You can goal your own way

As a new year begins, you’ll probably be thinking about all the things you want to change or get completed.

You tell yourself, ‘this time will be different, I’m going to knock all my achievements out the park!’ but come December you’re rolling your eyes at finding yourself in pretty much the exact same situation as the year before.

Hello Groundhog Day.

So does goal-setting work at all?

Well, yes and no, depending on the approach used..

You see, when working with my coaching clients, I believe in them approaching goals in whatever way makes sense and is most useful for them.

So while setting ‘SMART’ goals, with specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timebound goals can often work well, especially where performance improvement is essential, it doesn’t suit everyone.

For some, a list of goals can feel like a lot of pressure – especially if they’ve tried and failed many times before.

So what if I said you didn’t have to have goals, or at least not in the usual “SMART” goal setting sense?

What if you disrupt how you approach your ‘goal-setting’?

Here’s what I mean…


Why not challenge your artificial start and end of year goals (you know, with our concept of time being a human construct and all!)?

We can put unrealistic demands on ourselves by saying we will have – a certain qualification completed by the end of the year – when that may not be giving us enough time and space to really learn from the experience.

What time-frame makes sense to you?

Think about when would work. For example, you may have a more flexible schedule during the summer – so that might be a good time to start your study plans, etc.


Sometimes the language of goal setting feels heavy and impersonal – goal, objective, KPI, task, outcome, result… these may not inspire your creativity and inspiration, or feel compelling enough.

Try reframing them as desire, aspirations, dreams, hopes, wishes, vision, or intentions and you’ll probably feel more energised and motivated to act and succeed.


We often use sporting metaphors, like “goals”, that simply don’t work for everyone.

So finding an alternative suitable metaphor to represent something you want to work towards can make the goal feel easier, more tangible, more playful.

As an example, I worked with a client on a particular plan who loves trees and nature. She was feeling overwhelmed by the task list, so we came up with a method, using a flip chart page, of drawing a tree and adding post-it notes in the shape of leaves. As she completed each task, the ‘leaf’ fell from the tree. Being more creative in the approach to ‘goal-setting’ enabled her to approach each task with joy rather than dread.

If you’re struggling to achieve the goals you set, something similar may spark more creativity making it a more enjoyable way to track your progress.


At times we may have a very clear and specific sense of what we want to achieve. Other times it’s totally vague and murky.

I find it helpful in the decision making process, to ask if a particular path will bring you closer to or farther away from where you want to be.

Checking in with your intuitive sense of what feels right, as well as your intellectual side, can offer some insights you may not have noticed before.

As I heard someone say recently, “If it’s not a ‘full body’ yes, then it’s a no!


It’s also important to consider the ‘why’ behind your goal.

Are you looking to work towards this for yourself, or because you feel you should, or is it just to please someone else?

What will happen if you achieve this goal, what’s next?

What happens if you don’t achieve it?

Can you hold the goal ‘lightly’ without attachment?

Making sure that both your professional and personal goals are clearly defined and given time and space, and ideally, complementary to each other rather than competing, is also a great way to increase the likelihood of success.

Another client I worked with wanted to gain experience in a different area of his business and to improve his spoken French. So his solution was to look for opportunities to work with the French division of the company, thereby setting himself up for success both professionally and personally.


You’ve probably heard about ‘Big (Hairy!) Audacious Goals’ – making your goals as big and bold as you possibly can; this is to challenge ourselves, because most people tend to underestimate their own abilities and what’s possible by playing it safe. Whereas by setting a huge goal, then even if you don’t get all the way there, you’ll still make progress.

“Shoot for the moon and you’ll at least end up in the stars”

(Clearly this person was not considering astronomical distances between earth and the other heavenly bodies!).

Sometimes though, when we make our goals way too big, we bite off more than we can chew and become overwhelmed.

So thinking about ‘marginal gains’ or 1% improvements can really help here.

What’s a tiny step towards better?

What one thing could you do that would help you move forward?

So next time you hear Fleetwood Mac, just remember you can Goal Your Own Way!

Next month I’ll share more about long-term goals and how to get more clarity on how you can move forward in a way that feels right for you.

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