward of that accomplishment, but rather that it was an accomplishment at all.

Accomplishments may not always provide pleasure or reward and they may not always be recognized by others as accomplishments, and that’s okay.  For example, if you had been avoiding asking someone out on a date, but then did it, even if they rejected your invitation and left you feeling let down and embarrassed, you may still consider the act of asking the person out an accomplishment.

  • What were you grateful for this past year?

Thinking about what you are grateful for can highlight areas of life that are important to you.  It can identify people or things that you value and cherish, which can act as foundations upon which you set goals for the future.  For example, if you identify that you are grateful for your job and the lifestyle it allows you to live, you may be more inclined to set New Year’s Resolutions that help you to grow within your job or further develop your skills for your job.  Whereas if you find yourself noticing that you are not grateful for your job at all, perhaps that realization will allow you to set resolutions for change in that area of your life.

  • On a scale of 0 to 10 (0 = not at all, and 10 = completely), how connected did you feel within each of the domains listed below over the past year?

If any of these domains are not at all important to you, feel free to skip them, however, if you hold any value in the domain, reflect on how connected you were in that area of your life this past year.  Also, feel free to add your own domains if you think of one that is not listed here and is important to you.

Family relationships
Intimate relationships
Friendship
Work
Health
Spirituality
Community involvement
Leisure
Personal growth

See if you can identify some domains that were lacking compared to others this past year, and perhaps that will help you to set New Year’s Resolutions targeted to improve that domain in the upcoming year.

STEP 2:  IDENTIFY VALUES

Once you have finished reflecting on the past year, use the information you gathered to identify who and what is important to you.  This will help you later on when you are ready to set some resolutions because you will be able to recognize who and what you want to move towards in the New Year.  For example, if you noticed that you were proud of your accomplishment of asking someone out on a date, you were grateful for your friends who supported you when you were turned down, yet you were still feeling disconnected in the intimate relationship domain of life, perhaps you can use this information to set a resolution that will help you move towards becoming more connected in that domain despite the disappointment you had endured in the past year.  It is a New Year, a perfect time to try again, and it is always worth it if it is something that really matters to you.

STEP 3:  SET S.M.A.R.T. RESOUTIONS

Setting New Year’s resolutions, in more generic terms, is goal setting.  Some of you may have heard of SMART goals in goal setting.  Making your goals SMART increase the likelihood that you will be successful in achieving them.  It allows you to structure them in such a way that they almost feel that they can be held in your hands as an object rather than feeling like they are floating somewhere in the clouds.

** In brackets I added some substitute words that I found on Project Smart which I felt are also relevant to the objective of SMART goals, and particularly in setting New Year’s Resolutions (https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/smart-goals.php).

S – Specific (Significant)

Make sure each resolution that you set is clear to you and that it is specific enough that you would be able to explain it to someone else in just one sentence leaving as few unknowns left as possible.  See if you can answer who, what, where, when, why, and how for each goal you set.  For example, saying that your goal for the New Year is to be healthier is not a specific goal, whereas saying that your goal is to be healthier by exercising four days a week for at least 30 minutes and eating at least one serving of fruits and vegetables a day IS a specific goal.

M – Measurable (Meaningful, Motivational)

Make sure that you are able to measure your progress with your goal.  Are you able to identify when you are moving towards that goal or away from that goal?  For example, are you able to measure if you are being healthier if you don’t have anything to reference that goal with?  What does ‘healthier’ mean to you?  A measurable goal would be like the example above of exercising 4 times per week for at least 30 minutes – you would easily be able to measure whether you had done this or not.

A – Achievable (Attainable, Adaptive, Action-oriented)

Make sure that you have the means to achieve your goal.  Are there barriers to achieving your goal that are completely out of your control?  If you are setting a New Year’s Resolution that has the time-frame of one year, is this goal achievable in that time-frame?  For example, if your goal is to become a doctor, is it possible to complete all the necessary education and training to do that in just one year?  This does not mean that you should not set resolutions that will take longer than a year, but perhaps the end goal needs to be broken down into smaller, more achievable goals.  For example, if becoming a doctor is your end goal, then perhaps your New Year’s Resolution could be to have all your medical school applications submitted by the end of the year.

R – Relevant (Realistic, Reasonable)

Make sure to check in with your values to identify whether the goals you are setting are actually relevant to YOU.  Do not set your goals based on what other people want you to do (unless your underlying reasoning is because it is important to you to make that person happy), and do not set goals based on things you feel you should do.  For example, if you set a goal to attend Church weekly solely because your family is very religious and want you to attend Church regularly, is this goal truly relevant to YOU?

T – Time-based (Trackable)

Make sure your goal has a target date.  With New Year’s Resolutions, this target date is usually sometime within the year, but the more specific you can get with your time-frame, the better!  You can ask yourself questions like:  What can I do this week?  What can I do in the next month?  What can I do in 6 months? And so on, that may help you move towards a long term goal.

A new year provides opportunity to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.  We understand and can appreciate first hand that setting New Year’s Resolutions can seem like a daunting or overwhelming task, but we hope that the strategies above help you to identify what is important you through mindful reflection and set goals that are in line with what you value.


From all of us at JMA, we wish you a very Happy New Year full of values guided living!

jessica-rickus1


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J Marlin and Associates Inc. offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy services to help individuals increase their sense of vitality, well-being, and fulfillment.

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