The Practical Approach to Goal Setting


As we step into what is official known as the toughest week of the new year, for many January can bring a cloud of gloom or ‘SAD’ (seasonal adjustment disorder).  For others the ambitious plans for personal and professional growth are already showing signs of wavering if not already broken, but in the thick of all that I would urge you to take a few moments to be kind to yourself – for you are not alone, many millions of people feel this way.

Research on the success of New Year’s resolutions and strategies to maintain them is a topic that has garnered attention from many psychologists and behavioural scientists.

I’d like to advocate for a different approach—one that acknowledges the reality of January being a somewhat gloomy month and focuses on setting realistic and achievable goals.

Let’s face it, January can be a challenging time for many. The festivities are over, the weather tends to be less than inspiring, and there’s often a collective sigh as we return to our daily routines. This gloominess can cast a shadow on our motivation and make it challenging to adhere to lofty resolutions.

Researchers at MIT have delved into the psychology of goal setting, emphasizing the importance of setting specific, measurable, and attainable objectives.

Instead of setting grand resolutions that may fizzle out by February, consider a more measured approach to goal setting.  Afterall, our brains are designed to.  responds more positively to incremental progress rather than monumental leaps. Instead, start by reflecting on the past year—what worked well and what didn’t. Identify specific areas for improvement and set realistic, attainable goals that align with your overall objectives.

Here are a few practical steps to guide you through this process:

Define Clear Objectives

Begin by outlining clear objectives for the year. Whether they are related to career development, personal well-being, or skill enhancement, ensure they are specific, measurable, and achievable. The more vague you are – the less likely you are to achieve them and the latest research from MIT’s underscores the importance of clarity in goal setting. Define specific objectives that are measurable and realistically achievable.

Bite size Goals

Rather than creating a daunting list, break down your goals into manageable tasks. This approach allows you to focus on incremental progress, maintaining a sense of accomplishment throughout the year.

Realistic Timelines: Establish a timeline that accommodates the natural ebb and flow of the year. January might not be the most energetic month for many, so consider setting smaller milestones to gradually build momentum.

Be Adaptable

Life is unpredictable, and circumstances can change. Be open to adjusting your goals based on evolving priorities and external factors. Flexibility is key to long-term success.

Celebrate small wins

Acknowledge and celebrate the small victories along the way. Recognising your progress, no matter how minor, provides positive reinforcement and keeps you motivated. Positive affirmation is the key, always and by adopting this practical approach, you’re more likely to navigate the January blues successfully and set the foundation for sustainable growth throughout the year. Remember, it’s not about the grand gestures but the consistent, intentional steps you take towards your objectives.

For me I created a different strategy a few years ago and it seems to work by and large.  I write my goals for the next year in December and then revisit them in the 2nd week of January to consider whether they are still my intended direction of travel. By which time I’ve got the gloominess out of the way and a really am ready to go!

Here’s to a productive and purposeful year ahead!

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