Setting Goals to Beat Depression

Setting Goals to Beat Depression

People hear from parents, teachers, colleagues, success stories, motivational speakers, priests... everyone to set goals.

I heard this so much for most of my life it got to the point that I would do everything in my power not to set goals.

It became so tiresome and dull, it was annoying!

It felt like a chore like everyone suddenly was a parent (who I didn't want to listen to either) and I had to do this abstract thing "set goals."

Wasn't showing up having to go to school, go to work, clean the house, and pay the bills, enough?

As it turns out most of those, for most people aren't goals at all. 

In fact, it turns out, just about the only way to experience joy and meaning is by pursuing goals. meaningful goals, that you choose. 

Let's find out why, and how to beat depression.

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What is Depression

Depression has a lot of different causes and almost always it has to do with a loss of direction, meaning, purpose, and place in the world. 


From a neurochemical standpoint, it's because feeling like you belong somewhere, or have a purpose, gives you a direction, a goal. 

Without even realizing it, you pursue things every day, and when you are consciously pursuing something meaningful you engage your Dopamine system. 

When someone is depressed they become more and more disconnected and less interested in pursuing activities and social engagement.

The Dopamine system is responsible for every one of those aspects of our lives. 

And it can be activated through conscious effort, and that is how you beat depression. 

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What I find very often is that even if people want to create goals they don't know how, while everyone was saying "set goals" nobody was teaching how to set goals.

The first step is the most difficult because, again, depression is disconnection and it makes activities look less appealing so it's going to require effort, more effort than it normally would but it is vital.

You must think about what you care about, I call this a value excavation. 

So, to begin, list out your values and your interests, or even things you think might be interesting, or things you know need to be done.

Once you've made you list, organize it.

Put the things that are of the highest importance/interest, or most necessary to do, at the very top. 

Then write down steps you need to take to engage with those interests or finish those tasks.

Break those steps into smaller and smaller steps that you can start that day. 

It does not matter how small of a step it is, that step becomes a goal and when you finish that first small goal Dopamine activates.

Then you accomplish the next small goal, and more dopamine activates, and that dopamine builds on itself for every small goal you accomplish.

That produces more energy, motivation, and confidence that will help you continue to accomplish small goals after small goals until you're able to accomplish the medium goals, and ultimately the large goals. 

Without engaging your Dopamine system it is very difficult to beat depression.

Why Effort Beats Depression

It is not perfectly known why people fall into depression, nor is it understood why some people fall into a deeper depression than others.

What has been well known for thousands of years is that life is hard, and life will always be hard.

In fact, it's shocking that more people aren't depressed far more often considering all the pressure and stress, and responsibilities. 

Something else that's been known for thousands of years is that connection is the ultimate remedy for depression.

That's why every ancient mythology, religion, and culture puts a heavy accent on community. 

The word "religion" itself means "re-connect." 

The word "myth" means "story" as in the story from which you come.

Each of us is not only born into a family and a culture but we are born into the human story that began thousands of years ago.

Modernity has disconnected us from that fact and is hyper-focused on division and separation.

There are cultures around the world, small though they may be, that don't have a word for depression because that's how connected each individual is to their community.

That is very good news.

Because that means depression isn't a standard or necessity, difficulty and work yes, but not depression.

It takes effort to build a community; identify interests and find groups that share those interests.

It takes effort to meet people and socialize and become a part of something.

But it starts with remembering that you are already part of something, the human story, and that's something.

Through effort and goal setting you reignite your dopamine system and become integrated into groups and pursuits of your choosing, and that is how you beat depression.


There a numerous reasons why people fall into depression but there is 1 common way to beat depression.

Set goals.

Define your values and interests.

Put effort into pursuing those values and interests and become re-integrated with what truly matters to you.

Set goals, and beat depression.

It doesn't matter how small the goal is, everyone starts somewhere.

That small goal, even if it's just getting up at the same time every day, makes a big difference.

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March 25th, 2023

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