How to Set (and Achieve) Your Goals Using Motivational Interviewing

Many months have passed since the New Year began. Either you or some of your clients have made a resolution at the start of the year… or set a goal for positive change at any time since then. Setting goals is so powerful, yet statistics show that it’s not uncommon to see the goals we set with such determination a few months ago begin to fade in the rearview mirror of our daily hustle. But let’s not forget, every day is a fresh opportunity to reignite that spark and recharge our determination. 

The present moment is the perfect time to set or re-set goals to help you put your best foot forward and succeed throughout the rest of the year that is still to come!

Want to set and achieve your goals this year (and help your clients do the same)? Continue reading this blog post to find out how to use Motivational Interviewing to help you set goals and achieve them!

  • What Are Goals?

Goals aren’t just abstract desires or aspirations, if you set them correctly they can be concrete targets that provide you with a roadmap for success. Whether it’s improving your health, advancing in your career, or nurturing your relationships, goals serve as the building blocks of our dreams and aspirations. By defining your goals clearly and consciously, you can set the stage for meaningful change and transformation.

In a world characterized by constant change and upheaval, the act of setting goals takes on a newfound significance. Goals serve as anchors, grounding us amidst the storm of uncertainty and providing a sense of purpose and direction. As we navigate the challenges of a new year, setting goals offers us a tangible pathway towards personal growth, fulfillment, and resilience.

It’s very important to remember to focus our energies on setting process goals, as opposed to result goals. For example, meditating 10 minutes every morning is a process goal, while the result goal would be to achieve a more peaceful state of mind and lower stress levels. Process goals focus on the actions we take to achieve a desired outcome, emphasizing the journey rather than the destination. They are within our control and involve specific behaviors. Results goals, on the other hand, are centered on the end result, and are the benefit or advantage of pursuing the process goal.

  • What is Motivational Interviewing?

Motivational Interviewing (MI) is more than just a therapeutic technique, it’s a guiding philosophy that empowers individuals to tap into their intrinsic motivation for change. Developed by psychologists William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, MI emphasizes collaboration, empathy, and autonomy in facilitating behavior change. By fostering a supportive and non-judgmental environment, MI helps individuals explore their values, clarify their goals, and overcome ambivalence towards change.

  • How to Use Motivational Interviewing to Achieve Your Goals

Setting goals with Motivational Interviewing can be not only a ritual but a beacon of hope, guiding us through the maze of life’s complexities. As we embark on this journey of self-discovery and transformation, the principles of Motivational Interviewing (MI) emerge as powerful tools, illuminating the path towards goal achievement while also employing empathy, collaboration, and intrinsic motivation.

Motivational Interviewing offers a structured yet flexible approach to goal achievement, centered around the following key principles:

  • Identify Your Reasons for Change

It can be important to identify why change is important to you, but also to consider what might be standing in the way of that change occurring. To do this it can be helpful to employ the “Exploring Ambivalence” Motivational Interviewing exercise, as it can serve as a powerful tool for exploring the reasons for change. By dividing a piece of paper into four columns, individuals can identify the pros and cons of making a change, as well as the pros and cons of staying the same. For example, Taylor, a young professional looking to advance in her career by getting a promotion, might list “pros for change” such as increased job satisfaction and increased responsibility, while listing “cons of change” such as increased workload and less flexible hours. Similarly, when looking at “pros for staying the same” she might put that she has a good work life balance and she is comfortable in her current position. For “cons of staying the same” she might note that she believes she is capable of more and that she isn’t proud of what she does.

By doing this exercise, it can help you to identify what your own reasons for change are. By focusing on the pros for change and the cons for staying the same, this can in turn help you to motivate yourself to create the change you want to see in your life and achieve your goals!

  • Know If You’re Ready to Change

The Stages of Change model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, provides a framework for understanding an individual’s readiness for change. According to this model, we don’t just suddenly decide to change and jump into action. Instead, the Stages of Change model outlines how individuals tend to move different stages of change. 

We begin in the pre-contemplation stage, where individuals are not actively thinking about change and have no desire to change. Next, in the contemplation stage individuals tend to start noticing that a behaviour or a situation isn’t working for them and how it might be beneficial to change. However, in this stage change might seem daunting and it might not be something that the individual is ready to do yet. The preparation stage might not be when action actually occurs, but it’s when individuals start to plan to take action and make change in the future. Then, in the action stage this is when individuals accept that they need to make a change and are ready to act inorder to achieve that change. 

Change can be hard to maintain over a long time, so the maintenance and relapse stages represent what can happen over time after a change has been made. If relapse occurs, the individual will slip back into old habits, which might result in them proceeding back through the phases of change once again. However, if change is maintained then this can result in lasting change and the individual will cease cycling through the various phases.

The important thing to note here is that change is not necessarily linear, it often involves a cycle of change! By recognizing where you are in the cycle—whether it be the precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance stage— you can tailor your approach to goal-setting accordingly. For example, if Taylor is in the contemplation stage, she might focus on exploring her reasons for change and building confidence in her ability to succeed so that she is ready to tackle the preparation phase when it comes!

  • Create SMART Goals

The principles of Motivational Interviewing can also help you set your goals effectively! When it comes to setting goals, the best way to do it is by employing SMART goals. SMART goals refer to goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attractive, Realistic, and Time-bound. Essentially, you want to create goals that are realistic but also incredibly detailed so that they are easier to achieve. By following the SMART criteria, individuals can ensure that their goals are clear, attainable, and meaningful. For example, instead of setting the vague goal of progressing her career, Taylor might set a SMART goal like increasing her professional network by attending at least two networking events per month for the next six months. Doing this makes it clear what Taylor is expecting of herself, as well as what actions she will need to do in order to achieve it.

  • Develop an Action Plan

Once you’ve set SMART goals, the next step is to develop an action plan for achieving them. This involves breaking down goals into smaller, manageable steps and identifying potential obstacles or challenges. For example, Taylor might create an action plan by breaking down her goal and deciding to research networking events, RSVP to events, and prepare talking points. By doing this, you’re not only making your goals more attainable, you’re also creating a roadmap that can be flexible or adapt to your needs along the way.

It’s normal to encounter obstacles on the path to achieving a goal, and so it can be helpful to try to anticipate and address potential obstacles when you’re developing your action plan. For Taylor, an obstacle might be that she often feels nervous when having conversations with people she doesn’t know. Knowing this, maybe she will work on having more conversations with strangers before heading to her first networking event, or come up with some ways to help herself manage the anxiety she feels in the moment like taking some deep breaths or using positive self-talk. By identifying challenges upfront, it allows the opportunity to brainstorm strategies to overcome them so they have less of a chance of hindering your progress toward your goal! 

Finally, it is important to set realistic timelines and track your progress so that you stay focused on your goals. While tracking your progress doesn’t necessarily need to be rigid or constant, making sure to check in with yourself and your progress towards your goals can create accountability and also offer you the chance to celebrate your successes along the way.

  • Embracing the Journey Towards Positive Change

As we journey through the rest of the year, let us embrace the transformative power of goal-setting and Motivational Interviewing. By setting SMART process goals, our reasons for change, recognizing how ready we are to change, and developing action plans, we can unleash our potential for growth, resilience, and fulfillment. Setting and achieving goals using Motivational Interviewing is not just about reaching a destination, it’s about embracing the journey and discovering your inner strength and resilience along the way.