Ask the Expert - How to Create a Clear Path to Your Goals
Posted on 12/14/18 in Life Skills by Doug Blecher
It's a new year which causes so many of us to pause for a moment or two to reflect on what we want in our lives. I've been fortunate enough to coach teens and adults with autism as well as family members in achieving goals they have set out for themselves. I wanted to give a few observations of what has been helpful for those that were able to move in a positive direction to reach their goals.
Reduce your anxiety. I often see people afraid to take action on their goals because they are simply just overwhelmed by the process. Sometimes there are sensory processing issues that get in the way. Then there are executive functioning challenges that stop others from taking action. Other times, not knowing the expectations is a big hindrance for moving towards one's goals. A good starting point in reducing these concerns is identifying someone you know and trust and then having a conversation with that person to develop a plan that may reduce your anxiety. It is also okay to allow yourself to take a break on a project - sometimes anxiety comes from feeling the pressure to execute a plan perfectly and at a pace you may not be comfortable with at the present time.
Develop positive habits. I believe motivation is what gets you started, but consistently practicing positive habits is what truly gets you to achieve your goals. When we are motivated, it's easy to pursue our goals, but motivation isn't consistent. When you aren't motivated, there are some good strategies you can implement on a consistent basis in your life. It may help some to listen to motivational speeches on Youtube or some of your favorite music that gets you excited to take action. Other people might benefit from smelling their favorite scents. Using relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or mindfulness activities might put you in a more positive frame of mind as well. Then there are others that find having a beverage or something flavorful helps to get them going. It may also be any combination of these things or something I didn't mention at all. The key is to figure out what gets you going and stick to it! Once you have figured out what gets you motivated, it is best to set a schedule to do this. Part of this schedule should include having breaks and checking in with someone daily. This will help you stay accountable and get feedback if you need it.
Don't judge yourself negatively. An inevitable part of life is dealing with setbacks, and this is the part where I so often see people quit on their goals. They tell themselves they can't do it, but the trust is the majority of people I know with autism CAN achieve what they want. I know this because I have seen them do it.
You can do it, it just might take longer than you expected. It is important when there are roadblocks to not judge yourself negatively. Instead, try to give yourself positive self-talk.
I'm going to be dating myself a little bit here but in the words of Stuart Smiley, a character from Saturday Night Life, tell yourself, "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me." Either that, or come up with another positive phrase when things aren't going so well that you can repeat to yourself. Positive self-talk is vital to achieving your goals!
Keep track of your goals. One way to help you not judge yourself negatively is to keep some type of information on your goals. This way, if you haven't quite reached your goals yet, you can show yourself how much progress you've made so far. This visual support will help you from getting discouraged. We as humans want to make progress and when we don't, we get depressed. It is important to know where we were, currently are, and where we want to go.
I want to thank all the teens and adults with autism along with their family members that have taught me these important lessons. I hope these tips will be helpful as you or your loved one work to achieve new goals.
So often teens and adult with autism struggle with anxiety and as a result don't have success in their lives. Autism Personal Coach is a unique service in that our coaches help individuals with Autism by working on meaningful, individualized goals in the setting in which they will be used so they can become more independent and successful. Doug Blecher founded Autism Personal Coach six years ago when he saw a that there was a lack of support for teens and adults with autism to reach their true potential. Blecher is also a past Milestones conference speaker.