In this week’s episode, Dr. Worthy will teach you how to set realistic goals while being kind and nonjudgmental when you perceive yourself as falling short.
New Year, New Me?
WorthyTherapy explores the intersection of mental health and identity in the Black, Queer, and athletic communities. Dr. Keoshia Worthy, a Licensed Psychologist, uses her humaneness to relate to the listeners by targeting an audience she identifies with. And she answers the question, “How do I know if and when therapy is needed?”
Hi! And welcome back to Worthy Therapy. I am your host Dr. Keoshia Worthy. In today’s episode, we will discuss setting yourself up to accomplish your yearly goals realistically while maintaining your mental and emotional well-being. As usual, we will use storytelling to help make the topic a bit more relatable. We will look at the lives of Devonte and Alicia, two fictional characters I created for educational purposes; the story is not based on actual events.
Dr. Worthy (00:54)
Devonte is a 29 y/o Black gay male who works part-time in real estate and as a bartender. He and Alicia met in undergrad, and she is a 26 y/o Black, queer female. She was a college track player and continues to train and compete to one day accomplish her dreams of running in the Olympics. Devonte hopes to break into the acting industry and uses both jobs to support himself financially.
For the last four years, they’ve spent New Year's Day together, drinking wine and reflecting on the previous year while creating their vision board for the new year. Devonte noticed that each year he’d listed the same goals: to continue auditioning, to repair relationships with family, to make more money to live alone instead of with roommates, and to make it to LA. However, he feels stuck and defeated and notices that this ritual causes him more stress, sadness, and hopelessness. He feels directionless.
Dr. Worthy (01:49)
My first introduction to goal setting was at the age of 9. I played recreational basketball, and for each practice, we had goals to improve dribbling with both hands, learn mechanics of defense, or get better at free throws. Every drill had a purpose; we were striving toward something. That experience was pivotal to my development as an athlete, a student, a professional, a partner, a sibling, a daughter, and a friend. Believe it or not, at the age of 9, I learned that goals take practice, dedication, motivation, discipline, and, most importantly, it takes time. At 9, my coach didn’t teach us about defensive zones, offensive plays, or fancy dribbling; we started with the basics. The goals were realistic for where I was at the time. I learned to dribble with my dominant hand and then with the other, a crossover, a lay-up, pass with two hands, and how to properly do a defensive slide. I apologize if I lost you; this metaphor is essential because many of us set unrealistic goals and try to jump into our new year resolutions without properly taking a step back and starting with the basics.
Dr. Worthy (03:01)
Devonte and Alicia
Unlike Devonte, Alicia’s goals have shifted each year. When they began this ritual four years ago, she remembers focusing on improving her strength and speed as an athlete, to date with intention, and visiting her family more, and she accomplished it all. Watching her dear friend chug back another glass of wine, she wondered why he continued to feel stuck. From her perspective, Devonte has grown each year. He’s become more in touch and accepting of his sexuality, he works hard (he never turns down a shift), and it’s not his fault his family doesn’t want to reconcile with him. She sees it differently. She wishes he wasn’t so hard on himself. It’s hard to break out as a Black, gay actor.
Dr. Worthy (03:44)
Now, let’s take some time to focus on perspective. Sometimes, like Devonte, we cannot see growth when we're in the thick of it. Instead, we can focus on where we are not and lose sight of where we are. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to honor the present moment and to do it without judgment. As Devonte reflects, he does so with judgment by seeing the negatives of where he’s at in life, not how Alicia sees him. To be clear, Devonte’s desire to meet his goals and feelings of hopelessness are genuine. And I would argue that so are his work ethic, drive, and persistence to meet his goals. I try to remind my clients and myself to make space for all emotions. We can give so much attention to the negatives, partly because they're so loud and take up so much mental space. However, like Alicia, I challenge you to make space for other, more positive emotions. I challenge you to widen your perspective and see the complete picture of who you are and where you are.
Dr. Worthy (04:48)
Meeting your goals takes time.
