Globes gifted from a friend many years ago; 2015 diary from migoals

It’s no secret that goal-setting is one of my favourite things in the world to do. Given that I spend so much time doing it, I thought I’d share some tips that help me make and keep New Year’s Resolutions:

1. Make SMART goals

To achieve your goals, your goal-setting needs to be SMART; in other words each goal you set must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Specific. The more ambiguous a goal is, the more wriggle room there is. Here is an example we come across all the time at this time of the year: ‘lose weight’. Did you mean 100grams? I don’t think so.

Be specific. I mean, really specific. If you’re stuck on how to make your goal more specific, try a throwback to Grade 4 and ask yourself the ‘six Ws’ (also known as the five Ws and one H):

  • What: What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why: What is the purpose, reason or benefits of achieving this goal?
  • Who: Who is/could be involved? Rope in friends for support.
  • Where: Where will this goal be achieved?
  • When: How often and for how long?
  • How: How will I achieve this goal? What do I need to do and overcome? Pay particular attention to the ‘how’, as you will need this for the next step.

Measurable. If there is no way to measure your goal, how will you know when it’s been achieved? Make sure to choose an appropriate form of measurement. Continuing with the above example – is the real goal to lose kilograms? Or is it to be healthier, fitter, slimmer or more toned in which case you might weigh more (and an appropriate form of measurement could be the circumference in centimetres of your waist, or the number of lunges you can do).

Attainable. Resolving to lose 10 kilograms when 2 kilograms might be realistic for your frame? Don’t even go there. You will get disheartened and give up when you aren’t reaching your impossible goal. Same goes for all other unattainable goals. Remember that the point of the goal is to actually achieve it. If you’re not sure what is attainable, start small and evaluate the goal again later.

Relevant. The most relevant goals are those that support other goals. For example, you might resolve to read a book on business or to take a business course if you want to start your own business. If you aren’t interested in owning your own business, you might not have the drive or motivation to complete the book or the course. It could be demoralising and impede your ability to reach other goals. Plus, it’s an ineffective use of your time and money which could be spent on other things.

Timely. Placing goals in a time-frame helps you focus and measure them (as it gives you a target date or deadline). It also introduces a sense of urgency that is sometimes helpful in staying motivated to work towards your goals amongst everyday activities.

2. View and work towards achieving your goals every day

Write your goals down, make copies and keep them in places you will come across them everyday to avoid the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ conundrum. I like to copy my resolutions into the ‘Notes’ application on my phone and a page in my diary. I also like to make a big visual mind-map to keep in my study.

Remember where you identified and wrote down ‘how’ you would achieve your goals? Very intentionally, start incorporating these steps into your everyday life. For example, say you resolved to ‘read more’. You might have identified a few ways how you could achieve this goal – by reading for 10 minutes each day and by joining a book club. Add joining a book club to your to do list and tick it off. Schedule 10 minutes in your diary for reading, or (if you catch the bus to work) turn off your phone on your commute to encourage you to read. You might slip up a few times – but view your goals everyday and keep working towards your goals everyday. Soon enough the actions underpinning your goals will become habits and you will be well on your way to success.

3. Make SMARTER goals

There are also SMARTER goals; those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely, evaluated and reevaluated.

Even if you are viewing your goals often, carve out some dedicated time every few months for a proper review. During this evaluation, assess the progress you’ve made towards your goal (20%? 50%? Not yet started?). Identify what is working and what isn’t. Again, ask yourself ‘how’ and identify new ways of achieving your goals and new habits to form. Reevaluate your goals again in a few months time.

Don’t be afraid to let some of your goals go, if they are no longer relevant or important to you. Ask yourself ‘why’ you want to achieve that goal. If you no longer have an answer that resonates with you, let the goal go. Make space for new goals.

4. Pursue balance

 There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but, unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person.
Rumer Godden in A House with Four Rooms

This quote motivates me to pursue balance by introducing changes in all areas of my life. I find it really useful to think about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing as ‘rooms’ and so I divide my New Year’s Resolutions accordingly. I literally write out my goals in ‘rooms’ by dividing a piece of paper into four boxes and add the four headings at the top of each box: ‘Physical’, ‘Emotional’, ‘Mental’, ‘Spiritual’. Then I write my resolutions in the appropriate box.

Have you ever heard this Virginia Woolf quote: ‘one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well’? Pursuing balance is important to help you work towards your best self and prevent burn out – which of course makes setting and achieving goals even easier.

5. Reward yourself.

It sounds so basic, but knowing there is an reward for achieving your goals (other than just achieving your goals, of course) helps overcome obstacles and see the positives of the hard work you’re putting in along the way. I try to make my rewards relevant to the goal. For example, I once made a pact with myself that if I attended two spin classes a week for six months, I would go on a shopping spree and buy three new sets of workout clothes. Envisaging how happy and proud I would be in my activewear was a good distraction when my legs hurt. It turns out, that I achieved the goal but didn’t get the reward… it’s a long story that was one of the main catalysts of this blog.

South America 2430

lightingtomscandlesNew Year’s Eve 2009-2010 in Cusco, Peru with my friend Jack

What works for you when making goals and New Year’s Resolutions? Have you made New Year’s Resolutions for 2014?  Maybe to shop more ethically? If so, check back in a couple of weeks as I have some tips on how you can work towards creating a more ethical (and more stylish!) wardrobe.

I hope these tips will help motivate and focus you for a brilliant 2015.

Yours Fairly,


This is an updated version of a longer post on goal-setting that I wrote at the end of 2013.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *