We used to be big fans of New Year’s resolutions. On December 31st, it was all about whispering our intentions into the crisp midnight air. But then, 2020 happened. Having just about scraped through the past 12 months, somehow picking out a list of things to improve about ourselves doesn’t quite sit right. Instead, it’s all about goal-setting.
We may already be well into 2021, but the beauty of goal-setting is that you can do it at any time of the year. With spring on our doorstep and life slowly beginning to move again, now is the time to look inwards and draw up a concrete dream fulfilment action plan.
Goal-setting is all about breaking down your heart’s desires into a tangible action plan that can be achieved step by step, little by little. Instead of making grand declarations for the year, we are looking at more grounded ways forward – even if that means by starting with a vision board session on Pinterest from the comfort of our sofa.
Goal-Setting Vs. Resolutions
Life coach Kathryn McAuley of The Curation Coach says, “The New Year is a natural time to reassess and reflect, but we can actually set goals at any time. Even in a pandemic, with so much we can’t control, there are things we can.“
And rather than the somewhat sanctimonious tone our resolutions tend to take (stop doing this, give up that…) Kathryn explains, “Goal-setting comes from a healthy, positive mindset. If we’re setting intentions because we think we should – like the traditional New Year’s resolutions – or because we’re bored, or in a state of apathy, what hope is there really of achieving them?
“We have to think about how much we want to achieve something in the first place? When clients come to me with goals they need help coaching towards, I always ask them what’s important about these goals and, ultimately, how they want to feel.”
Curate Your Dream Life
Coming from a background in the media and communications industry, Kathryn specialises in helping creatives getting their mojo back, finding their true passion and creating a life that is fulfilling and exciting from the moment the alarm rings in the morning until their head hits the pillow at night.
The name of her coaching business, The Curation Coach, was inspired by the way we carefully select and assemble the content that appears on our social media profiles.
Kathryn explains, “My thought was, what if we ‘curated’ our own life content? This means looking at our careers and lives as a blank canvas to fill in a way that satisfies our needs, fulfils us, drives us and makes us happy!”
Begin At The End
So, how do we start with setting some meaningful and actionable goals for ourselves? It might come as a surprise, but The Curation Coach recommends beginning with a brief meditation on the past 12 months to help you close the door on the ‘last chapter’. Begin by looking back over what you are leaving behind.
Kathryn explains, “You can gain valuable introspection, reflecting on the year gone by. Remember the challenges, worries and stresses you faced. Note how it made you feel, how you reacted, and take a moment just to be with these feelings.
“Then, look at the good points of the past year. A moment of joy. A moment of relief. A moment of gratitude. Maybe you learnt something new. Maybe you started something new. Whatever they were – these moments existed. And you are taking them with you into the next chapter. They are yours to cherish and keep.”
Take a moment to jot down what came up for you during the meditation. Here are a couple of journaling prompts to help you reflect on the past year.
- Looking back over the past 12 months, note any positive wins or moments of gratitude
- What did you learn about yourself?
- How can these learnings help you move forward in the future?
- What were your happiest moments in the past year? Why did these situations make you happy?
- Drawing on these positives, write down how you want to feel in your next chapter
Once you have become clear on what makes you happy and how you want to feel in the next 12 months, it’s time to connect these positive feelings to goals that you can then break down into small, actionable steps.
For example, if your end goal is to have more energy, one step could be to improve the quality of your sleep. This one element can be broken down into even smaller chunks, such as creating a nighttime routine that you love. Break it down even further, into small actions such as banning ‘screen time’ after 10pm, drinking a calming camomile tea, or journaling before going to sleep to put any worries out of your head and onto paper for a good night’s rest.
The Goal-Setting Grid
Now it’s time to get to the juicy part: the actual process of goal-setting!
Inspired by our beloved – and obsessed over – Instagram mainboard, Kathryn works with a six-square grid that represents the key areas in our lives.
As a free gift from The Curation Coach, you can download a template of the Curation Grid here.
Imagining the six squares at the top of your Instagram profile, draw your grid and write one of the following headers above each of the squares:
- Health & Fitness
- Career & Work
- Money & Finances
- