Tips for goal-setting: how to map out your hopes

Now you know where your life is headed in the longer term (your three-year vision) and the shorter term (your one-year vision board) and the places you might be able to stretch yourself, it’s time to figure out how you’ll get from where you are to where you want to go. Yes, it’s time for a little reality check to see what goals you’re really willing to set.

You see, while most of us believe tomorrow could be better than today, only half of us believe we can actually make it so. And this is the difference between wishing for the future we want to create and hoping for it. To have hope, we need some clear ‘want-to’ (rather than ‘have-to’) goals, pathways to move us towards these goals, and a plan to maintain our willpower to get us to the final result.

Hope is the work of your head and your heart. Not only does it lift your spirits, it buoys your energy, makes life worthwhile and changes your day-to-day behaviour. So, what are you hoping for?

Start by identifying three to five goals you want to accomplish this year. I start by looking at my vision board and noting down some specific goals for the year ahead.

Five steps to clarifying your goals

  • What are your goals in simple terms?
  • Are you clear on your specific objectives?
  • Why are you doing this?
  • What do you really want to achieve?
  • Do your goals have depth and do you really understand them?

Rather than thinking ‘I’ll be more healthy, both physically and mentally’, be more specific: ‘I’ll do yoga at least three times a week, meditate before bed at least three times a week, and make sure every meal contains some fresh produce.’ Make sure the goals you set are achievable, as there’s no point in setting unrealistic goals that are destined for failure.

Then, try to find at least three pathways – actions you can take – to make these goals a reality. This could be booking yourself into a yoga course, putting a reminder note on your bedside table to meditate before going to sleep, and spending half an hour on Sundays to plan the food you are going to eat over the coming week. I try to think about what I’ll do each day, each week, and each month to start getting the outcome I want. Again, try to be as specific as possible; so, rather than thinking ‘Get more training’, try ‘Complete a short course learning leadership techniques.’

Next, think of at least one obstacle that may arise for each of your pathways. Perhaps working late and last-minute social occasions could disrupt your yoga. Studies have found we’re more likely to reach our goals if we plan for the obstacles upfront, so be honest about what might slow you down, trip you up or make you give up completely.

Finally, write down all the things you can do to maintain your willpower as you set about making your goals a reality. How will you make the journey enjoyable? Is there someone, a friend, work colleague or family member, who can support you along the way? How will you measure your progress? What will you do to celebrate the small milestones? These details will be vital for helping you achieve the outcomes you desire.

Make your hopes a reality

  • Carry them with you all day.
  • Write them on your bathroom mirror in fluorescent texta.
  • Put them alongside your vision board.
  • Program them into your phone.
  • Write them on a card and store it in your wallet.
  • Copy them onto the front page of your diary or planner so they greet you when you open it each day.

My tip

When setting your goals, start with your overall vision, including those big dreams and lofty pie-in-the-sky ambitions. This will help you break them down into smaller wins, with each step taking you closer to your final goal. I write down my intention and affirmation for each day in the morning, so I really focus and get that sense of achievement; no matter how small the task is, it is on track with my vision.

You can download free screensavers for motivation and receive a free printable vision board here.

(Extract taken from The Life Plan, by Shannah Kennedy. Head over to to order your copy or get in touch with Shannah here to find out about executive coaching options.)