It’s that time a year again. A new year is a fresh beginning, and many people take the opportunity for making new year’s resolutions, goal-setting, and developing plans to achieve their desired outcomes. When we’ve made resolutions, we must then think about keeping them. So, it’s also a time for achieving goals, changing habits, and doing things differently for a new you – and a new future. With hopes high, we look forward to fulfilling the promise we’ve made ourselves. But can you set achievable goals? And how far does your goal-setting succeed in achieving your aims?

Maybe you don’t make new year’s resolutions. After all – they just seem to be made to be broken. Perhaps you’d rather set career or life goals, or you have specific aims or intentions. But regardless of what you call them – creating space for intention is important. And more important still is to ensure that you ultimately take action on those intentions.

“The thing about goals is that living without them is a lot more fun, in the short run. It seems to me, though, that the people who get things done, who lead, who grow and who make an impact… those people have goals.”Seth Godin

A framework for goal-setting

Here is a tried and trusted approach to setting your goal or intention. It’s a process that I have used with many of my coaching clients… and to show you how easy it is, I’ll use the example of one of my coaching clients working in international development, whose lack of confidence in public speaking was holding her back from being the leader she wanted to be. I’ll call her Maria.

I asked Maria: ‘What is your desired outcome? Think broadly, to describe your goal or outcome.’

She said: ‘Not many people would realise this, but I’m actually frightened of public speaking. I know that’s holding me back, though – so, my goal is to overcome my fear of public speaking.’

Then, because Maria is an established client I know quite well, I challenged her thinking – quite directly: ‘You know, the way you’re saying ‘I want to overcome my fear’ – you’re expressing it in a rather negative way, with an emphasis on your fear. Let’s turn it around – make it a positive goal. What do you want to be, do or have, instead?’

Maria thought for a moment. ‘OK. I want to improve my public speaking. I want to be a good public speaker.’

I said, ‘That’s great! There’s much more energy in the way you say that.’

‘You know – I can feel the difference, too,’ she said.

Maria was so delighted with the results that she actively wanted me to share her experience, to illustrate the process we followed.

It’s so simple, anyone can do it. So, here it is –

Your Goal-setting guidelines:

1. State a single goal

Keep it simple.We set out by establishing one single outcome, goal or intention at a time. You can repeat the process with any other goals you have, but for simplicity and effectiveness – identify one goal, and concentrate on that to the end of the process.What is your goal? Think broadly and describe your goal or outcome.

2. Be specific

Go into a little more detail about your goal or intention. Make it more tangible, rather than a general idea or vague, sweeping dream. What, specifically, do you want? Think about the real actions it will take, the behaviours you need to change or develop, and the tangible results you want.

3. Context

Give your aim a context or surroundings in which to happen – and populate it with any other people who are implicated. Where do you want your goal or intention to occur? Is it a work or home-life goal? Is it a personal goal that will benefit all aspects of your life? And with whom do you want it? (friends, family, co-workers, partners, etc).

4. Timeliness

It’s been said that ‘a goal is a dream with a deadline’. Pin your goal down to a specific timeframe – and give yourself a deadline to achieve it. This makes it more concrete, realistic, and sets your intention to achieve it. When do you want to achieve it? Is it long-term or short-term? A 10-year or 5-year goal? 3-year? One year? Knowing the span of time you have to achieve it enables you to break down your big goal into achievable steps along the way, year by year, or month by month.

5. Outcome measures

How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal? Think: ‘What will be different when I get it? What will I see, hear and feel?’ Make a vivid multisensory image of the results you want. This not only gives you clear performance indicators to measure your achievement – the strong emotional experience (the taste of success!) gives you a powerful motivation to make it happen.

6. Milestones

Once you know the direction you want to go in – ensure that you keep focused and follow the right route to your destination. How would you know you were on track for achieving your overall outcome? And, how would you know if you were going off course?

Break down your overall results or goals into milestones along the way – or smaller sub-goals. And look to achieve them. If Maria wants to be an excellent public speaker in one year’s time, what does she need to do, month by month? In Maria’s case, within month one, she committed to arrange coaching once a month, and booked herself on a one-day course in public speaking. By month 3, she aimed to have presented to a group of 100 people.

7. Existing resources

What resources can I activate to get this outcome? Think of what you already have, that will help you to make your goal happen. Whether it’s sufficient money, personal qualities, skills, support or contacts – what resources do you already have that will help you to achieve your goal? How can you mobilise them, to this end?

8. Resources needed

Beyond what you have already – what resources do you need to acquire, to achieve this outcome? Do you need to find more money? Learn new skills? Acquire more knowledge? Seek out other people or support? How will you do that?

9. Support

Related to resources – either existing or needed – what support do you need, now? Do you have people or networks available to you, or do you need to seek them out? Who do you need to support you? And what do you need them to do? Clarity at this stage will make it easier to ask for help when you decide to start your plan.

10. Final check

After all these considerations – do you still want this outcome? Don’t waste any time on it, if it doesn’t seem worth the effort! Commit yourself to goals that energise you – that you are motivated to achieve.

Peter Bregman, in one Harvard Business Review article (Dec 2012), says,

“Instead of identifying goals, consider identifying areas of focus. A goal defines an outcome you want to achieve; an area of focus establishes activities you want to spend your time doing. A goal is a result; an area of focus is a path. A goal points to a future you intend to reach; an area of focus settles you into the present.”

So, whether you prefer resolutions, goals, intentions or areas of focus – it’s good to be clear where you’re heading, and to set your intention.

Set your sights on the future, be intentional – and enjoy the present.

If you’d like some coaching support in setting and achieving your goals, feel free to contact me.

If you would like to, please download my coaching programme brochure – Women’s Leadership Coaching – For Women in Development – specifically designed for women working in global development.

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