Are my stressors in conflict with my goals?

Recently, I reviewed my annual goals and decided on 3 that I need to accomplish by the end of the year which is in two months time.

In the past, I used to set the goals without accounting for what stresses I had at that period of my life. The outcome was that the stressors used to occupy my life and my goals got sidetracked. The result of this was me feeling bad about not accomplishing my goals.

This time I really want to lose weight and get to 160 lbs, publish two scientific articles and about 20 additional blog posts for the year.

I do not want the current stressors to occupy a large aspect of my life. I am going to brainstorm what stressors I currently have and if necessary, adapt my goals.

The current stressors

The things that currently stress me out are:

  1. The students of the MSc programme that I am currently coordinating. The students feel entitled and make unreasonable demands at times. They are also influenced by a part-time lecturer who wants to see me fail.
  2. Moving into a new townhouse. My husband and I decided to move to his old home, a townhouse. While it was renovated, there is still some work to do.
  3. Setting up my life to becoming a productive researcher. Now that I have completed a certificate in university and teaching, I have to focus on my research output as a promotion to associate professor is based primarily on the number and quality of research publications.
  4. Wanting to look great. I currently do not appreciate how I look. My weight has been a problem for me for a long time now. I am no longer studying. I would like to manage my stress and the typical emotional eating response I have. I also want to lose weight to improve our chances of starting a family.
  5. Credit card debt. Frankly, I buy too many Kindle ebooks. I want to limit my card use to essentials.

The stressors that align with my goals

Based on what I have written here, two of my goals are aligned with mitigating the stresses of being a productive researcher and feeling good about how I look via my weight.

I am not even stressing about writing blog posts because, at this time, the blog is simply me thinking through how I can accomplish my goals.

Therefore, my focus should be on two goals.

How to handle goals that do not mitigate against stress?

Goals that do not mitigate against current stress may be related to a long-term goal that could have large payoffs later on. Some goals may require you to start early to work on them and may have an opportunity cost attached to them. For example, writing and building say an author’s career has an opportunity cost that cannot be recovered as writing output depends on the time input. For these types of goals, starting early with developing a writing habit is important for increasing long-term output. Paying off debt and investing also fall into this category of goals that depends on time.

For goals whose outcomes depend on time, the best thing that you can do is to develop habits that support long-term goals and dreams. In addition, ensure that the long-term goals do not contain arbitrary numbers that you need to achieve.

For example, my blog post goal of 44 posts or hopefully 54 posts support my dream of developing a network that helps people achieve their dreams. However, the number of 44 – 54 posts comes from doubling my output from last year which was 22-27 posts depending on how the statistics of the blog is interpreted.

Instead of this number of posts, I should be asking how best can I provide value to my readers or potential readers and write to help them solve a small problem, one at a time.

How to handle the stressors that do not align with my goals?

I still need to take care of stressors that do not align with my goals.

First, I ask, is this a stress that I really need to deal with right now? Can it be postponed or entirely dropped? This is the case of my husband and I moving into a new townhouse. I am going to postpone moving in for the time being because we already have an apartment and we can afford to keep both places. We will slowly move in.

If the issue behind the stress cannot be dropped, ask yourself whether the stressors are related to your long-term goals or your vision. If they are not then worrying about the stress is frankly, not worth your time or energy. In most cases, find simple strategies to deal with stressors.

For example, for the MSc students who have unrealistic expectations, I can keep my interaction with the students professional and courteous, and as far as possible, assist in improving their learning. Professional interaction includes me speaking or writing to them during typical working hours (9 am – 5 pm during the working week) and not outside this time period. Also, I should use respectful language and keep to the situation at hand.

Similarly, dealing with credit card debt requires me to develop simple and good credit card habits such as budgeting, tracking my expenses, using the card for only necessary purchases, and paying off the card as I use it. The key is to build one basic skill at a time by creating healthy credit card habits and routines.

Revising my goals again

Now, my goals until the end of the year have been revised again. Now I have two outcome goals that I would like to hit and two habit goals.

My outcome goals are:

  1. Hit the 160 lbs weight target, and
  2. Finalize two research papers for publication (not submission).

My habit goals are:

  1. Write one blog post at a time to help readers solve a problem.
  2. Use cash for all purchases. Buy only necessities. If I cannot afford something then I do not get to purchase using my credit card. Pay twice the minimum amount each month.

Now the goals are 1 career goal and 3 personal goals, two of which are habit goals.

Now, you try the same. Write down your goals. Then write down the stresses in your life. The stressors need not be related to your goals. Then, decide which stressor you need to get a handle on. After, decide which goals you can temporarily drop or develop small good habits to mitigate long-term effects.

Photo is by from Pexels.

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