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Have you been feeling lonely lately? Well, ironically, you’re not alone. Many people feel the same way. It affects us in our personal lives and our professional ones.
In fact, our latest research found 43% of US workers don't feel a sense of connection to their coworkers. The majority of those surveyed expressed a desire for far more social connection.
The good news is that learning how to create social goals can help you overcome those lonely feelings and build deeper connections.
A recent study by Harvard University suggests that 36 percent of all Americans feel serious loneliness. The researchers blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for this high statistic, and rightfully so. Many of us spent the past two years staying home to curb the spread of the virus. This was vital for public health but undoubtedly difficult for mental health.
But we should also note the loneliness problem isn’t new. It existed long before the novel coronavirus. In 2018, the condition was so prevalent the United Kingdom created the Ministry of Loneliness to address it.
So as governments loosen public health restrictions, people go back to the office, and you can start socializing in person again, you might have mixed feelings.
You might be excited to get back to life as you knew it. But you might also feel nervous.
It’s important not to rush into things if you’re feeling hesitant. Much like physical exercise, if you over-exert yourself, you’ll feel it the next day. But instead of deep muscle pain, you might come home feeling emotionally drained, tired, or sad.
That’s why it’s important to take it slow, set clear goals, and ease yourself back into the flow of interactions.
To help you get started, here’s our complete guide on how to create social goals.
What are social goals?
Much like other types of goals, social development goals involve setting clear milestones for yourself. Each should build on the last, inching you closer to your desired outcome. You might want to split them into short and long-term goals to help things seem achievable and keep you motivated.
Your social goals will look different from someone else’s. Depending on your needs and situation, you may want to increase your social capital, make friends at work, or feel more comfortable in a crowd.
That’s why it’s important to get to know yourself — to understand your needs and set goals accordingly.
Why are social goals important?
Achieving social milestones is essential to your social well-being. Every person is unique, but we all share that fundamental desire for connection. It’s baked into our psyche thanks to millions of years of evolution. There’s no denying it. Our brains are hardwired for social interaction.
Here are some of the benefits of improving your social connections:
- You’ll learn more effectively. When you interact with others, you activate regions of the brain that help you learn information — especially if you’re trying to teach someone else. In fact, social interaction helps prevent Alzheimer’s and early memory loss associated with some types of dementia.
- You’ll develop healthy habits. There’s a reason why people recommend finding a gym buddy. They can hold you accountable and encourage you to exercise. And outside of fitness goals, they will also help pull you out of your shell, preventing you from falling back into loneliness.
- You’ll be happier. Closer ties will help you feel more connected and satisfied with life.
- You’ll improve your self-esteem. When you’re alone, it’s easy to fall into a spiral of negative self-talk. Connecting with people that love and care about you will boost your self-esteem.
- You’ll increase your social capital. Social capital refers to the benefits you gain from being part of a group. Strong social networks can lead to anything from dentist recommendations to job references.
How social goals can help you at work
Setting social goals at work can also help your career. Here are some potential benefits:
- You’ll build a robust network of connections — on LinkedIn and in real life
- You’ll have good references for your next job application
- Your team will be more lenient when you make mistakes
- You’ll hear about interesting job opportunities before they’re posted
Are you convinced yet? Start learning how to create social goals today. At BetterUp, we can help you discover parts of yourself you didn’t know were there. That will help you build better connections that will benefit your personal and professional life.
How to create social goals
Here’s how you can start setting your own social goals.
1. Be honest with yourself
The first step in setting good social goals is knowing:
- Who you are. Are you an introverted or extroverted person? Do you like going out to nightclubs? Or do you prefer at-home game nights with your friends? Everyone has different needs and preferences. It’s important to know yours. If you don’t like drinking, happy hour might not be the best place for you.
- Where you are now in your social life. You should also be honest about your current situation. Do you have many friends? Do you go out often? Do you feel socially awkward? These questions can be uncomfortable. But you don’t have to be ashamed. Honesty will help you find ways to improve your social interactions.
2. Visualize where you want to be
Now that you’ve cleared up the basics, imagine what you want your life to be like. Your vision should align with who you are as a person and your personal values.
If you’re an extrovert, maybe you want to go to big parties once a week. If you’re introverted, perhaps you value quiet time with your friends.
Your vision is the end-point of your journey — it’s your desired outcome. What do you want your social life to look like?
3. Reverse engineer your goals
Now that you have an idealized version of your life, work backward. What steps will move you from your current position (Point A) to your end goal (Point Z)?
4. Be patient
Depending on your specific goal, you might have a lot of work to do. And that’s okay! It’s important not to skip to the end. Otherwise, you risk failing or burning yourself out — and both outcomes are counterproductive. Failure can be a great teacher, but it can also discourage you.
Each of your milestones will build on the last. With patience, grit, and determination, you will arrive where you need to be. There are no rules for time frames.
5. Start small
Focus on small milestones as you build up to your goal. There are a few reasons you should do this:
- You can more easily achieve them
- You’ll quickly see progress, which will help you stay motivated
- You’ll build the foundations for your larger goals
6. Experiment and be flexible
The more you try things, the more you’ll discover about yourself. You’ll likely find new likes and dislikes, which can change your long-term vision for the future.
Also, be mindful of why you feel the way you do. If you immediately feel uncomfortable, is it because you took on too much too fast? Or is it for another reason? The answers will reveal something about yourself.
7. Be kind to yourself
Self-compassion is essential when trying to improve social connections. It requires vulnerability and honest communication — both of which can be difficult. Don’t be ashamed if it doesn’t come naturally. Practice makes perfect.
8. Use the SMART Method
SMART is an acronym describing the ideal method for setting goals. SMART goals are:
This should be a template for all your milestones. And, for those goals that are further away, know that they’ll be attainable when you cross some steps off the list.
Social goals examples
Here are some social wellness goals examples to inspire you. We organized them by size to show you how each builds on the last.
- Have a 10-minute conversation with a loved one on the phone
- Participate in conversations in online video games
- Learn how to make friends at work
- Invite your coworkers to your house for dinner
- Go out to a small venue or bar to enjoy live music, an art exhibit, or game night with a small group of friends
- Host a party with your friends and let them invite others
- Feel comfortable and at ease in any social situation
- Have a best friend with whom you can talk about anything
- Deepen your existing relationships
Extra tips to boost your social skills
You can also use your social goals to master certain skills. Developing these social aptitudes will help you become a more well-rounded person:
- Emotional intelligence
- Active listening
- Giving compliments
- Non-verbal communication
- Reading the news (staying informed)
Consider this your call to action.
Depending on your situation, you might have a long road ahead. But we have faith in you. With proper planning, you can achieve the social goals right for you.
Doing so will help you unlock your potential. You’ll feel more confident. You’ll feel supported. You’ll be happier. You deserve the best in this world, and your social goals can help you acquire it.
For more advice on how to create social goals, try BetterUp. Together we can discuss where you are now and where you want to go.
Vice President of Alliance Solutions