5 top goal-setting tips for 2020

So as we head in to the new year, there’s a good chance that you’ll be thinking about your goals for the year ahead. So the question I’m posing this week, and giving you some tips for, is how best to structure your goal-setting for the start of the year (or quite frankly for any time) to give you the best possible chance of success of achieving your personal and professional goals.

And, as usual, my tips are backed by science.

In summary, my 5 top goal setting tips are these:

1. Go all-inclusive

2. Hone it – purpose, stretch and happiness or PSH

3. Choose your strength weapons

4. Find your quick wins and ignite 

5. Be your own greatest champion


Starting with #1.

1) Go all inclusive

My advice is to start with a long list – don’t discount or self-censor here, include whatever springs to mind – the big stuff, the little stuff, those things that didn’t quite make it to the ticked off list last year, those things that you promised yourself you’d do this year but they somehow seem too big and scary to write down – write it ALL down. And give yourself a structure if it helps – this year I’ve used work, personal and relationship and that seems to cover everything nicely, with some obvious overlaps.

OK, so only now you’ve gone all inclusive with your goals, should move to honing them, to get realistic about what you can achieve in a year. A year isn’t long don’t forget – it’s amazing what you can achieve in a short space of time with dedication and commitment and focus, but only if you’re realistic with the number and scope of the goals that you include. So how to get your long-list of goals to an achievable list?

Goal Setting

2) Try the acronym PSH

-P stands for Purpose (which goal or goals are most aligned with your core life purpose?).

-S stands for Stretch (which goal or goals will stretch you outside of your comfort zone into more of a learning and growth space).

-H stands for Happiness (which goal or goals will bring the biggest smile to your face).

Let’s take Purpose goals first, the science behind this is that as humans, we are motivated by finding and following a purpose that transcends us, most likely those goals that drive towards our core purpose, or what’s most important to us in life, will be the most motivating of all – so this might be about contributing to society, our families or children or to something greater than us in some way.

Stretch goals, the S of PSH, are those which take us out of our comfort zone and feel a little less comfy, because we are moving more into a learning and growth zone. This is motivating because humans love mastery – of tasks, challenges and new skills. The challenge is that getting good at new stuff can feel tough, so your Stretch goal will ideally be something that’s important to you in some way – it may be aligned with your purpose or it may be something that you value for a different reason – if it’s important to you, it’s more likely that you’ll stick with it, particularly when things start to feel tougher (which they inevitably will at some point when you’re mastering something new).

Your Happiness goals are the ones that most quickly bring a smile to your face. They’re going to be motivating because they’re about you showing yourself some love, some self-compassion, being kind to yourself, rewarding yourself. Again, these goals could relate to purpose or to mastery, or both, but then again they may be completely separate, like, for example, remembering to have a long luxurious bath once a week, or an annual spa break. For me, one of my Happiness goals is also a stretch goal and a purpose goals, so this goal really is taking the PSH – it’s to finish a book that I started a while back with my younger son – it’s a Purpose goal because of the book’s message, a Stretch goal because it’s an actual novel, and it’s a Happiness goal because working with my son on anything is hilarious and happy-making as long as I can keep him focused for longer than 5 minutes.

Two more things once you’ve got your goal list down to a reasonable and focused number: some people really benefit from being able to visualise their goal being achieved, in detail and in full colour (with sound effects even maybe) so if that works for you, get describing what completing the goal will feel, look, sound and even smell like for you. Second thing is that for goals to have their greatest chance of success, they need to be SMARTER: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound and also Evaluated and Reviewed. So for the having a bath goal – the SMART version is to have a luxurious bath each week (specific, measurable, time-bound and achievable), Relevant because it’s Self-care and that’s important to well-being and I can Evaluate and Review it during the year to see if it’s still a valid and important goal for me. No point in being a slave to goal…if you are, your goal may become a gaol.

So next you need to move to my point 3.

3) Choose your strengths

What are the strengths that you will call on to help you achieve your goal, that will power you towards success and make the goal feel achievable? For my book-writing goal, I will go for Collaboration (because I’m writing with my son) also my Optimism strength for when it gets a bit tough and stretching to stay on track with the writing. So for your goals, you’ll need to do the same.

4) Find your quick wins and ignite

If you can find quick win goals that are easy to initiate, that will ignite your overall plan as you’ll feel that you’ve been able to make quick progress, so you’ll feel more motivated to start on the other goals too. One of those quick win goals for me will be to ensure that I meditate for at least 30 minutes for the next 7 days, to start me towards my goal to be doing 45-60 minutes of meditation daily by the end of the year.

5) Be your own champion

Write down what you’re proud of, bring the internal voice of your supportive cheerleading friends, imagine what you would say to you if you were one of your friends and do that for yourself. In my last podcast on goal-setting, I suggested first to build a support network around you and go public with your goals, nominating goal buddies to keep you honest and ensure that you keep on track. Well there’s nothing wrong with that, but starting with you as your greatest champion is even more powerful and will help you to become more resilient. That way, when you do get external affirmation, it’s a bonus not a necessity, and you will have built greater bounce-backability for times when that external support isn’t so accessible.

That’s it then, my top 5 goal-setting tips in the year ahead are:

1. Go all-inclusive, 

2. Hone it – purpose, stretch and happiness or PSH, 

3. Choose your strengths, 

4. Find your quick wins and ignite and 

5. Be your own greatest champion.

I hope you’ve found that a useful reminder, refresher or…indeed…revelation.


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