Goal Setting for a More Amazing Life

Dec 19, 2022

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Goals for the new year. We all have them, even if we don’t make formal New Year's Resolutions. Claiming we’re not going to change anything in the coming year is unrealistic. But so is making goals of changes that are fueled by the wrong reasons or are simply unsustainable.

Goal setting, in itself, is a good thing, admirable and worth our efforts. When done right, change can bring about a happier, more amazing life. So how do we choose goals that make sense and result in successful change? What are some pitfalls of goal setting to be avoided? Let's talk about it.

“Changing from pressure, telling yourself you have to change… Or changing under threat or fear… that if you don’t do it, something bad is going to happen.… is rarely sustainable.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Check your reasons
  • Break it down into measurable
  • Choose for yourself
  • Unsustainable change
  • Adding, not losing

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Podcast Episodes that pair well with this one:

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If you have any questions about the various coaching options or about the small group, please email me at [email protected]. I personally read and respond to my emails.


I'm Dr. Sarah Dill, and this is the Stressless Physician Podcast, episode number 45.

Welcome to the Stressless Physician Podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Sarah Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career and personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey everyone. Welcome back to the podcast. Happy Monday. Well into December now, which I always think about my mother. She gets pretty stressed out starting in early November. I think just the holidays and stress gets her sort of worked up. I actually really like these months, but she always wanted to try skipping all the holidays. She would promise that we would just sort of celebrate at different times, but my sister and I, we always rejected that idea. We wanted Thanksgiving. We celebrated Christmas. We didn't wanna skip Christmas. And I think about that a lot.

I think this is a time where a lot of folks feel stressed and pressured. There's pressure to get gifts. In the medical field December is often a time where there's a lot of pressure from patients who've met their deductibles, who wanna get in and take care of procedures or other things. And so, often this can be a time, not of a lot of relaxation or rest or joviality, but of a lot of stress.

And so today I actually wanted to talk about thinking ahead to the new year. So for those of us who celebrate sort of Christmas and come from the Judeo-Christian background. New Year's Eve is coming up and then we sort of start over, and so this is a time that many of us are thinking about 2023, which is sort of crazy. I can't believe it.

But I also wanted to put a plug in for my episode next week, which is going to be on basically how to create more ease, how to feel more relaxed, and how to really pretty instantly, within about a minute, reduce the feelings of tension and stress in your body. I think that's something we can all do. It's a habit that I think is very important to practice every single day, multiple times a day. Because it's something that we wanna create as a habitual response to sort of deescalating the stress response that we unconsciously, subconsciously, or just sort of on autopilot fall into all the time. So that's next week. Little plug for next week. It'll be a fairly short episode as well.

But again, today what I wanted to talk about was New Year's goals or just goals for your life. It doesn't have to be for the new year. Whenever you are listening to this, you might be listening to this at another time, I just want to ask you the question, are you happy with how your life is now? How would you like things to be different perhaps in your life? And a lot of us of course, do this because we think we wanna be happier, right?

That we would be happier if only X, Y, Z. But I just want you to sort of take a step back and think about maybe the last year of your life, whether that's 2022 or whether it's another time. What would you like to be different? What would you like to have more of in your life? What would you like to have less of in your life?

Many of us are very well-intentioned, especially in this sort of self-development, self-improvement space. And we sit down in December or whenever, maybe early January, and we make these New Year's resolutions, and then most of us, based on statistics, don't follow through. People buy gym memberships and then it's pretty standard that they don't go.

I used to make multiple pages, lists of New Year's resolutions. I remember one time my mom looked at it, she was like, honey, that's a lot, you know? But I would literally have 20 or 30 or 40, 40 sort of resolutions or things I wanted to change. And that was at a point in my life where I wasn't very happy. And I also was trying to make changes out of a sense of self-judgment and self-criticism.

