The Huddle January - how to set goals

Like the dawning of a fresh year (here’s to a great 2023), I stand before you with a shiny new approach to setting yourself resolutions. And it’s one that won’t make you feel like a failure come 1st February. This new resolution tactic, I’m calling it Radical Resolutions, actually works because it plays on achievable wins – and constant pats on the back. Read on to find out how to set goals this year…

Let me explain. This utterly simple twist on dreams and how to set goals – the essence of a resolution – scraps the idea of the year, swiftly replacing it with a 3-month block, or quarter. By reducing your resolutions time frame, you step away from the edge of a 365-day precipice, which will invariably roll out across all sorts of unimaginable changes, shifts, dips and flights, and gear up for the short term.

Of course, there are 4 of these blocks in total, so you will still be building toward your yearly vision for yourself. It’s just that with my quarter-led approach, you’ll feel gratification for your hard work much more regularly, and as research will testify, this type of satisfying dopamine hit of achievement will keep you on track, motivated, and ready to take on more.

The chemical rewards for reaching your goals will, the theory goes, become increasingly addictive; the more you achieve, the easier achieving becomes. Of course, it also works the other way. When you ‘fail’ at something (a February ball drop on that daily gym resolution) then dopamine drains from your brain, causing you to lose focus and potentially give up on not just that resolution, but all sorts of other associated goals: the domino effect is powerful, which is why you want them falling in the right, resolutions-happy direction.

Now that I have explained all of that, I would like to ask for a moment to contradict myself. Ok, not contradict, but rather introduce a subtle extra layer to this new approach to quarterly resolutions: when you look short term, you still need a big, forward-looking vision. Yes, your guiding light, the big new job, your weighty pay rise, the house by the beach, are still absolutely valid – vital! – ingredients in you achieving what you want out of life.

Which means that before you get all quarterly on yourself, first I’d like you to take some time to write down the big, exciting possibilities you are ultimately working towards. These don’t need to be confined to this year, or even this decade.

If you’re struggling to articulate these guiding lights, ask yourself these blue-sky questions:

If money were no object and nothing was impossible, what would you do/want?

What have you wanted to do, but were too afraid to try?

How can my job, values and purpose become more aligned?

Hopefully, you’ve captured parts of your future that you perhaps assumed were out of reach. Nothing, I’d like to remind you, is out of reach of your dreams; dreams, by their very nature, are based on inspirational flights of fancy. Let yourself think big, the rest, I promise, will follow.

And it will do so, via neat, quarterly resolutions. Now all you need to do is work backwards.

The next part of your planning tasks requires you to realistically time plan against your now articulated guiding lights. Let me share one of mine, to help give this mildly theoretical column some shape and structure.

One of my overarching goals is to build a robust new revenue stream by expanding my corporate work. In fact, that’s a stepping stone, the ultimate dream is to be the biggest, most successful provider of female-skewed, B2B professional development in the country. (Then I’ll go global, but I’m pacing myself…!)

Working backwards, and this is a bit of a Blue Peter craft moment because this timeline hasn’t just popped into my head, I’ve been refining it for the past few months, I am at the point where I have a solid, quarterly resolution: to secure 1 of the 5 corporate pitches I shared with potential clients towards the end of 2022.

I have kept my resolution – you can replace that word with goal, if it feels more comfortable – purposefully achievable, because I want that dopamine hit, to keep me pushing forward. For full transparency, I’ve had a bit of a mind block about this kind of work in the past, so I’m purposefully not overloading myself with expectations: one new, biggish corporate client by the end of March feels like a joyous and relatively doable short term goal.

After that, and I’m not thinking too hard about quarter 2, because this approach really is based on looking at what’s just in front, it will be to expand that number and keep on growing. For now, though, I have my neat resolution in my pocket, and it’s giving me the right amount of burdenless inspiration to make these early, dark January days feel bright and full of hope. Now I want you to give yourself that same gift… go on, resolutions are just tiny pieces of a very big puzzle, so start placing yours, they will lead you exactly where you really want to be. How to set goals has never been easier.

READ ALICE’S OTHER COLUMNS FOR THE HANDBOOK: DEVELOPING RESILIENCE AND POSITIVE HABITS

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