“S” is for September and Self-Improvement Month

Tips for Setting Goals

Helpful tips for setting goals

Why is September Self-Improvement Month?

September is the official Self-Improvement Month because it marks the end of one era (summer) and the start of a new one (fall). Self-Improvement Month is a time to reflect on all you’ve accomplished this year before identifying which goals you still need to work toward. To help you get there, here are tips for setting goals (and reaching them).

New Year’s resolutions vs. September’s self-improvement 

Regardless of how it may sound, the intention of September’s Self-Improvement Month is not just about setting and meeting your New Year’s resolutions before the year is over. Rather, it’s about using this time to reassess and adjust your goals so they align with your current values and priorities, which may have changed since January. By taking into account the lessons learned during the past nine months, you can apply your new perspectives and expectations and begin again with a “fresh start” mentality (even if your goal is exactly the same).

Common areas of growth

Once you’ve spent some time reflecting, the next step is to consider the type of growth you’d like to focus on during this self-improvement month.

Here are five common areas for growth:

  1. Spend more time with people you love. Spending time with family and friends can help you feel both supported and inspired. Consider reaching out and connecting with an old friend or branching out and networking with some new people who inspire you. Dr. Ekman makes it a priority to meet with friends as frequently as possible and, while working, set a personal rule to finish by 5 pm to make sure he had time to socialize and recharge.
  2. Find a cause you care about and donate your time and/or money. It’s a win-win as you’ll be helping out others which in turn can also bring added value and a sense of community to your own life. One of Dr. Ekman’s favorite non-profits is one that looks after the welfare of the ocean, called the Surfriders Foundation.
  3. Get creative! Whether it’s trying your hand at painting a picture, solving a puzzle, or even just finding creative solutions to organizing that junk drawer- getting the creative juices flowing can be fun and can also give you more energy for other important things in your life. Dr. Ekman enjoys tapping into his creativity by solving 3D brain-teaser puzzles.
  4. Get active! This doesn’t necessarily mean getting a gym membership (although that can be a great option too). What matters is that you find something that you enjoy and that may switch up your normal routine. It could be taking a walk with a friend or pet, dancing in the living room, or gardening at your home or a local community garden. Some of Dr. Ekman’s favorite ways to stay active are strolling along the waterfront or taking a few laps at the pool.
  5. Learn a new skill. Learning a new skill is like exercise for your brain- it can help keep you more focused and can also increase your motivation and make your more adaptable in everyday scenarios. A great new skill we recommend is learning to read micro expressions. Increase your emotional awareness and detect deception with Dr. Ekman’s micro expressions training tools.

SMART tips for setting goals

If your aspirations are ill-defined or ambiguous, you’re more likely to become delayed -or even completely derailed- when encountering an unexpected situation. To help prevent either from happening, one of the most recommended tips for setting goals is to make sure any goal you set is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely). These five aspects are not in order of importance and should be carefully considered individually before moving forward:

  • Specific: Run through the “who, what, where, when, and why” of your goal. It can be helpful to write these points in a planner or journal so you can reference them again.
  • Measurable: In order to know whether you’ve accomplished your goal or not, you’ll need to determine how you’ll know. Don’t forget to consider ways you can measure your progress along the way.
  • Attainable: Some of your goals may be loftier than others but in order for it to be considered attainable, you must actually believe that you can achieve it. This belief in yourself is what fuels your excitement and motivation to keep going.
  • Realistic: If it’s not realistic you won’t be motivated to take action. This means that the areas outside of your control (e.g., time, space, other people)
  • Timely: Whether your goal is short or long term, make sure you have a clear idea of what your anticipated timeframe and/or deadline is.

Positive peer pressure

In addition to choosing SMART goals, another common method to help you achieve your goal is to enlist a friend. By committing with a buddy, you can utilize the power of positive peer pressure to help you stay accountable or, if you’ve got a competitive edge, you can kick it up a notch and make it into a fun challenge. Regardless, having a friend around to support your progress and help keep you motivated is always a plus.

Paul Ekman is a well-known psychologist and co-discoverer of micro expressions. He was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine in 2009. He has worked with many government agencies, domestic and abroad. Dr. Ekman has compiled over 50 years of his research to create comprehensive training tools to read the hidden emotions of those around you.

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