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Goal setting - sink or swim?

Some of my goals in January’s past include: losing weight, getting stronger, getting fitter, reading more, being on my phone less, spending less, learning to surf, drinking more water, upping the step count, planning work better and doing more CPD... Sound familiar? I have succeeded at all of them… for between a week and a month. So what went wrong?

Firstly, those are not goals. They are visions, dreams perhaps, but they aren’t goals. They have no path to achieving them. They are the pinnacle. Like expecting to reach the top of the mountain but with no plan on how to take the first step. So where to start…?

A vision is actually a great start, but you can’t just say, “this year I want to set up my own business”. You need a defined goal and a plan. No point in a goal without a step-by-step guide of how to achieve it. Here are a few things to consider when creating your goal.


Why do you want to achieve that vision? Unless you want to do it for you, it is already flawed. Your goals should be for YOU. Not to please others, not to avoid judgement from others, because it is what YOU want.


Why has it not happened already? What is holding you back? What barriers are in your way? Finances, the opinions of others, motivation, time, knowledge… What might make you fall at the first hurdle? Acknowledge your barriers, and your plan should include ways to overcome those barriers as well.


After you’ve covered the why and how, let’s start getting specific. Instead of “I want to get fit” how about “I want to be able to run 5km in under 30 minutes, by 1 June this year.” Boom - we have a measurable goal. Now visualise the goal - write it down, make it your screensaver, create a visual picture of your goal - whatever works for you. Look at it regularly until it is ingrained in your brain.


Make sure it is the right size of goal. Too little, for example if you can already run 5km in 32 minutes, and you won’t be motivated. Too much, for example, you have never run in your life, and you will likely give up. You can then have milestones within your goal, mini goals. Achieve that, and then move to the next one. You will eventually build up to the same goal but with smaller, achievable goals along the way.


What journey do you need to take to get you to the top of the mountain? You may have failed with this specific goal in the past because you didn’t prioritise the goal. You didn’t make time for it for example. If time is an issue, look at where this goal sits in your life priorities. Can you make it a non-negotiable? So if you want to get fitter, those three hours a week you plan to go to the gym are set in stone. You commit to those times each week and under no circumstances are you swayed by the lure of a coffee date, or a client requesting a meeting etc. That is your protected time to help you achieve your goal. As soon as you start rescheduling it, downgrading it’s priority, it will gradually slip out of reach.


What can you do TODAY to make you a step closer to your goal? Footballer Marcus Rashford talks about how his goal was to play for Manchester United. Aged eight, he knew doing 50 keepie uppies that day would take him a tiny bit closer to that goal. So he did. So what can you do today? Join a gym? Speak to someone about your goal to make you accountable? Buy one of those water bottles that shows how much you should drink? Find a business mentor. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but it does have to happen. Today.*


Do whatever you need to create the environment to allow you to flourish. That might mean finding office space, joining a gym, researching recipes and creating a meal plan. Good planning leads to good performance. And if you usually find your enthusiasm waning a few weeks in, try listening to motivational podcasts about goal setting, self-improvement and self-love.


The chances are you aren’t self-motivated or you probably wouldn’t need to be reading this blog. I find making myself accountable is absolutely key to achieving a goal.

Shout about it - tell people about your goal. Think carefully about who you tell. Tell people you know will be supportive, people who will encourage you and check in on you. Don’t tell people who might be jealous of your goal and potentially discourage you.

Hire a business/career/fitness/life/nutrition coach/mentor - someone you can work with and check in with regularly to ensure you’re still on track. I often find paying someone makes me more likely to take heed of advice and make full use of their advice or coaching - even payment in coffee or a contra deal…

CELEBRATE SUCCESS A journal is a great way of keeping track of your progress and will be a valuable reference point when you are having a dip. Don’t wallow on any setbacks. Move on from them quickly and get back on track, don’t let them be an excuse to spiral. Then when you achieve your goal, look at ways to make your new achievement a habit e.g. healthy eating, fitness, create a new goal if that helps - you’re an expert now after all.

Summary: Top 10 tips to realise your goals

  1. Ensure you create the right size of goal.

  2. Make sure your goal is measurable.

  3. Visualise your goal and remind yourself of it regularly.

  4. Create a step-by-step plan.

  5. Create the right environment to thrive - don’t just dive in.

  6. Block out protected time each week to work on your goal.

  7. Make yourself accountable.

  8. Work on your mindset - listen to or read motivational podcasts or books.

  9. Celebrate wins - write them down and move on quickly from setbacks.

  10. When you achieve your goal, consider turning it into a habit. And consider creating a new goal - you know how it’s done now!

*(My only condition on that, is don’t feel pressure to start in January if you are feeling blah. It might be that you want to start running and perhaps that goal would be more likely to succeed if you start in April when it’s milder. Don’t feel you have to start now. Start when you feel you are most likely to smash it.)

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