And that's often where I see a lot of my clients. People, friends and neighbors and relatives sort of go about it the wrong way, I think. So when you're thinking about changes that you would like to see in your life or in yourself, or in your work, or your job or anything, I want you just to make sure that you're not picking these because you think it's gonna make you a better person. That somehow you need to improve to become a better person. So what I like to remind myself and my clients is that there's nothing that can change you into a better person because you already are an amazing, perfectly imperfect human being. We all are.

This work of New Year's goals or of transforming our lives or ourselves or showing up differently or having a different experience in our life. What if it's not about self worth, or being good enough? What if it's about experiencing an even more amazing life, or becoming an even more amazing version of yourself, just so you can have that experience?

So I just wanna say please just notice if you're falling into the trap of self-improvement or New Year's goals or resolutions, thinking that you need to make changes to be a better person. This is that idea of contingent self-worth, that your self-worth or your self-value, your self opinion, or your value in the world is based on your income or maybe how good or selfless a doctor you are, or a parent or a partner or anything like that. And I would just like to question that from the get-go.

I like to think that my self-worth is just somewhere in a bank vault, somewhere untouchable, just somewhere. I don't add to it or subtract to it, and the same is true of each one of you. So again, don't try to change a habit or set goals based on any sort of critical or self shaming or self-judgment story about yourself. If it is, then that is what I would shift before.

So what is it that you would like to change? What would be fun to experience? Some tips I have are to set the goal, but make the individual changes small and doable. Right? You can see my previous podcast on the two minute rule. When you're implementing a habit change or when you're implementing a new goal, you're trying to show up differently or anything like that, you need to make it ridiculously easy to. You need to build that momentum.

Also, you can have several goals, right? You may have several goals. Can you come up with a goal that would make all of sort of the sub goals part of it? You could sort of focus on one thing and then break it down into what else needs to change.

So, a lot of people have the goal of becoming healthier. What does that actually mean? You wanna get very specific and very measurable. So rather than have a goal of getting more sleep and eating better and maybe working out more, your overall goal may be to get healthier. Make sure you ask yourself why again. It helps to know the reason for the motivation.

Often, again, you want something that's motivating you and sort of pulling you forward with excitement or enthusiasm rather than pushing you to make the change from fear or shame or self-judgment. And then I want you to break that down. That might look like getting eight hours of sleep five days a week. That's a measurable goal. You're gonna know it when you hit it. It might look like exercising 30 minutes three times a week. Again, it's a measurable goal. You might wanna break it down with what counts as exercise. So you don't have to re-decide in the future. It might look like eating more fruits and vegetables. It might look like consuming less sugar beverages or eating dessert only on days that start with S. That's one of my favorites. So, which is Saturday and Sunday, whatever it is, right. So those would be the sub goals under getting healthier, measurable, and specific.

I like to give myself a reward for making progress towards those goals too. It's the old carrot and stick. I think the carrot, the rewarding yourself for positive progress is way more effective than beating yourself up. So again, making the changes small and doable and then making them very measurable. I would also say, can you focus on one change or goal at a time. Again, I spoke about this in an earlier podcast, but habit change or reaching for a goal is much easier if you are focused on one thing at a time. When I used to have page after page of resolutions and habit changes and everything, it was very difficult to make any progress because my attention was so scattered. So maybe just pick one thing that you wanna focus on at a time.

I also want to remind you to make sure your goal or your goals, or whatever habit you wanna change, or whatever result you wanna see in your life, make sure it's something that you can affect. Don't have a goal that involves another person changing or being different, or making different decisions. Even your children, even your partner, even your patient. Assume they will be the same. How do you want to be different? Maybe you wanna work on not taking things personally, on not being upset by other people. That gonna be an amazing thing to work on. What would it feel like to go to work and not be upset with how other people show up or what they say? It doesn't mean you don't respond, but you get to respond rather than react. Maybe the same thing is true with your family. Maybe you wanna be more patient.

Again, not because it's gonna make you a better person, but maybe you can see that it might make your life a more amazing experience for you. Again, changing from pressure, telling yourself you have to change or changing under threat or fear, that if you don't do it, something bad is gonna happen, is rarely sustainable.

