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Beyond "Crush It": My Perspective on Goal-Setting

It's that time of year again -“New Year, New You!”, “What’s in/out” trends, “Time to crush your goals!” and “Go big or go nowhere!” type of messaging, especially on social media.

I've been sharing about goal-setting too, because as a counsellor, I support my clients to achieve goals. Here's the thing though, I don't view goals as having to be mountain-sized ambitions that inspire envy on Instagram or in your friendship circle. And your goals certainly shouldn't be running you straight into burnout - because that's no good for anyone.

Here are some of my takes on goal-setting:

You don't need to set all (or any) of your goals in January. I know, wild right?! The self-improvement world hinges on that January motivation, but sometimes we don't even know what goal we want to set, or where we want to head in January. I started karate training last July; karate wasn't even on my radar in January. You can set goals at any time of year, it doesn't have to be done in the first week of January.

Your goals should be for you. You're more likely to stick with your goals when it's something you want to do, not just something everyone else is doing. So many people want to run a marathon because it looks like a cool thing to do. And it is, for some people. Your goals this year may be a little less awe-inspiring to others, but what seems ordinary to the outside world can completely shift your life. Maybe you want to read 50 books, get your sleep in order, create a master recipe, grow vegetables or spend more quality time with your family.

Starting small is preferable. Trying to change everything at once is often an epic fail. It's very difficult to change a lot of things at the same time, old habits die hard and most people don't start small enough, go too hard in the beginning, or find the whole thing so overwhelming that they do nothing. This lands them in a cycle of feeling like a failure.

You're not a failure, you're probably just not going small enough (among other things like not planning, but I digress). Starting small and building up over time will likely give you greater success in creating the change you desire in your life in the long term.

If you want to run a marathon but you've never run before, how do you know you'll even enjoy running, or want to keep going through injury, setbacks etc? A smaller, more achievable goal would be to start with running 1km, then build up to 5km, 10km etc until you reach the marathon. Setting mini-goals out of larger goals will keep you on track toward your bigger goal. Small, consistent steps over time are the way to go - and celebrate your progress!

You are allowed to change your mind. Even if you've told the whole world that you're doing something, you are not locked into the goals you set for yourself. Maybe you try running and realise you prefer shorter-distance, or maybe running feels like torture and you want to stop altogether. Please experiment in your life! It's the only way you'll find the sweet spot and life balance that works for you.

There are no shortcuts. Everyone is out there looking for the quick fix, or the easy way to reach their goals. But it's not easy. All changes, goals, new skills etc come with times of frustration, boredom, annoyance, pain, setbacks, or stuff-ups. Even the goals we most want and enjoy doing.

I started playing piano last year and each new piece I learn is incredibly frustrating at first, right up until my brain and hands start to get it. And then I enjoy playing it and feel accomplished. Each piece is more technical and difficult than the last. If I went based on how I feel I never would have made it through the first piece, nor played in the concert last year!

Learning a new skill takes time, dedication, perseverance and practice. Nothing is easy or enjoyable all the time. There is so much to gain in the journey - but again, it needs to be something you're willing to go through this process to achieve. Doing it only because everyone else is, or how cool it looks to the outside world is not going to be worth the effort it's going to require to achieve it.

Link your goals to your values. Whatever you choose to do in life, you're essentially trading time that you could spend doing something else - and you need to decide what will have the most benefit to your life based on what you value. Linking your goals to your values will support you to set goals that are meaningful and important to you, help you navigate through challenges and keep you on track when you don't find the process enjoyable.

Consistency over perfection. You don't need natural talent or to spend hours a day on something to have success with it, and you most certainly don't have to follow your plan perfectly. I learnt my concert piano piece in 6 weeks from never hearing it to playing on stage by practising 10 minutes per day, most days. I also meditate for 10 minutes per day - this has helped my stress levels much more than if I just meditated now and then for an hour. If I miss a day here and there that's okay, consistency is the key - and life happens sometimes!

Build consistency with your habits and routines, use them to your advantage and watch your life transform.

If you are ready to set some goals for 2024, come join me for a casual goal-setting session on 12 January, where I will show you how I (and my clients) achieve goals. Click here to secure your spot. There will be a replay for those who wish to wait until a goal becomes clearer or for later in the year when something new emerges.


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