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Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #4: Goal Setting

People of all ages love to set goals. In fact, according to the stats, the top three New Year’s resolutions for 2017 were to:

1) Lose weight or eat healthier

2) Improve life or self

3) To make better financial decisions

Buried in the stats, however, is a more telling number: 90.8%… this is the huge percentage of people that feel they rarely or never realize their resolutions. In short, the issue is not necessarily setting the goal, but rather carving a path to achieve it.

Here’s the good news–creating a goal in and of itself has benefits. Setting goals is predictive of academic success and is also associated with increased productivity and creativity. So, how can we bridge the gap between setting goals and realizing them? We leverage something called implementation intentions.

Implementation intentions are, according to the research, a way to “link anticipated critical situations to goal-directed responses.” I like to think of this as creating contingency plans for your goals. For example, if you went on a long road trip, you would most likely pack a supply kit in case of emergency. When it comes to creating goals, you should also arm yourself with supply kit of sorts. And this doesn’t even have to be complex! In fact, it can be done on paper napkin 🙂

If you haven’t already guessed it, that’s what we’re going to do for this week’s paper napkin challenge… pick a goal and use implementation intentions as the emergency supply kit. All this involves is making if-then statements to help you plan for when things go awry.

Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #4: Goal-Setting

Check out my challenge to help me get more sleep if you need a little inspiration!

Try it yourself, here are 5 simple steps:

  1. Grab a paper napkin.
  2. Write one of your goals at the top of the napkin.
    Example: Goal = Get more sleep
  3. Draw a line down the middle of the napkin.
    On the left side, write “If…” On the right side of the column, write “Then…”
  4. Under the “If…” column, write down all of the possible things that stand between you and your goals.
    Example: “If… I wake up”
  5. Under the “Then…” column, write down a solution.
    Example: “Then… I’ll meditate”

Don’t forget this step: Teach the technique to your kids and then ask them to teach it to one other person!

Have an anxious child? Join us at

Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #4: Goal Setting

Renee Jain, MAPP

Renee Jain is an award-winning tech entrepreneur turned speaker and certified life coach. She also holds a masters in applied positive psychology from the University of Pennsylvania. Renee specializes in cultivating skills of resilience in both adults and children. Her passion is taking research-based concepts and transforming them into fun and digestible learning modules. For children, she has created one-of-a-kind anxiety relief programs at GoZen! delivered via engaging animated shorts.

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APA Reference
Jain, R. (2017). Paper Napkin Mental Health Challenge #4: Goal Setting. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 18 Nov 2017
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