The same thing is true when you're in a hurry. Don't be in a hurry. What if this change is something that is gonna ripple through your life forever? And again, when I'm thinking about this, when I'm thinking about goals or the new year or things that I wanna add to my life, I like to ask what would make my life even better. That question might open up a lot of different possibilities for you. Rather than asking yourself, what do I need to stop doing?

And if you have a list of things you wanna stop doing, can you rephrase those in a way that's more about what you wanna start doing? So rather than I wanna stop watching TV or staying up late, I want to get more sleep. I wanna have seven and a half hours of sleep per night. That's sort of moving towards a positive change towards adding something in your life rather than taking something. It tends not to trigger some of the sort of scarcity mentality of like losing something rather than focusing on what you're going to gain.

And that ties in with this other idea of, can you focus on making a change in habits or setting new goals for your life that will add more happiness and joy and ease or positivity rather than focusing on trying to do less of something? So what will make your life even better? What would be a positive change in your life? What's a habit that adding this thing will add to your life? And again, really try to make it measurable. Because otherwise we never reach our goal.

So if your goal is just to be healthier, your brain is probably always gonna keep telling yourself, you could be healthier, you could be healthier. Making it measurable and specific gives you actual metrics, to know when you've achieved the goal. Cuz most of us continue to shift the goal, right? We wanna make more money. How much more money? Most of us make more money now than we did when we were medical students, and yet our brain now is always looking ahead. It's always looking for the next thing.

If you're having a hard time with coming up with a goal, maybe you wanna set for your life, one thing is to look at this year, or look at the last six months or 12 months. Are there things that you regret either not doing or not experiencing? Are there things you regret doing? Are there experiences or things you don't wanna repeat? Again, not to beat yourself up or to judge or to self criticize. Anyone who knows me knows I don't really believe in creating a lot of feelings of regret, but sometimes it can be a good way to notice what is something I want more of in my life? What is a change I really do want to implement?

You're just noticing maybe it looks like more travel, maybe it looks like more time with friends or family or loved ones. Maybe it looks like more time with your spouse or your partner, or if you're single, maybe you want to really have a goal of devoting right more time to pursuing a partner, if that's something you want to have in your life.

Do you wanna work more? Do you wanna work less? Do you wanna change how you work? Do you wanna maybe work with more enjoyment, more ease, more fun? That's a great goal there. You just really have to focus on how would I make that measurable. How would I know? Maybe you wanna enjoy your work and seeing patients more. Maybe you wanna mix up your your job a little bit. Maybe you wanna add research or add consulting or do something else. Maybe you want a new hobby. Maybe you wanna really work on doing your charting at work and not bringing it home. What would no working on weekends or holidays, assuming you work a Monday through Friday work work week, or maybe just no working on days where you don't have patient responsibilities, what would that look like? Maybe wanna work on not feeling angry and resentful. Maybe you wanna work on just feeling better. Maybe that might look like having a goal of improving your relationships, right? Not arguing, enjoying friends and family's company more, maybe sleeping more.

I always love that as a goal. Everything is better with more sleep. Maybe you wanna be healthier again or more active. What do you wanna change? I invite you to think about what do you hope to look back on in 2023? What goal or change would make your life more amazing? What would make you proud of yourself at the end of next year? That can be another way to tap into it. And again, just a little caveat, not because it's gonna make you a better person, but because it's the experience you wanna have, right? This is your life. What do you want to have going forward? I would love to hear about it. I also would love to support you.

Sometimes a lot of the coaching I do is on helping people move towards those goals in a way that's not full of self-judgment or self-criticism. Moving towards them with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm and sort of do ability rather than from a sense of having to do it or needing to do it or else.

So feel free to reach out. Let me know if I can support you. You can always email me at Sarah, [email protected] or. Go to my website, saradill.com and sign up for any emails. I'm gonna be sending out some emails soon about ways you can work with me next year, either one-on-one or in small groups, and I would love to help you make the next year even more amazing.

Hope you have a wonderful week, and I'll talk to you soon. Bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at Saradill.com. It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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