How to set goals that you’ll actually achieve

10/01/2022 09:43:08

Caitlin McFee offers evidence-based tips to setting and accomplishing your goals.

setting goals

We’re making headway into another new year, which means you’ve likely already made and broken some New Year’s Resolutions. Why do we bother?

There is something about a brand new year that conjures up dreams of bigger and better things: a promotion at work; the next step in a relationship; a diet and exercise regimen; or even, perhaps, a big purchase. But whatever your goals, the likelihood of your achieving them depends on the means by which you strive towards them.

Set yourself up for success by following this simple 3-step strategy!

1. Make them SMART

Goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound tend to be much more successful. Defining each element of your goals improves your clarity, focus and motivation, thereby increasing the chance that you will stick to them.

You might think about the following prompts when considering each factor:

  • Specific - What, Why, Where, Who and Which?
  • Measurable - How will you know when you have reached it?
  • Achievable - How will you get there, and how realistic is it that you can achieve it?
  • Relevant - Does this goal actually matter to you? Is it relevant to the rest of your life?
  • Time-bound - By when? What intermediary steps are there?

Some people may find this process too rigid or boring, but you don’t have to follow this process to the letter. The point is to map out your goals in as much detail as possible to clarify them for you.

2. Know your why

It’s all well and good knowing what you want to achieve, but without a clear why you’ll likely give up. Doing something difficult for the sake of it rarely inspires much action.

Think about a previous goal you set, perhaps to actually use the expensive gym membership that you purchased at least x times per week? How successful was that goal? If it was not successful, did you have a clear reason why you wanted to achieve it? If not, that might have been your missing link.

The quality of your ‘why’ is equally important, i.e. what it means about your self-belief. For example, if your ‘why’ for going to the gym was to look better and be less lazy, there is a presupposition that you look bad and are lazy. Not great beliefs for gym success!

3. What’s the next step?

Goals are usually set for a point in the future, are frequently difficult to achieve, and can therefore seem overwhelming. Instead of focusing on the end goal, focus instead on the next step. Breaking down each goal into smaller segments and just ‘doing the next thing’ makes them far more manageable and less scary.

For example, with the gym goal above, the next step may be to lay out your gym clothes the night before so that they’re easy to put on in the morning. Whatever the goal, ask yourself what one action you can take next and you’re already well on your way to that end result!

Caitlin McFee is a former magic circle lawyer turned mindset and communication coach. Caitlin provides 1:1 sessions as well as corporate coaching to help lawyers prioritise their mental health and wellbeing to achieve long-term, sustainable success in the legal industry.

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