Top Tips For Setting Goals That Work…

By Karen Amos

So you’ve been all fired up to make that change, but reality’s dawning… the nights are long, you’re tired, you’ve a stack of work to do, there are at least 2 new cat videos on facebook that need watching…

If you’re struggling to make that change, here are some tips on how to set goals that stick:

Break goals down – Goals can seem overwhelming, so go ahead and have that big goal to work towards, but then break it down into small, attainable steps, so you can see your progress and give yourself a pat on the back.  You wouldn’t set a goal of running a marathon this year, then set out to run 26 miles the next day would you?  So apply the same logic to all of your goals.

Habits – As above, the secret to success isn’t in making huge, drastic steps.  Rather, it’s in setting better habits.  Habits are no more than small actions made regularly and consistently.  If you’ve set yourself a goal to get a better work-life balance, then set a reminder for the time each day that you’ll leave work and leave your laptop in its case when you’re at home.  If you want to lose weight, set yourself a number of alcohol-free days each week.  Once you’ve mastered one thing, you’ll be ready to move onto adding another good habit.  So ask yourself, ‘In order to achieve my goal, what habits do I need to adopt?’

Quality not quantity – Don’t set too many goals.  It’s tempting when we’re feeling motivated to change, to set lots of huge, life-changing goals.  Instead, stick to one or two meaningful goals that you can really concentrate on.

Concentrate on the positive – This doesn’t mean being a complete Pollyanna about everything, but instead frame your goals in the positive – i.e. what you ARE going to do, rather than what you’re going to give up.  We never really give something up – instead to be successful we have to replace a bad habit with a good one – e.g. ‘I’m going to eat healthy food,’ rather than, ‘I’m giving up chocolate.’  That way you won’t feel like you’re suffering and will focus on the positive impact of your decision.

Own your goals – Never set a goal because you feel you ‘should’, or ‘ought’ to do it.  As a coach, this immediately tells me that someone else’s rules are kicking in here.  Doing something for someone else is bound to end in failure.  Work out what YOU really want instead.

Write goals down – Writing down your goals helps you clarify what you mean, but also gives a sense of commitment on your part.  This also allows you to revisit and review your progress.  Sounds a bit formal?  It can do to some people, but how you record it is up to you.  You can set up a word document, use an app, or there are some interesting diaries out there that help you to record your goals and progress.

Tell other people – The simple act of telling someone else your goal brings a whole heap of commitment to what you’re intending to do.  No-one likes to lose face, so we’re more likely to make sure it’s the right goal and to follow it through when someone else knows about it.  Alternatively, you can enlist an accountability buddy who will work with you on your goal and chivvy you along when times get tough.

Make it enjoyable – There’s absolutely no point in setting a goal that’s going to make you miserable! At the very least, make sure you keep hold of why you’re doing the goal in the first place – this is where writing it down makes all the difference.  But again, the key is in framing your goal in positive terms.  If your goal is to get fit, then instead of setting yourself some draconian diet regime, why not set your goal to find a new place to walk in the countryside each weekend with the dog and kids?

Track your progress – Devise some sort of system where you can track your progress towards your goals.  Weight-loss companies have done this very successfully for years, so take a leaf out of their book and work out a way you can record your successes.  This is so easy with technology at our fingertips nowadays, or even just writing down a weekly success chart.  This will help you keep going when ‘life’ gets in the way and you don’t feel like carrying on.

One lapse doesn’t spell disaster – We all lapse from our good habits and routines from time to time.  Having a blow-out and eating your body weight in chocolate one day (or is that just me?! 😀 ) doesn’t mean your whole weight-loss goal is lost.  Tomorrow’s a new day and you can just pick up where you left off.  We’re often more resolute after that happens anyway, so put the lapses behind you and plough ahead!

Be nice to yourself – As with the tip above – don’t beat yourself up about this.  You’re taking the right steps for the right reasons, so remember to reward and praise yourself for your achievements.  And remember to accept compliments from others too – it really does make a difference!

Do it NOW! – Seize the day!  There will never be a perfect time to start your new goal, so just get on with it.  Don’t give yourself excuses why you should wait until tomorrow – Act now and you’ll have taken the first small, but significant step!

Good Luck and let us know if you have any tips to share…

Karen Amos is the founder and owner of BrightBird Coaching & Training.  She is a qualified Executive and Professional Development coach and trainer, working with organisations and businesses to get the best out of leaders and teams.

If you’d like to know more about BrightBird’s professional development services and how we can help you and your business, school or organisation, please check out our website at, or email