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It’s a new year and many of us are feeling a lot more settled than we were 12 months ago in the world of work. As was the case in 2020, last year’s events meant we had to constantly revise the plans and ambitions we had set out in January.
The Cambridge Dictionary has announced that ‘perseverance’ is its Word of the Year for 2021. Defined as ‘continued effort to do or achieve something, even when this is difficult or takes a long time’, it’s something to consider as we set our goals for 2022.
You know that goals work and that you should set them. The internet is awash with advice for setting SMART or other clever-sounding goals. So, you set some. And then, by February 1st, you’re back in the guilt of not following through. How can you ensure that this won’t happen?
Goals are better than resolutions as they are stronger instructions. When you set a goal, you’re commanding yourself and gaining momentum in the direction of your vision.
Goal-setting is arguably the most important skill you can ever develop, and it is 100 per cent learnable.
"I don't focus on what I'm up against. I focus on my goals and I try to ignore the rest", Venus Williams
If you imagine your goal is real in the same way that athletes visualise their wins, your brain can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. It begins to experience a rise in levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that drives you and motivates you. Take a moment now, close your eyes and visualise yourself as having succeeded in 2022 in achieving your most desired goal.
Together with imagining them to be real, it is crucial to set meaningful goals that make you want to do things you haven’t attempted or succeeded at previously. For example, you want to gain a new skill, so you set a goal to wake up half an hour earlier and study/learn. You can even visualise yourself doing it. Now, ask yourself:
Once you gain this deeper level of self-awareness that focuses on your reason for wanting to do it and have also felt the sadness of not doing it, you will have a more compelling reason to succeed.
Cement these goals via action steps into your diary in a compelling way. For example, instead of putting:
‘6.30am – 7.00am: Study’
‘6.30am – 7.00am: Focus on developing and improving myself’
You may also need to break old patterns or bad habits. Old beliefs are laid down and the brain, like a one-trick pony, can keep you coming back to the behaviours that result from that deep-seated, yet unseen, belief. It is simple psychology. And it is often THE factor holding you back and stopping goal-setting success.
As over 40% of our daily actions are habitual, preventing bad habits is an important step. While we regard people with good habits and successful lives as being highly self-controlled, research in this area indicates what they are really good at is understanding how situations influence our actions.
They create the right environment for desirable repeated actions. In other words, they set themselves up for success.
For example, you might choose to reach your career goals by replacing your lunchtime social media sessions with a blog or book on your area of interest. Putting your phone on airplane mode will make it easier for you to resist the temptation.
An overriding goal can be represented by an umbrella. You draw the overriding goal as the canopy of the umbrella and then put all the spokes below it down to the handle. Then you assign all the smaller tasks to each spoke.
Next comes a time plan. When do things need to happen? Are there things that can wait until next week, or next month? Take those off and add them as a diary entry. Are there things on your list that your colleagues or team can do, or that don’t need doing? Then either assign them to others or strike them off.
Now take immediate action. What can you do today to move you towards that goal?
Finally, get organised. Do you waste time looking for files or being distracted by other tasks? Spend half a day cleaning your physical and online spaces so that you can start the new year without the clutter.
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