Goal Setting and Social Anxiety Disorder

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Goal setting can be helpful in overcoming some aspects of social anxiety disorder (SAD). Below are some tips to help you set and achieve goals in relation to your SAD.

The Best Types of Goals

An acronym often used in relation to goal setting is "S.M.A.R.T."

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-Bound

For example, you might choose a goal to make five new friends this year. Your goal is specific (5 friends), measurable (whether or not you meet this target), attainable (if you work hard at meeting new people), realistic (many people have at least 5 friends) and time-bound (to be achieved in the next 12 months).

An example of an unrealistic goal would be to never feel anxiety in social and performance situations. Such black and white thinking sets you up for failure, as you may always feel some anxiety in those situations.

Here are some great steps to set your goals.

1. Identify your goals

What would you like to change with respect to your social anxiety? Choose short, medium, and long-term goals in areas such as:

  • Making new friends
  • Getting a job
  • Becoming physically healthy

Be careful not to let your anxiety get in the way of choosing goals. Identify goals without any regard for how anxious they might make you feel.

Be sure to also write down your goals to make sure you stick to them.

2. Break goals into chunks

For example, if your goal is to make one phone call each day, start by choosing who you will call and make sure that you have the right phone number.

3. Identify obstacles

What might get in the way of you making five new friends? Identify those challenges and find ways to work around them. Join a club or take lessons of some sort to meet people if you don't cross paths with others often. 

4. Schedule goals

Plan a regular time that you will work toward your goal. In the example of making five new friends, schedule regular activities that will put you into contact with prospective buddies. For example, you could visit the gym at the same time each week in the hopes that you may run into the same people each time.

5. Complete your goal

You may need to write down the exact steps you will take to achieve your goal. For the new friends example, this might mean writing down steps such as conversation starters, how to keep the conversation going, etc.

Motivation to Achieve Goals

Having goals to work on your social anxiety won't do much if you are still lacking motivation. Be sure to identify obstacles that prevent you from becoming motivated, such as believing things will never change, and challenge these roadblocks.

Reward or Revise

If you have succeeded at your goals, reward yourself. If not, then revise to make success more likely the next time around.

A Word From Verywell

Social anxiety can make it challenging to reach your goals. If you're having trouble doing it on your own, consider seeking professional help. A therapist may be able to help you overcome barriers and obstacles that stand in your way. If it feels too overwhelming to see a therapist in-person, you might try online therapy.

7 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. The National Anxiety Center. Common Therapy Goals in CBT for Social Anxiety.

  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Setting Goals and Developing Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound Objectives.

  3. National Institutes on Mental Health. Social Anxiety Disorder: More Than Just Shyness.

  4. Economy P. Inc. This Is the Way You Need to Write Down Your Goals for Faster Success. February 28, 2018.

  5. Anxiety Canada. Guide for goal setting.

  6. Barker E. TIME. How to Motivate Yourself: 3 Steps Backed By Science. June 30, 2014.

  7. The Tony Robbins Blog. Reward Yourself.

By Arlin Cuncic, MA
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety." She has a Master's degree in psychology.