JIS News

Although it is still early days, many persons are already bemoaning what they see as the insufficient strides made towards achieving the resolutions they set at the start of the new year.
High on this ambitious list for some, are wellness related goals. This according to the World Health Organization (WHO) is not just merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It includes an individual’s complete physical, mental and social well-being.
For those with seemingly unremarkable progress, who may already want to throw in the towel, Director of Mental Health in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Maureen Irons-Morgan is urging such persons to remain tenacious in their desire to achieve these goals.
Setting goals is not usually the hardest of tasks. The difficulty, Dr. Irons-Morgan emphasizes, lies in sticking to these goals to ensure that they are achieved.
The first step to ensuring that one is on the right path she notes, is to set specific, realistic goals. “It’s good to be realistic in general with your goals because sometimes people just pull things out of the air and so we usually say try to be realistic and try to break it down and be specific,” she tells JIS News.
Twenty four year old Adonique Sinclair attests to this, noting that of the many goals she had set for 2009, only one was achieved. In hindsight, she attributes her inability to convert most of these goals into action on their magnitude. “When I look back, I knew my goals were a bit lofty. I wanted to start my Bachelors Degree, I wanted to buy a house and I wanted a car…none of these were achieved, the most I have done is to apply for the degree,” she laments.
Miss Sinclair also had high hopes of losing weight last year. She acknowledges that she had not given much thought to just how she had planned to achieve this and much to her disappointment, she still has not managed to shed the extra pounds.
For those like Adonique who may be disheartened and discouraged, Dr. Irons-Morgan offers pertinent advice. She notes that some goals may appear impossible or insurmountable, because they are not specific or attainable in the set time frames. This therefore requires breaking the goals down into smaller targets.
“Sometimes setting a goal for a whole year can look very daunting. But when you look at it week by week, day by day it is much more manageable and much more achievable generally when you approach it that way,” she notes.
Miss Sinclair has decided to set more specific and realistic goals for 2010. “What I realize is that although in the beginning, we tend to think we can conquer the world, we later find that we can’t and get discouraged. What I plan to do this year, is to take it a step at a time. I think it is easier for me to achieve my goals if I take this route,” she says.
However, while achieving one’s goals should be top priority, Dr. Irons-Morgan is reminding persons to be flexible in their pursuit. “It will be a futile exercise if you make plans and don’t stick to them, but at the same time you don’t want to be rigid because you don’t want it to be like a punishment, though you want to keep yourself on a particular track,” she points out.
“It’s important to remember that often we might not reach the very high mark that we have set , but allow yourself a little flexibility and keep going, keep trying. There are many stories that are told of people who kept trying and eventually achieved a particular goal,” she adds.
The Mental Health Director cites perseverance, a positive outlook, and a good support network as critical to achieving one’s goals. Telling someone about our goals, she notes, can help in achieving them as it helps to keep persons accountable and offers some level of motivation.
Challenges will arise during the pursuit and will at times call for a little review and revision. In fact, even without any set goals, life always present new challenges. She informs that whether it’s purchasing a pet, spending time with friends or starting new hobbies, coping mechanisms are necessary to alleviate the stress that will arise during the quest to achieve goals.
“Some people find that having close relationships is always good, but if you don’t have that, having a pet is also quite good. All of these things help to build up your ability to cope whenever challenges come your way,” she points out.
In addition to these strategies, Dr. Irons-Morgan highlights that everyone will need to be resilient if they are ever going to deal with the varied challenges. Resilience, she explains, refers to one’s flexibility, balance and ability to deal appropriately with stressful circumstances.
“You’ll recognize that there is a need for you to just experience emotions and to identify emotions. Many people are not even good at doing that. They become angry and they are not aware that they are angry, they become sad and they are not aware that they are sad,” she explains.
But even with perseverance and resilience, there will be times when situations and circumstances become overwhelming. At such times, Dr. Irons-Morgan urges persons to seek help.
“Learn to call for help when you need it. Sometimes people feel that it’s only the weak who ask for help, but it is hard to do it alone. We are not meant to be lone rangers. We are meant to be social beings,” she says.
“It takes strength to realize that you need help and to ask for help appropriately. Getting help from somebody who perhaps has a similar goal or who will meet with you from time to time just to encourage you and to keep you on your path is also very good,” she advises.
Encouragement is said to sweeten labour and accomplishing a goal after weeks, months or years of hard work is usually accompanied by a feeling of pride and elation.
Dr. Irons-Morgan is reminding persons that when goals are realized or when one arrives at significant milestones they should always remember to reward themselves.
“When you have your achievements you should put something in place to reward yourself; just to encourage yourself along the way,” she urges. “On the other hand, she adds, if you fail to achieve a particular goal also encourage yourself to get right up, get right on track, don’t give up,” she adds.
In the meantime, mindful of the problems some persons are grappling with as they try to adapt to the economic challenges that Jamaica and the world continues to face, Dr. Irons-Morgan encourages persons to be positive, conserve more, and seek out the opportunities that may arise.
She notes that “there are practical things that people can do, certainly I would think in terms of budgeting, in terms of conserving, saving in whatever way, not wasting and just strengthening yourself and building up your own resilience”.
This is the attitude adopted by 45 year-old vendor Allan Ebanks. Speaking with JIS News about his coping strategies, Mr. Ebanks reveals that he has started to conserve as much of his income as is possible in order to ably care for his family of four.
He notes that while in past times he managed to afford himself some luxuries he has begun to curb his spending habits.
“Boy, mi can’t afford it so I just try to hold on to what I have and try to make it stretch. I also show my children dem the situation so that dem can also help to conserve as well,” he says.
Dr. Irons-Morgan says that just appreciating the fact that things are going to get difficult and adopting a positive mindset, will assist with whatever challenges may arise.
“I think that having this kind of mindset is also good, because I expect that even given the challenges that are coming our way, there are going to be a lot of new opportunities. People are going to be finding things that they could do that they didn’t even know they could do so well,” she says.