What Do You Want In The Year Ahead: Goal Setting

goal setting

Goal Setting: What sort of goals are you setting yourself for the coming year?

What are your goals for the forthcoming new year? There’s a definite skill to goal-setting, but it doesn’t always come easily. If you’re anything like me, you’ve set yourself big goals in the past for the forthcoming year, only to realise 6 months in (and somewhat dejectedly) that they were unrealistic. Or you’ve set such big goals that they feel too distant, too alien and all too often, overwhelming.

Research shows that goals are not much use if you don’t also plan how you’re going to reach them, the actual steps you need to take to execute them. However, you can also fail to reach your goals if they’re not the *right* goals for you.

What does success look like for you next year?

It might be working from home, walking your child to school three days a week, paying for a family holiday or buying a new car, but what counts as ‘success’ for one person, is going to be different for another.

Ask yourself what success next year will look like for you, before you set your goals for the year ahead. Not success in line with what you think you ‘should’ do to ‘run a successful business,’ but what it looks like for you, in your life, aligned with your values.

What outcome are you working towards this year, that will truly lead to greater well-being and happiness? Are you thinking about personal development, experiences that make you grow, or that will make your heart sing? Or are you thinking about what you could achieve through your work, how many people you can help or what sort of lasting contribution you could make to the world through your business?

Steps to crafting your goals & making them happen

I’m a big fan of positive psychology, the evidence-based science that studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals, communities, and organisations to thrive. Positive Psychology has a number of approaches that really help with goal-setting.

1) First things first - double-check your goals make sense for where you are at today.

Before you get too far into setting your goals, just take a big picture view of where you are on your business journey and what it makes sense for you to do next.

Sounds like common sense but it’s easy to get this wrong, so hear me out.

It’s important to have a big picture plan for your business. If you have a 5 year plan, that’s fantastic. The trick is to reverse engineer this plan so you know what you need to do NEXT. So it’s vital you set goals that reflect what you need to do in Year 1 of this 5 year plan, rather than Year 2. As humans we respond well to accomplishment – we need to be able to achieve small wins on our journey to get feedback and feel competent. If we set ourselves goals WAY ahead of where we are, we’re going to struggle to reach them and get disheartened and demotivated.

2) Align your goals with your core values

Now you’re ready to choose your goals, it’s really important to make sure the goals you choose are in line with your core values. Your core values are your personal moral compass for navigating life – the values you use to guide your actions and decisions in the face of challenges. If you’re not clear on what these are, take some time to think about what you really care about and what you choose to stand for in the world going forwards from here.

3) Know your strengths, so you can use them to help you reach your goal

There are different types of strengths you may have – such as talents, skills, passions and resources but in this article I’m referring to character strengths. Character strengths are the qualities that reflect what is best in you and come most naturally to you. They are ‘being and doing’ qualities, like fairness, hope, creativity or leadership.

Research has found that only ⅓ of people have an awareness of their strengths but people who do use them are 18 x more likely to be flourishing in life and business than those who don’t!

Do you know what your strengths are? Using your character strengths has been proven to help you:

  • Improve your relationships
  • Enhance your overall wellbeing
  • Build your resilience
  • Strengthen your ability to overcome problems
  • Achieve greater flow, fulfilment and success in your work

If you’re not sure how to work out your strengths, you can do it a number of ways.

1) You could ask a good friend who knows you well to tell you what they think your key strengths are. You could ask a variety of people in your friends / family / work network to get a 360 degree perspective of your strengths.

2) Alternatively, you can take an online test. The VIA (‘Values in Action’) Survey is a free, scientific survey developed by the some of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligmann & Christopher Peterson, that reveals your key character strengths. There are 24 Character Strengths and you this survey will reveal which are your strongest. Once you know your top strengths, you can work out how to use them to help you reach your goals.

4) Plan how to use your strengths to reach your goals

Once you’ve chosen your goals, you want to work out how you can use your strengths to make sure you’re much more likely to achieve them.

Outline five or ten actions or pathways you could take for reaching your goals, considering how you can utilise your top character strengths to help achieve them.

Some goals might not seem particularly challenging and then using your strengths will hopefully make the journey to reach them really enjoyable. Other goals however might seem unappealing and that’s when using your strengths gives you super powers to reach them!

Here’s an example :

I want to create lots of positive social impact in the year ahead. One pathway I could follow in order to raise its profile would be to speak more publically about AMotherBrand and the vision behind the movement. BUT I really dislike public speaking.
However, two of my key strengths are Honesty and Fairness. If I focus all of my attention on being honest and passionate about how unfair society currently is when it comes to mothers and work, then I’ll be more motivated to speak out publically. If I harness my natural strengths and passions, the task seems less scary. If I use what comes naturally to me (because they’re intrinsic values-based strengths), to accomplish something I fear doesn’t come naturally to me, I’m much more likely to accomplish it.

5) Stay confident in your plan of action but check its efficacy regularly

After implementing your plan, conduct quarterly self-audits. Make sure the pathways you chose to achieve your goals are effective.

6) Measure your progress and success regularly to check you’re still on target.

Take note of the progress you’re making and celebrate the small steps along the way to your goal. Competence is one of the key fundamental needs for wellbeing. These self-observations and celebrations will make you feel like a winner and reinforce your perseverance to stick with your chosen course of action to reach your goals.

7) Be Realistically Optimistic

Practice optimism using the following exercises:

  • Question negative self-talk. Every time you feel you’ve come up against a possible obstacle for achieving your goal, ask yourself what evidence you have to back up that feeling. Is it REALLY stopping you? Or is it just negative self-talk? Practice asking yourself this every time you think there’s an obstacle in the way.
  • Practice positive self-talk. Use affirmations, mantras and inspirational, motivational quotes to spur you on. I have created a beautiful deck of Affirmation Cards for this very purpose – I used them for many years and found them so helpful, I decided to pull together all my favourites so other people could easily enjoy them too!
  • At the end of each week, record and celebrate positive achievements that you’ve made towards your goal.

8) Be resilient when faced with obstacles.

Do you know what helps you feel more resilient? Certain factors in life reduce our resilience, whilst others build it. It’s different for everyone, but commonly shared factors often include diet, sleep, self-care and exercise. When you find yourself faced with challenges and setbacks, if you know what increases your resilience, you can double-down on resilience-building activities and increase your ability to cope with obstacles and be persistent in pursuit of your goals.

Conclusion

It can be hard to set the ‘right’ goals and sometimes even more challenging to attain them. But, give yourself the best shot for the year ahead. If you apply some of the scientifically-based practices of Positive Psychology, such as aligning your goals with your values, using your character strengths, staying optimistic and staying resilient, you’re much more likely to succeed. Best of luck!