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Goals for what?


  • What areas of life?

  • What sort of outcomes?

  • What about obstacles?

  • What if they seem too distant?

Characteristics of goals?



Important to us

Goals need to be something worthwhile, something we believe in, and something we are prepared to put some energy into achieving. They need to reflect our values. They need to be realistic in our current personal context. We need to bear in mind the difference between a goal and a fantasy.







From the very first session of this program we would like you to start thinking about making differences in your life. So the sort of goals we are asking you to think about are goals that are important to you in the expression of your values in your life. Goal setting and goal achievement could be a course on its own and the self-help and business shelves of bookshops are stocked with books which devote a great deal of space to the topic, reflecting its importance. Many of the inspirational quotes below come from these books.

"Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps."

Helmut Schmidt

"All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do."

Norman Vincent Peale

Achievable and under our own control

Goals need to be achievable.  That means achievable by us, under our control, not dependent upon other people doing what we hope they will do.


So, for example, the goal of achieving a promotion at work is something which is dependent upon a number of factors outside our control, such as the availability of positions, and the quality of the other applicants. What is under my control however are factors like educational preparation for the next position, like performance in my current position and hence the quality of the references I can bring to a job application, and my personal presentation and confidence in an interview situation, all of which are likely to push the odds in my favour when a position does become available.


As another example, the goal of maintaining my health and reducing relapses in my condition is likely to involve factors out of my control as well as factors within my control. Much of the material within this course is aimed at identifying factors within. Can you think of factors beyond your control and within your control to do with your IBD?


Made up of sub-goals

Most worthwhile goals are made up of a number of sub-goals, sometimes a few, sometimes many. I wonder how many sub-goals went into placing a robot on Mars or building the  space station? Each goal functions as a step towards the next one. There are times when our steps lead us towards a clearly identifiable ultimate goal, there are other times when we may not have the ultimate goal clearly in our sight, but we know the steps are taking us in the right direction. How many of us had a clear picture of our vocational path as we studied for our exams in high school? Some of us might, but most of us just knew it was taking us in the right direction.


Process oriented

While we often think of goals in outcome terms, most of the sub-goals are process orientated. The ultimate goal of losing weight or gaining weight can be considered as the eventual outcome of a number of process sub-goals such as managing diet and exercise, and these can be influenced by other processes such as managing rest and recreation, as well as specific targets like seeking out attractive recipes with appropriate ingredients for our condition, using a shopping list at the supermarket, not shopping when hungry, paying particular attention to serve sizes, and informing ourselves about appropriate dietary principles.


Specific and clear

Goals need to be specific and clear, as the quote from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland illustrates. We need to have a clear notion of what the goal is and whether we are moving towards it, away from it or are still tied up at the wharf, and we need to know how we will know when we’ve achieved the goal.


"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'

'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.

`I don't much care where...' said Alice.

'Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat."

Lewis Carrol from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.


Obstacles can tell you a lot about your goal setting. Is my inappropriate food or drink at a party an obstacle in my achieving the goal of manging my IBD? 


Am I able to think creatively in developing ways to still achieve some aspects of my goals for health, exercise, or diet even despite unexpected impositions on my time and energy by extra work overtime, for instance?


Real commitment to a goal enables us to continue towards those goals even despite obstacles. There are many inspirational stories of people who have achieved their goals despite obstacles and a few of these personal stories are available on the Crohn’s and Colitis Australia website: 


"Goals give you a compass in order to direct your path through life. Goals focus your thoughts and actions on areas that have precise purpose and meaning."

Catherine Pulsifer

Set your goals


Please fill out the attached goal sheet.



While doing that I would like you to identify activities that you will work towards over the period of this program despite your current illness concerns.


At the end of the program you can evaluate how realistic the goals were and remind yourself of what you have achieved. The more precisely defined the goals, the easier it will be to evaluate your success at the end of the program.

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