Why Short and Long-Term Planning Achieve Results and Aid Our Mental Health

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Whether we think of ourselves as type-A or type-B personalities, few of us can argue that it feels good when we accomplish something we’ve planned. So why do such a small percentage of us set goals?

Perhaps some of us don’t realize that goals don’t always have to be monumental and of the highest-caliber aspirations. To the contrary, goals can be as small and attainable as trying to wake up a half-hour earlier in the morning or reducing the amount of red meat you consume by one day each week. While we can, and should, have larger goals that take years to reach, only setting these types of goals can deprive us of the satisfaction and motivation that’s required to make continual progress.

Let’s delve deeper into why short- and long-term planning achieve results and aid our mental health.

Your Dopamine Levels

From a scientific perspective, the best reason to set goals and follow through with them is to manipulate your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a chemical our brain releases that makes us feel good. So, that den you’ve been meaning to clean but keep putting it off? You’ll get a spike in dopamine if you make a plan after work to clean it. Afterward, your dopamine level will spike, and you’ll have the fulfillment of no longer staring at a mess.

The positive feeling you get from accomplishing a task won’t go away. You can use goals to trigger this release continually. This is a big reason many life coaches suggest breaking a larger goal into smaller, more-achievable chunks. Every time another leg of the goal is reached, we’re that much more motivated to hit the next milestone.

Being Intentional Feels Good

In our world of constant distractions and social flakiness at an all-time high, committing to something can feel refreshing. Sticking to a plan to better ourselves or how we interact in the world on a broader level is empowering. Not only do the positive effects of the lifestyle change bring us gratification, but also the realization that we can reach new heights of personal or professional health if we have the awareness and desire to get there.

Goal-Setting Achieves Real-Life Results

There’s another big reason why goal-setting is directly correlated to positive mental health: it often gets us to desirable life positions. This isn’t to say that everybody who experiences success did so by committing and reaching goals. However, people who’ve made a habit out of setting goals have done so because they’ve seen their lives change as a result. From contemporary financial entrepreneurs like Andrew Housser to legendary business minds like Andrew Carnegie, goal-setting is the universal secret to success.

Of course, as much as goal-setting can help our mental health, it can have adverse effects too. Continually setting goals and failing to reach them can trigger depression, anxiety and diminish our overall self-esteem. Before you set goals, make sure you understand the specific reasons why. Consider using SMART goals, which are specific (don’t worry about getting granular-level specific), measurable, achievable (very important), relevant, and timely. Because when we arbitrarily set a goal, we’re more likely to abandon it. Take the time to understand your full intentions behind a goal, and you’ll increase your odds of sticking to it.

It’s also wise to set goals beyond yourself. If all your goals are entirely self-focused (especially material-based), you might not get the satisfaction out of accomplishing them as you would if they were zero-sum goals, or, goals concerning more people than yourself.

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