Setting Goals for Your Well-being
You've probably heard a lot about the importance of your overall well-being during the pandemic... even more than usual. The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a hyper-awareness across society about multiple aspects of well-being - obviously physical as well as spiritual, financial, and more.
There are many perspectives you can take when addressing your own well-being. We're going to highlight a couple before talking about how to set goals for your well-being.
Hierarchy of Needs
You may have heard of Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs in a sociology or psychology course or even through public media. Maslow's 5 levels of needs include:
- Physical - includes our biological needs like air, water, food, sleep, health
- Security - considers the need for safety, shelter, and stability
- Social - as you might guess, includes our need for belonging, inclusion, and to feel loved
- Ego - this 4th level of the hierarchy addresses our need for self-esteem, power, recognition, and prestige
- Self-actualization - the highest level includes the need for personal development & creativity
Many of us may be focused on the physical, security, and social needs right now due to the state of the world. Understanding where you are, where you want to be, and your capacity for addressing your needs is important for setting goals. As you're able to address higher order needs in the hierarchy, the lower order needs become less of a priority.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs can be valuable for addressing your overall well-being, which is all about balance.
Dimensions of Well-being
Overall well-being is often represented as a wheel. Each dimension of that wheel contributes to your overall well-being, and they can each impact each other, so balance is an important aspect of managing your well-being.
Some wellness wheels have 6 dimensions, while others have as many as 12. Each university in the University of Illinois System has their own wellness wheel. As shown below, Urbana's and Chicago's wellness wheels shows 8 dimensions of wellness, while Springfield has 9 dimensions of wellness. Generally, there are lot over overlaps in the dimensions, and some are so closely related that they've been included in the same dimension.
You can find brief summaries of what these dimensions of wellness entail below.
- Emotional - "the ability to successfully handle life's stresses and adapt to change and difficult times" (NIH, 2018) as well as an awareness, expression, and acceptance of thoughts/feelings of yourself & others (UIUC); sometimes includes sexual well-being
- Environmental - recognizing the value of the Earth and making sustainable choices that respects and protects the environment which contributes to our overall safety and well-being
- Financial - confidence in your present capacity to cover daily/monthly expenses, absorb financial shocks, that considers the varying levels of financial freedom to make life choices and maintain progress towards future financial goals (CFPB)
- Intellectual / Mental - taking actions (either through traditional education or seeking out experiences) to enhance your knowledge, improving critical thinking skills, and expand your perspectives
- Nutritional - maintaining a healthy diet to ensure your physical health and ward off potential risks to your immune system; sometimes covered under physical well-being
- Occupational / Vocational - pursuing roles that takes advantage of your talents, skills, and passions allowing you to contribute to society in ways that that align with your personal values, goals, beliefs, and lifestyle needs
- Physical - taking actions (exercise, healthy diet, rest, preventative care) to support a healthy body, including seeking care when needed, appreciating your body's uniqueness, and taking precautions to protect against disease or other health risks
- Sexual - accepting your sexual orientation and practicing open and honest communication when engaging in sexual relationships that honor your values and refraining from using sex to manipulate others
- Spiritual - developing and engaging your values through seeking meaning within the universe and connecting with humanity which can be represented in a variety of practices (prayer, meditation)
- Social - maintaining meaningful relationships with friends and family that you can rely on to feel connected and supported while engaging in a variety of roles or working towards your wellness goals
Regardless of your goals, defining them can be very difficult. We covered goal-setting a bit earlier this year during University of Illinois Saves, but a lot has happened since February so we want to acknowledge some of the challenges that come with setting goals.
With how much uncertainty we are facing right now, it can be difficult to identify your priorities, which is why we spent time talking about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Needs and wants can be very different for each of us, but prioritizing your physical safety can be a good place to start. At SMMC, we often define a need as something that could jeopardize your health, safety, or livelihood if you went without it.
When you're identifying priorities, you want to consider your values & lifestyle along with your needs. So, for example, if running is important to you for maintaining your health, making sure you have a pair of shoes to run in safely would be a need.
If you don't plan ahead, something that is typically a want for you could easily turn into a need. This is why assessing your resources is another valuable part of goal-setting. Again, because of the uncertainty with funding streams, community services, etc., this step in goal-setting can be difficult.
Resources for accomplishing your goals can come from a variety of places: employment, government benefits, community services like public transportation or libraries, organizational affiliations (e.g., alumni associations), entrepreneurial endeavors, friends, family, etc.
As a student, you also have access to university services that you may not have access to when you graduate or leave school, so taking advantage of those services while you're in school can help you work towards and accomplish goals at a lower cost.
As an alumni, you can take advantage of services or discounts provided through the Alumni Associations for Urbana, Chicago, or Springfield.
Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals
We have typically defined "S.M.A.R.T. Goals" as those that are specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic, and timely. However, it's important to recognize that there are multiple versions of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym, so we've compiled a table of the many common versions so you can select the best descriptive terms for your goal.
We created a downloadable worksheet with the acronyms for you to set your own goal. Below are some considerations for the version of the acronym that we use in SMMC most often:
- Specific - The more specific your goal, the easier it is to visualize which makes you more likely to achieve it.
- Measurable - Can you quantify your goal in a way that allows you to track progress towards it? This might be subtasks to complete or a specific number to save/repay each month.
- Agreed Upon - Most people rely on others to help them accomplish goals. If you rely on a cosigner for a financial goal, does your cosigner agree? If it's a trip, do you agree on the destination?
- Realistic - Given your current income, resources, and time, is this a realistic goal? Where might you need to compromise in order to make it realistic?
- Timely - When do you want to achieve your goal? You can always re-evaluate your time frame later, but having a realistic target date initially helps keep you on track.
Managing multiple goals can be overwhelming. Consider starting with one or two, track your progress for a while, then add to your goals as you are able.
Don't forget that our values, resources, income, and priorities can change over time. To accommodate these changes, regularly re-evaluating the importance of our goals can help us decide how to continue making progress towards those goals we care most about.
Regardless of the dimension of wellness that you'd like to focus your goal on, it's important to recognize the interconnectedness of the dimensions of wellness.
Financial wellness is a dimension that can directly impact any other area of wellness simply because the more money you have, often the more choices or routes you have to reach your goals. If you're stressed about finances, it might be difficult to focus or make decisions on how to best accomplish a goal or work towards an area of wellness. If you don't have enough money to buy nutritious food, you might have difficulty practicing physical or nutritional wellness. If a family member or friend cosigns on a loan for you, but you aren't able to make on-time payments towards that loan, you could impact your social wellness. Meaning, your financial choices could negatively impact your relationship with the cosigner. Alternatively, many other areas of wellness can impact your financial decisions and capacity (along with the systems we live within), so finding a balance for your overall wellbeing is important for success.
Again, remember that flexibility is key when setting and managing your goals, and it's okay if a priority or your values change to update your goal(s) accordingly.