It’s the beginning of a new year and many people set personal goals and resolutions. Oftentimes, it’s a challenge to overcome discouragement and even get started.

Let’s talk about a better approach to setting goals, personally or professionally.

Look back to move forward

The fact is that our capacity to transform into a new self, live a different life or achieve great feats is often limited by our thoughts, actions and habits. I’ve seen the power people harness when they are willing to go deeper and do the inner-life work for change.

Start by reflecting on the recent past in one area of your life that you want to change. Ask yourself:

  • What are five things that you must STOP doing?
  • What are five things you must KEEP doing?
  • What are five things that you must START doing?

The “things” on your list will often be actions and behaviors, the more specific the better. To add more power to your intentions, go back and review your list and look for any patterns around your mindsets and beliefs in your inner life. Ask yourself what is motivating you, what beliefs may be holding you back? You may find that your own self-talk plays a significant role in impacting your ability to change behaviors. Some people have inner self-talk that defeats their confidence to try something new, or old messages from childhood that are not true.

So, first take the time to look back and discover the mindsets and beliefs that may need to change alongside your new behaviors. Healthy thinking gives you power for action to achieve your goals.

Align long-term and short-term goals

Another thing that trips people up is knowing what time-frame to use to set their goals, especially since the future is uncertain and external opportunities or threats may impact our goals.

While this is true, it is better to have some direction and know what you’re aiming for and make course corrections along the way.

Think of a long term goal as a vision of how you want your life to be at a point in time (for example, three years from now). Imagine yourself three years later, having achieved your goals. What does your day look like? Who are you and what are you doing? How does it make you feel? This might seem silly, but describing this helps paint a mental picture of something that you can aspire towards.

Now ask yourself: “What must I achieve or what must be true for this long-term life vision to be a reality?” List them out and rank them in a way that makes sense. I call these accomplishments.

Identify the top 3-5 accomplishments to get you started towards your long-term life vision. These can be your annual goals. Next, focus on the first steps you must take over a shorter period of time (perhaps the first 3 months of the year). Here I recommend using the Objectives and Key Results (OKR) method of planning that states clear objectives with quantitative or qualitative results. You should easily know if you achieved, or did not achieve them when reflecting back. However, make sure they are in alignment with your accomplishments for the year.

Have systems for success

Finally, goals and plans are only as good as our execution and ability to follow through on them. People often want “accountability” and often seek that from me as their coach.

However, I recommend you explore new systems, patterns and habits that help you stay on track and know how to adjust along the way. Whether you use a bullet journal,a tasks manager app or a simple calendar, find the right tools and systems to keep you on track. Here is an article featuring some of my favorite productivity systems that you can use as inspiration.

I want to hear what your methods for setting and keeping goals are. What are the systems that you are using?

Happy New Year!


PS. I have a few openings for a free exploratory coaching call with me this month; click here if you want to discuss your goals with a certified coach.

* Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels

About the Author Paul Wright

Paul Wright is the founder of WVS Courses and Coaching, and is passionate about helping entrepreneurs launch and grow new enterprises. He especially enjoys working with social innovators who create a greater good in the world with their businesses.

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