Have Your Best Year Yet By Rethinking Your Goal Setting

setting goals

As I write my article this month, I am hurtling down the M1 to spend the festive season with my family in the South with my laptop wobbling precariously on my lap. I am not driving, I hasten to add, but it will be my turn soon. Every year, we do the same journey, and every year, I get out a pencil and pad and between the two of us, we talk about the year ahead and our goals and wishes. The piece of paper gets folded up and put in the glove compartment, often forgotten but the act of goal setting and getting clear about what we want to accomplish as an individual and as a couple and family sows a seed in our unconscious mind.

Are You Creating The Same List of Goals Every Year

In the early years, our goals were big and in obvious buckets. Career, relationships & family, health and finances. Get the next promotion usually for me, find his next move for him. Get married (always me!), have a baby, have another brother or sister for the first baby, get back to the gym, lose the baby weight (for me), do a triathlon (for him and eventually me) and always, striving to be financially free.

setting goals

Over the years, the list became the same list, a repeat of the year before. We still weren’t or aren’t financially free. We are past the baby years and triathlons have been checked off the bucket list and now clash with the kids’ sporting fixtures. The goals just became another list but the list had lost its excitement, its motivation. And rather than feeling good about it, we started to feel deflated.

Setting Goals so They’re More Than Just a List

Until a couple of years ago when as I boarded a plane, with my first marriage over, my life in tatters, future totally unknown. I took out my pencil and pad alone and wrote down my goals for 2016. It just said ‘to be happy.’ It was the start of my ‘joy list.’ I asked myself, ‘what do I need to do or be or have to be happy?’ My list included spending time with my boys, experimenting in the kitchen with food, running, being with friends, meditating, researching health, spirituality and nutrition, writing my blog… Simple things that I could do daily, even on the dark days.


Despite starting 2017 in despair, by the end of December, I had achieved my goal of being happy. I was the happiest I had been for a long time. I had achieved my goal by doing what I written down and determined as my daily plan.

Chase a Feeling, Not a Goal

This year, I stumbled across an interview with Danielle LaPorte and subsequently have bought her book The Desire Map. The book explains the theory behind this new way of setting goals and why it works. “You’re not chasing the goal itself — you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”

The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, $14.18

I have been using this new way of ‘flipping’ goal setting on its head with my clients for various goals. Whether it is around a career change, a health goal or relationship, all with beautiful results. I have used it for myself as I shape my working life next year and my husband for a new job. By starting with feelings, removing goals with external targets, and taking the practice internally, we have far more clarity on what we want to achieve. And how to achieve it. Rather than with the ‘same old, same old’ goal list, we have a plan that we are excited about. And a list of mantras and metaphorical signposts to reflect on throughout the year to ensure we end the year on a high!

Questions to Ask Yourself to Set Goals That Will Change Your Life

It is a very simple art, with just a few steps and I would urge you to try it for your goals for 2020 or even just a smaller goal or achievement. Grab and pencil and pad now and just go for it!


  1. Ask yourself how do you want to feel? How do you want to feel during and at the end of 2020? Or how do you want to feel in a new job, relationship, etc. Write and keep writing all the feelings that come to mind like happy, healthy, loved, excited, energized or others.
  2. Reflect on the list and choose the top 3 or 4 feelings that you connect with most or feel the most strongly about.
  3. Write each of those 3 or 4 feelings at the top of a new page. Then ask yourself for each feeling, What do you need to do and/or be and/or have to feel that feeling? For example, if you want to feel healthy what makes you feel healthy? What have you done in the past to feel that way? What else can you do?
  4. Keep fine-tuning your plan and ideas for each feeling and then start to plan each of these into your daily and weekly schedule.
  5. Write out your mantra or affirmations in the present. Keep this safe on a piece of paper or a screen saver so you see it often.
  6. Use your feeling list as a way to determine your path to make decisions. For example, will eating this cake make me feel healthy? Will accepting this offer, make me feel happy?

How To Use This Exercise to Its Fullest Benefit

goal setting

One of my favorite examples of doing this exercise was with one client who said she wanted to feel loved. We talked through what she would need to do, be or have to feel loved. She determined she could feel loved by surrounding herself with her family, spending more time with her Mum and being with friends who made her feel good about herself. I asked her one more question… How about taking the time to love yourself? This idea brought her to tears as she realized she had the power herself to make her feel loved, rather than looking for others to feel that way. We wrote up a plan for her to do just that.

Really take time to think about how you want to feel. Examine how you will manifest that feeling in your life. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box or ask yourself hard questions. Only by completely changing how you’re setting goals will you achieve different results in 2020.




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