One of my dad’s favorite quotes is, “you gotta crawl before you walk.” Unfortunately, we live in a society where everything can be at the touch of the phone, or google this, or deliver that, or we see very young people making it. While that is good for them, it creates a distorted expectation of the process of meeting your goals. There is no indication of a process. There are no talks of the struggles, the time, the rejections, the multiple failed attempts that led to hopelessness, a feeling of wanting to give up.
Dr. Worthy (05:19)
To properly set goals, reflection is essential, but not in a biased or judgmental way. Instead, we want to reflect with an intention to learn and to understand better. So think about who you were last year, what you learned about yourself, what you would do differently (remember not to judge), how would you avoid old behaviors, and finally, how will you offer grace to yourself if you do slip up.
Next, let’s look at the successes of last year. Yes, there were areas of growth, even though your mind wants to fixate on the negatives. Take a moment and think of the experiences, opportunities, and risks you took that made you proud. It’s okay if it takes a minute; this happens when we try to see ourselves positively. The main thing that separates humans from other mammals is our meta-cognition, the ability to think about thinking. Because of our self-awareness, we tend to focus on improving, which is often overshadowed by our shortcomings. I encourage you to think about your strengths.
Now, let’s put it all together and set realistic goals while having a positive outlook. We can do this in a few different ways, but for this podcast, we will start with a long-term plan and break it up into several short-term goals. For example, my goal this year is to upload two monthly podcast episodes. First, I need to consider how realistic that is with my schedule. After reviewing my schedule, what makes the most sense is maybe uploading a podcast every three weeks, at least for the first half of the year. Now, that’s out of the way; I need to schedule a day for coming up with ideas, another day for writing, a day for recording, and another day for editing. Wow! Do you see how I broke that one goal down by making it realistic and creating several mini-goals to help me reach my long-term goal?
Dr. Worthy (07:13)
The second thing I encourage with goal setting is to consider the parts of your life that are most important. For example, family, friendships, work, hobbies, etc. This step may be helpful for those who find it difficult to set goals or need help knowing where to begin. Consider what you would like to change or improve in those areas. Do not overwhelm yourself here; if the goal is to strengthen friendships, that’s broad; make it specific. Break it down further, which may mean scheduling a call with a friend once a week. Again, that’s tangible, specific, and can be doable depending on your schedule.
The final suggestion, and can be the most difficult is discipline. How can you stick to your goals when life happens? When you are sick, grieving, depressed, lonely, or simply tired. Remember that you are human, so please be kind, gentle, and flexible with yourself and your goals. Earlier, I asked how you will offer yourself grace when you do slip up; that question and answer is necessary to add to your list of goals. I encourage you to reset your goals without judgment or shame if and when life happens. Sometimes we need a little momentum to get us back on track. For example, if I notice that instead of releasing an episode every three weeks, I’ve done it every four weeks. Maybe that’s data for me, my schedule is busier than I thought, or I’m dealing with anxiety. What I’m getting at here is that this provides an opportunity to reflect and be curious about what is happening in your life at the moment. If you’re tired, explore why. We don’t have to beat ourselves up when we are not where we want to be. Remember, in goal setting, it’s crucial to reflect nonjudgmentally, use your perspective by challenging negative views and feelings, and that you gotta crawl before you walk, things take time. Enjoy living in the moment as you strive towards your goals this year! And revisit this episode if you need motivation or a reminder that our goals take time.
Dr. Worthy (09:22)
As we close today’s episode, I want to remind you that individual therapy is available and can be helpful for those who feel directionless with goal-setting, who feel stuck, or who may lack discipline. This service can be provided by licensed psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and master’s level therapists.
Please stay tuned, as the next session will focus on a piece of me. I plan to use my story to inspire or help someone who may relate to my struggle. Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode, and remember that you are worthy, and so is your story!
Linda A. (10:01)
WorthyTherapy thanks you for taking time out for yourself today. The path to mental wellness comes with multiple challenges, and Dr. Worthy hopes that this week’s episode made life feel more manageable and hopeful. Please remember that this podcast is not a replacement for psychotherapy. If you are interested in seeking mental health support, please follow up with your healthcare insurance or visit the links in the podcast's description.
For more self-improvement and mental wellness tips, please visit Instagram and search @WorthyTherapy. Be well and until next time.