How to Set Goals That “Stick”


By Tanya Kett.

Whether you are helping clients set goals, or doing so for yourself, the beginning of the year is a great time for a fresh start. It’s a time to make plans and set targets, but unfortunately, good intentions often fall by the wayside in a few short weeks. To help improve your own chances for successfully achieving your goals, or to assist you in encouraging your clients to do so, I have some tips to share.

Set SMART Goals!

Most career practitioners are very familiar with the concept of setting SMART goals in the work they do with clients, but how often do we practice this for our own benefit? Set an example of yourself and you’ll be able to share your process with your clients. For your clients not familiar with the idea of SMART goals, you may want to create goal-setting templates or worksheets. Remember that SMART goals are:

  • Specific – what exactly do you/they want to accomplish?
  • Measurable – how will you/they know the goal has been achieved?
  • Attainable – is your/their goal something within your/their control?
  • Relevant – is the goal meaningful to you/them within the desired timeframe?
  • Time-bound – what is your/their deadline to achieve the goal?

Set a Variety of Timeframes for Your Goals

Goals can be short-term, mid-term, or long-term. I recommend having at least one of each because as you achieve success in reaching your short-term goal(s), you will build confidence and motivation to continue onto bigger goals that may require more time and effort. How you set each goal’s time frame is entirely up to you.

Take Action Toward Those Goals

Setting SMART goals is the first step, but achieving those goals takes perseverance, dedication, and ACTION. Ensure that you list the specific action steps you need to take in order to move toward successful completion of your goals, and set deadlines for each of the steps.

For example, a few years ago I set a personal goal of completing a Master’s program by 2017, but I didn’t know what I wanted to study, so I gave myself ample time to decide. Action items included researching programs, determining application requirements, and talking to others. I cycled through these actions until I was satisfied I was making the right choice. Once I’d finalized my decision, next came the action items of clearing up questions I had with the school, asking for references, and preparing my application. Completing a Master’s program was a long-term goal, and I revisited it frequently to ensure it was still relevant to me.

For our clients, changing a career or finding a job are common goals, but actually launching a plan to move forward may seem daunting to them. You can help by ensuring their goals are described in the SMART format. Clients may also need guidance determining their action steps, so will probably welcome your help with this task. For a confidence boost, ensure they have at least one step they can easily and quickly succeed at. Crossing an action step or two off the list early will make them feel good and provide motivation to continue!

Remember Your “Why”

Goals may change and that’s okay! They can be adjusted if needed, but the important thing to remember is WHY you are setting the goal. Your WHY will help you get there. For example, many people set a goal to lose weight or start going to the gym, and they do that for a short time before the goal gets pushed aside for various reasons. But, if you remember your WHY, it might just be the extra push you need to stick to the goal.

Think of it this way: instead of simply “lose weight,” try incorporating your WHY right into the goal description. “Lose weight” then becomes “get healthy to have more energy to play with the kids.” It is a more powerful and compelling goal than simply attaining a number on the scale. In addition, it holds the promise of fun and long-term benefits for you and your kids.

Final Thoughts

Studies have shown that this time of year is the most depressing for some people; keep this in mind when working with clients. Draw on your creativity, and focus on providing encouragement in these cold and dark months.

As I often remind myself, “If you are tired of starting over, stop giving up!”

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

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