8 tips to help you achieve your goals / New Years resolutions

Why might you want to set goals?

Goals can excite, stimulate, inspire, energise, help you to develop and stretch yourself, change old habits and behaviour and the journey itself is transformational..

The start of the New Year symbolises new beginnings, a fresh start, and an opportunity to be or do something different and is often a time when people around the globe continue the tradition of setting resolutions. This ritual is said to be derived from the Romans around 153 BC. According to Roman mythology, Janus, the god of beginnings and the guardian of doors and entrances had 2 faces. A face at the front and at the back meant that he could look back on the past and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and this is the time when Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.

DESIRE    DESIRE    DESIRE                               

If you are setting out to achieve something new or different it must be for the right reasons and not because your friends, partner, the media or anyone says so! ‘Ought to’ and ‘should’ are based on the expectations of other people and this will result in a half- hearted attempt, which inevitably is doomed for failure.

A desire for change must come from within and driven by a sense of passion and values. Before embarking on any change ensure that your new goals are aligned to your values. If they are not in congruence, it will be difficult to achieve and if you do, it may come at a price.

Ask yourself: On a scale of 1-10, how much do I really want this? How much am I prepared to work for it? How much am I prepared for the consequences that it will have on my family, friends, and work? If you rate it less than 8, you are unlikely to have the commitment and motivation to pursue it.


This is a well -known acronym for helping you think about your goal in more depth:

– specific: make your goal well defined and clear. Rather than saying you want to get fit, say you want to be able to run for 10 kilometres

M– measurable / motivating: How am I going to know that I have achieved it? – by taking part in a 10 K race which will help to motivate and inspire me

– achievable / attainable: Will I achieve this considering my work /home commitments? How much time and training will I be able to commit to? Work out how you can achieve this.

Realistic / rewarding – Considering my age, health, lifestyle, is this realistic? What would the rewards be? – “I can get into my dress, I will have a sense of achievement, I will have more energy, I will be more toned, I will be in shape for the summer, I can wear my swimming costume with confidence..”

T– timely, tangible – When will I know that I have been successful – 6 months, a year? Put some dates to it. For example, my goal will be: To complete the Jane Tomlinson Run on the 19th June 2011. You could stretch yourself one step further and aim for a finish time!

Not all goals are tangible and measurable. For these goals, ask yourself: How will know when I have achieved this? What would success look and feel like? What might other people be saying about me? What would be different about me? 

BREAK it up

 I keep this postcard in my office as a reminder of what would happen if I don’t set out to achieve and make changes in my life! 

Big changes and goals can seem unachievable and out of reach. So you rationalise with yourself and find an excuse – “I can’t do X because of Y”.
Big ambitious goals are scary, exciting, motivating and challenging. So if your goal is a big one, break it down into achievable chunks. That way you are not overwhelmed by it.  For example, if you are planning to run a marathon, break it up into segments and work out a plan as to how you are going to achieve each segment within a set time frame. You might want to be able to run for 5 kilometres within 3 months, 10 kilometres within 6 months, a half marathon within 9 months and finishing with a marathon in a year’s time.

See it in black and white

Now you have something that is realistically achievable, try spending some time visualising it and creating a mental picture of what it will look like when you have achieved it.

Stephen Covey advocates to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Take some time out in a quiet place and try to imagine that you have achieved your goal…what does it look like, feel like, who’s there, what are you doing, what are you wearing, how are you feeling..?

When you have done that, put it in black and white. Writing your goal makes it tangible and helps to create a set of instructions for the subconscious mind to carry out. It will crystallise your thinking and will enhance your focus and motivation.Keep adding to that vision – what benefits can you see and what difference will it make?

Make a list of at least 20 benefits that you gain in achieving your goal. The more benefits you can articulate, the more compelling it becomes.

Plan for setbacks

 Anticipate and identify potential roadblocks and start thinking of strategies to help you overcome them. Contingency planning will help you to overcome and mentally prepare for these challenges. If you know that after a long day’s work you will be not be motivated to go for a run, find someone to go with you or join a running club.

Spread the word

 Tell other people what you are doing through your blog, twitter, facebook. If others are aware of what you are trying to achieve, they will ask you how you are progressing. This will help to keep you motivated. The more you tell others about it, the more likely you are to be committed to achieving your goal.

Seek out other people who are doing similar things. Sharing your experiences with people who are faced with similar challenges can be helpful when you are feeling low or unmotivated.

How am I doing and what do I need to do differently?

Track your progress on a monthly basis. If you are not progressing, try to find out what the problem is. Enlist the support of those around you and be proactive in seeking help.

Allow for some flexibility in your goal. Being ill or unable to train for a period of time may set you back. You may need to reassess your goal. For example, you may only be able to run for 8 kilometres. This does not mean failure but reassessment in light of current changes or transitions.

Failure is when you don’t bother trying at all. Benjamin Mays is quoted as saying “The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach”. 

Build on small successes

Aim for small wins and celebrate your success to keep you motivated, boost your confidence and self-esteem. For example, reaching the milestones of 2km, 5km, 7km….Keep building on this success to strive forward in achieving your goal.

I would love to hear what goals you have set andwish you every success in achieving them.  I am undertaking the Oxfam Trailtrekker in June 2011 and would love to swap stories. If you have any tips to add do share them




About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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