How to Set and Achieve Your Self Care Goals

How to Set Your Self Care Goals and Achieve them

If you’re like me, there are probably more than a few aspects of your self-care that you want to improve. Maybe you want to better your physical health, reduce your anxiety or spend more time with close friends or family.

But, what do you do when if feels like you’re using all of your time and energy just to keep moving? When starting a new health or wellness routine feels like more work or stress, even if you know it will be beneficial in the long run?

Whenever I have gotten to this point, I have used this system to set manageable self-care goals and to actually achieve them. It still takes work, but understanding what you want and breaking it up into small actionable steps can make something overwhelming become achievable.

Ready to get started?

Here is the quick and easy way to set and achieve your self-care goals. Keep reading to the end to sign up for our newsletter and get your free download our printable Self Care Goal Workbook!

Part 1: Develop Your Self Care Dream Statement

Even though we will want our goals and final plan to be written in actionable and measurable steps, I find it helpful to start my self-care planning with a “dream statement”.  Write out how you would like to feel in an ideal world. Ask yourself: ”In a dream world, how would I feel when I wake up in the morning? at the end of each day? when I’m at work?”

You can go crazy here. Don’t let yourself be restricted by what you think is possible given your current situation. Just let yourself dream.

Here’s an example:

“In a dream world, I would like to feel energized and excited when I wake up each morning. I would look forward to the day and to work. I would feel healthy and comfortable in my body. I would be able to handle stress and obstacles that come my way with ease. I would be able to perform my work duties with confidence.”

Part 2: “Me, Right Now”

Now, take stock of where you are right now. What’s your starting point?

Be honest. What are you feeling at this moment? How do you feel when you first wake up in the morning? At work? At the end of the day?

Don’t sugar coat it. No one will read this but you.
Here are some things you should consider:

What are my emotions like (i.e. steady, erratic, uncontrollable)?
What’s my mood like?
How does my body feel?
What is my sleep is like?
What is sex life is like? Am I satisfied with it?
What are my relationships like? Am I satisfied with them?
What are my biggest sources of stress?
How do I feel about my job? Do I look forward to work?

Knowing where you are now is essential for two reasons: it tells you how far you have to go and it gives you something to measure your progress (or lack of) against.

It might look something like this:

“Right now I feel tired and stressed out a lot of the time. I have great people in my life and my partner makes me feel safe and loved. But, I feel like I neglect my relationships because I am always to busy with work, chores, etc. I don’t like my job and wish that I could work in a different type of setting or take some time off. I feel like I am stuck doing something that I don’t like because I have no other options.”

Part 3: “If things were better, I would…”

Now, the fun part.

List the things you imagine you would do every day (or week, month, etc.) if you were living in the dream world from Part 1. These should be actions, not feelings.

What do you think would make you feel good, happy and fulfilled? What are passed times that you would love to do just for you?

Go crazy. You can write down as many as you want.

Here’s an example, but remember to make these your own:

“Read for pleasure. Eat healthy meals. Make time for friends and family. Write in a journal.See a therapist. Quit my job and start a new one. Go to the gym. Go to bed early. Paint. Spend time outdoors. Take yoga classes. Pamper myself.”

Part 4: Obstacles and Excuses

This one might seem difficult, but it’s actually the easiest one. If just writing down your goals was all it took to achieve them, then you would already be doing all of the activities in Part 3 and all of your problems would be solved! Great!

In real life, there are lots of things that get in the way of doing the things that keep us happy and healthy (including our own excuses). Write them all down here.
Be Honest. What’s getting in the way of your success?

Do any of these sound familiar?:

“My work schedule is erratic and it makes it difficult to schedule time with friends. I don’t like my job, but I can’t leave because I don’t have enough of a financial cushion. I am too tired to cook when I get home from work. Gym memberships are too expensive. I don’t have the energy to go to the gym after a long day at work. If I take a lunch break my boss will think I’m not working hard enough”

Part 5: Choose your focus

If you’ve made it this far, way to go! Just the act of looking at where you are and where you want to be can be a great start.

But if you really want to start making positive changes in your self-care, it’s time to set some goals. It can be tempting to try to start to do everything at once, but that’s a quick way to set yourself up for failure. So instead, we’re going to pick just two areas to focus on.

Select one item from Part 3 and one item from Part 4. Copy them down on a new piece of paper.

Remember: You can only pick ONE from each section.

Using the examples above, I could choose “Eating healthy meals.” and “I don’t like my job, but I can’t leave because I don’t have enough of a financial cushion.”.

You can pick any one you want, but I like to go with ones that I feel most passionate about. It ups my motivation.

Part 6: Set Your SMART GOALS

Next, we are going to take these two items and turn them into SMART goals. If you don’t know what SMART is, you can read about it here, but basically we want our goals to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

For each of the items above create one small goal that will help you practice the action (Part 3) or eliminate the obstacle (Part 4).

Here are some examples:

Focus Area SMART Goal
Activity: Eat Healthier Eat a vegetable with breakfast 5 days per week.
Obstacle: I want to leave my job, but I don’t have a financial cushion. Put $50/week into a savings account
Activity: Spend more time outdoors Ride my bike around the neighborhood after work twice per week
Obstacle: I feel too tired to cook healthy meals when I get home from work. Prepare 2 healthy dinners for the week ahead of time on my day off.

You may be saying to yourself “Just two goals? That  won’t make a difference!”. And I get it. It seems so small that it won’t matter, but that’s the point. It’s so small that it’s doable.

You can do this!

It might not get you to your dream world in one day, but it will bring you one small step closer.

Part 7: Work. Evaluate. Work.

Great Job! Now act on your goal. Try to stick with them for at least two or three weeks.

Then, the most important step: Evaluate how things are going.

This is when you take out the piece of paper that you wrote you goals on and ask yourself “how’d it go?”.

Were you able to achieve the goals? What was hard? What was easy?

Once you’ve done this, you can decide to keep going to with the same goals or repeat the process with another action or obstacle on your list.

But, what if you’re sticking with your goal and it’s just not having the impact you thought it would? Or, it's even causing you more stress that the problem it was supposed to stop?

If something isn't working for you, let it go and try something different. Seriously! There is no point in holding onto a self-care goal that you think you should be doing if it doesn't actually make you feel good. There’s no self-care police that’s going to come in and arrest you for changing your mind.

 A big part of self-care is trial and error. Don’t be afraid to stop doing something that doesn’t feel right. You can always try it again another time if you really want to.

Final Thoughts

I debated whether or not I should put examples in this because your goals really do have to be your own. Trying to implement someone else self-care goals just won’t work. I kept the examples short, but I usually write about a page each for Parts 1 through 4. I like having the record of how I felt at different points in time. It’s great for going back and seeing how far I’ve come!

This is the process that has worked for me to improve my self-care over time. I hope that it helps you too. You can also try it for other areas of life that you want to improve. I’ve used it for professional and educational development and financial goals.

Ready to start setting goals? Sign up for our newsletter by clicking here and receive your free copy of our printable Self-Care Goals Workbook!

Once you’ve gone through the process, share your goals in the comments below. What techniques have you used to improve your self-care?

About Jessica

Jessica Jacobs is a Licensed Social Worker based in Indianapolis, IN. She is passionate about improving the health and wellbeing of those in the helping professions through better self-care and more sustainable and supportive organizational environments. Jessica has worked in international and domestic disaster response, community mental health, nonprofit management and political advocacy. She can be reached at

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