As the new year sets in it can be a great time to think about your goals for the year ahead. However, setting good goals can be a tricky business as shown by the number of people who ditch their new year’s resolutions by February.



In many ways, it’s all about the opposite of the above challenges.

  1. Start with why. Know who you are, what you stand for and what you want to achieve. When this is clear then meaningful and motivating goals that are consistent with your identity will emerge.
  2. Create balance. Make sure that your goals span a good range of life areas for you (e.g. work, relationship, community, learning). Feeling like you are progressing in a number of areas that matter to you creates variety that helps you to feel motivated and well rounded.
  3. Define your goal. The SMART goals model is a classic way to make sure that your goals are well defined. Are they specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound? Taking the time to fully define each aspect of your goal helps to you know what success looks like and what you will need to get there.
  4. Plan. Most goals are an outcome or end result. For example “Learn conversational Spanish to be able to order meals on my holiday in 3 months time” is a pretty SMART goal, but this is only the outcome. Good planning says how you will get there. What are the processes that you will follow and habits you will put in place to regularly work towards your outcome?
  5. Tell yourself an empowering story. Overcome self-doubt by checking in with your thinking and making sure to speak to yourself in a motivating way. Everyone’s motivation will be different so experiment with what works for you. For example; I am doing my best, This matters to me because…, With time and effort I can achieve…, I am strong / capable / disciplined / [other quality].
  6. Create Accountability. Regular times to check in with yourself, your progress and your next steps helps you to stay on track with your goals. Building in deadlines, review periods or self-reflection can help you to hold yourself responsible for meeting your goals. Some people also find that including other people in their goals increases their sense of accountability and motivation.


A final tip in goal setting is to balance thinking about the goal with actually working on it. It can be a difficult balance to get right:

Not enough thinking can mean that you have no plan to follow, miss a key element of the goal or later realise that the goal didn’t mean enough to you to motivate you. Making sure to fully think through your goal makes it easier to implement later because the road map is clear.

Not enough doing means that you don’t actually make progress towards the goal. Some people avoid working on their goals in favour of over planning and perfectionism, procrastination, self-doubt or even waiting to be in the ‘right mood’. Making sure to just get started builds momentum and motivation.

This means that at the start of the process you want to put in a healthy amount of thinking to have a meaningful and well defined plan, followed by plenty of regular and sustained action to actually make progress. For longer goals sprinkling in thinking to review and refine helps to keep you on track.


Setting great goals is a fine art and is a very personal process – what works for someone else may not be a good fit for you. A great way to ensure that you set goals that work for you is to work with a coach who can make sure that your goals are:

… as well as helping you to overcome self-doubt and procrastination that you may face along the way.

To see how coaching can help you achieve your goals, book in a FREE coaching consultation with The Self Leadership Initiative founder, Gemma Perkins.