New year, new you? Why I’m not setting goals this January

Did you start the new year by setting new goals? I didn’t and I’m grateful for the break this time. Bear with and I’ll tell you why I’m not setting any goals this January. More importantly, I’ll challenge you: do you need new goals or do you want to continue on your natural path?

Every year (up until 2019) I set out with great intentions to choose some realistic goals and stick with them. After all, every coach I’ve ever worked with has impressed on me the importance of goals to know which direction you’re going in. However, the past two years have been a bit different, haven’t they?

Why January goal setting doesn’t work for everyone

In late 2019, I hit a major road bump because I was seriously ill for a few months which took me into Spring 2020… when the virus first appeared. But despite the impact of the pandemic, September 2020 felt like the turn of a new year and I remarked (not for the first time) how much easier it was for me to set up new goals at the beginning of the school year. As a family, we mostly feel refreshed and energised after the summer, ready to take on a new routine. So very quietly in September 2021, I switched my approach from the new calendar year to the new academic year. I set one fitness goal for myself, to swim three times a week; one healthy eating goal, to eat vegetarian meals twice or more a week; one creative goal, to sing at least once a week, some objectives for my role at SilverWood Books and a business goal to bring in one new client a month here at The Case Study Practice. And as the children went back to school, I was ready with great intentions.

How life gets in the way of goals

Then like so many families, Covid-19 hit our house in early October. So I had to focus on looking after my daughter instead of thinking about anything else. The timing wasn’t great for taking more work on and circumstances meant my business had to take a back-seat. Nevertheless, I’ve just about managed to stick with my meal-planning and fitness goals.

And yet the Autumn term still felt like a success. For work, I was delighted to join Co-creation Marketing and start work on a new format for their case studies and a series of blogs. At SilverWood Books, we published the latest author story about our award-winning author, Rosie Hewlett who won The Rubery Book of the Year Award. Gregor Heating published their latest Renewables Case Study online. And then I revisited a story with Holly over at Virtually Priceless to wrap up her first case study. As for my 2022 goals, I’m not setting any new ones. I’ve decided I can live without the pressure for the next nine months and I’ll review everything again in September. Which coincides with another family life change: our youngest child starts secondary school. Sometimes, life has to come first and you need to set a routine or goals to suit you rather than go with the norm.

How to set goals that work for you

So onto my top tips… Over the Christmas break, I had a whole week off to reflect on my progress. And I came to the conclusion that too many times, I’ve set myself professional goals without considering my personal life in enough depth. If you want goals that work for you but are fed up of hearing about new year, new you and hopelessly unrealistic resolutions, here are my thoughts on how to set goals which will work for you:

  1. Don’t try to set goals in a vacuum. Focus on what you want in life but also on what your family, friends and customers already love about you. Ask them, get some feedback. (Yes, I mean doing case study interviews with your clients!) And then do more of that!
  2. Choose your timing carefully. If you want to make big changes, you need to turn your goals into habits. For that to work, you need space in your diary and energy to follow through. (Ironically, exercise is one of the ones that will give you more energy, but you have to start even if the energy and motivation are absent!)
  3. Pick goals relevant for every area of your life. If you’re aiming for life balance, it’s no good setting all your goals for your professional life but not considering your personal, health, creative or spiritual goals.
  4. Think about what will help you remember your goals because you can benefit from the support of some great aide-memoirs. You might want to create a vision board, a set of affirmations that you say out loud and record, or a list for your office wall.
  5. Combine the big with the small. Changing too many big things at once can set you up for failure. Whereas goal-setting can be a really positive experience if you have some smaller goals which are easy to achieve.

Every goal-setting guru will talk about SMART goals, encouraging you to make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Yes, you can apply those methods too, but go gently on yourself.

Or, take a complete break from goal setting

Finally, if you’re feeling like you always fail when you set goals, I can also recommend having a few months off! It gives you a chance to trust yourself and focus more on the present moment – by deciding on any given day what your priorities will be. Funnily enough, I hope you call your family or message your oldest friends ahead of getting the housework done. Seriously, we should all try a life without goals for a while and enjoy the ride. 

For more information about how to run client interviews and how client feedback will transform your business, read this blog.

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