New Year, not clear?

As the New Year exhortations to work on the ‘new you’ pile up in your inbox, you may find that you’re not clear about what, how, or whether to change at all.

For example, some people insist that you should have clear goals for the new year which will goad you into action. Even better if they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound (SMART) because what gets measured gets done, right? But on the other hand, people also say that goals can narrow focus too much and lead to unintended and unhelpful consequences.

Similarly, some people set resolutions every new year, even if by mid-January most of those resolutions have already fallen by the wayside. Others say it’s bonkers to wait a whole year to start changing something – if it’s worth tackling, get started right now!

No wonder it’s often a case of ‘New Year, not clear’.

I don’t presume to have the answer. I will however offer some reflections based on my experiences of setting goals (or not) for myself and with my clients, in the hope that they help you become a little clearer.  Here goes:

  • I think it’s good to have three or four broad goals in mind to give an overall direction of travel. Not setting the GPS perhaps, but making sure you’ve got the up to date road map for wherever you’re going. The times when I’ve had no goals at all have felt very freeing to start with, but then life starts to drift. I find myself doing whatever the most pressing task seems to be but not paying attention to longer term or less obvious (but still important) work;
  • Phrase your goals positively – what you actively want to achieve rather than what you want to stop or avoid. Clients who do this feel more personal ownership (less of the ‘shoulds’) and more motivation.  To continue the travel analogy, better to say “I’d love to drive to John O’ Groats” than “I’ve got to get out of London!”;
  • Hold your goals lightly. Yes, the promotion, the tidy house, the 50 press-ups may set the right direction for you at present. But life will happen during the year, presenting traffic jams or new highways. Maybe you’ll spot a role in another organisation that would give you even more interesting work than you’d get from a promotion, so be prepared to flex;
  • Consider a ‘theme’ or focus for your year alongside your goals. Last year, I saw people setting themes such as Joy, Simplicity, Saying Yes. This year, my theme is “Clear”. What a theme seems to do is to bring some focus to how you want to “be”. This can sit nicely with goals which tend to be about what you want to “do”.  To me, it’s the imbalance which can occur between ‘being’ and ‘doing’ which often gives goals a bad rap. So – final go with the analogy – is your journey about the speed, or the views, or exploring?

As to timing, please don’t wait till January 2019 if you’ve already fallen off the wagon! You can still make use of the “Fresh Start Effect” – yes, it’s really a thing – by starting on a Monday, the first of the month, a birthday, or any other day that has a significance for you.

I hope these thoughts will help you tackle that ‘New Year, not clear’ feeling and find what works for you.  Let me know how you get on!

Katie Driver

Katie Driver is a certified business coach and experienced trainer and facilitator. Clients consistently remark that her calm approach and clear insight helps to deepen their own thinking and improve the choices they make.