Setting goals

Tips to make this year the best one ever

30 January 2019

Michelle Gibbings

Melbourne-based Michelle Gibbings has more than 20 years' experience in leading and guiding people through change across multiple sectors and industries.

 Making New Year resolutions are one thing. Actually sticking to them is an entirely different matter altogether. Here are some surefire tips to help you succeed.

It’s popular tradition to set a resolution at the start of the year, and then for many people to promptly – a few week’s later – not follow through on the commitment.

If you want to make a change in your life – be it personal or professional – it’s essential to make the goal matter to you, set clear intentions and a plan to follow to make it happen. It also helps to make the commitment public.

The first step is working out what you need to change, and that often starts with working out what you need to leave behind.

Let go

We frequently carry things with us that are no longer helpful. Just as people hoard stuff – be it clothes, relics, artefacts or even junk – we can all unwittingly hoard thoughts that should be thrown away.

Herminia Ibarra, the Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior at London Business School, has researched what can hold people, particularly leaders, back as they progress through their career.

She found that the sense of who we are is shaped by our experiences and the meaning we put on those experiences in terms of the stories we tell ourselves. At points in our career, those stories are no longer helpful, and we need to find a new narrative.

She writes: ‘Most of us have personal narratives about defining moments that taught us important lessons. Consciously or not, we allow our stories, and the images of ourselves that they paint, to guide us in new situations. But the stories can become outdated as we grow, so sometimes it’s necessary to alter them dramatically or even to throw them out and start from scratch.’

It is more than that. We also hold on to fears, assumptions and even grudges. We have expectations on others that don’t help the relationship. We have expectations of ourselves that need to change, too.

Ditch the expectations 

Expectations, from others and ourselves, play a large part in influencing our choices, particularly career choices.

You follow a career path because that’s what your father or mother did. You go into a role because you’re told that’s what would be best for you. You go with the flow, not deliberately making career decisions, and so find yourself one day in a role that was never planned or desired.

It is often an internal debate between what you ‘could’ do and what you ‘should’ do. The ‘could’ being something that is unexpected, challenging, risky or slightly left of centre. While the ‘should’ being the job that people expect you to do, or the job that your beliefs limit you to.

Breaking away from the ‘should’ does mean you have to walk away from the expectations of others and shift your expectations of yourself.

It starts with ditching any unhelpful internal dialogue you say to yourself about your career that may be holding you back or hindering you.

Ask yourself:

– What are the rules (both written and unwritten) I’ve been told about my career and career change?

– Which of those have held me back?

– Which ones have propelled me forward?

– Which ones are no longer relevant?

– Which rules am I prepared to ditch?

– Are there new rules I need to create to help me leap into a new career and stay professionally relevant?

It’s consistently placing one step in front of the other to move forward with purpose.

Know your principles 

It’s very easy to overly complicate your life – filling it with things that don’t really matter and feeling like you need to run hard to keep up with everyone else.

It helps to get clear on what you want out of life, and to discard the things that don’t align with your goals and values. This starts with knowing what your guiding principles are for a life well lived and committing them to paper (or a digital device).

For example, some of my principles are:

– Live life as an adventure.

– Don’t hold on too tight.

– Make each day matter.

– Nourish my body and soul.

– Bring music into my life.

– Read daily.

Once they are drafted, they become the compass that helps to guide the decisions you make. For example, when you are faced with a choice about what to do, you can ask yourself:

– How does this align with my principles?

– Will this overly complicate my life?

– Do I really need this?

– If I did this/didn’t do this, would it materially impact my life?

This clarity makes it easier to know what you should say ‘no’ to. Saying ‘no’ helps you concentrate on what really matters, so you can achieve what you set out to achieve.

Success is never a straight forward line of constant progress. Having a bounce-back mindset, with the resilience and optimism to work through the inevitable challenges and set-backs, is critical.

We all face challenges and how we approach these challenges impacts whether they define us, confine us or liberate us.