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How to define what you want: creating your own strategies for goal-setting

As we reach the end of January, you may be feeling a bit guilty if you haven’t already defined your goals, set stretch targets and SMART-ened up your actions for the year ahead.

If you havent got this far, or if your lukewarm goals are more ‘meh’ than ‘marvelous’ and may have already been filed away in your mental ignore until next appraisalfolder, dont worry, you’re not alone. 

The point is, especially under current circumstances, where so many goals and aspirations have had to shift or change, it’s important not to put too much pressure on ourselves. 

If last year has taught us anything it’s that plans should be big and broad and held loosely. If you’re too fixated on achieving a certain thing, you could miss out on other opportunities which are staring you in the face. And if you don’t ‘tick off’ every SMART goal, you could end up being unnecessarily disappointed with yourself. 

Setting inspirational goals

So what can you do to create a bit of direction and impetus? 

If you really want to fulfil your potential, think about which goals will inspire you to reach.

At a practical, one option is to make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-bound), because the more focused you are about exactly what you want, the more likely youll get it. 

A great example of this is when I set out to write my first book, Leading with Gravitas. I began by saying I wanted to publish it next year: this wasnt good enough and if Id kept it that vague, I would still be writing it now! It wasnt until Id specified the actual date that I took massive action to make it happen.

Although SMART can be a great tool to keep you accountable and track progress, a more inspiring approach might be to create what I call BIG goals, which stands for Brave, Inspiring and Ground-breaking, and share them with your friends, family and colleagues. 

With my book, I told the world that I was writing it, so that every time I met them, they asked me for an update. To motivate myself on those ‘meh’ days when I really didnt feel like writing, I would image opening up the cardboard box and lifting out my first book. I imagined the feel of the book cover in my hands, the smell of the freshly printed paper and the sense of joy I would feel – this was a hugely powerful magnet that pulled me towards success.

With BIG this year, my approach so far has been to keep things really simple. So far, I’ve identified some general themes that will steer me, but no more than that at this stage. Which I’m absolutely happy with.

Getting specific about your career

As you think about your career progression, consider where you want to be and by when. If you’re looking for a promotion, consider will it be next year, or the next promotion round? And then break it down:

  • What will people see in your behaviour, in your physical appearance, in the way you carry yourself that will indicate your progession?
  • What will they be hearing? What will you be speaking about, where will your voice be heard? 
  • How will people be responding to you and how will they feel in your presence?

Now think about what tangible evidence you will create to increase your impact and influence at work:

  • What will your title and role be and what results will you have delivered one, five, ten years from now?
  • What will your teams/colleagues/clients be saying about you?
  • What awards, accolades and accomplishments will you be able to say were down to you and your team?
  • What purpose will you have fulfilled as a result of reaching your goals?
  • How will you celebrate success?

Whatever your plans and aspirations are for 2021, I wish you all the very best. 

And if you have any goal-setting techniques that work for you, I look forward to hearing them! 

Ready to find out more?

Photo credits: Yolande de Vries, Annie Armitage
© Antoinette Dale Henderson
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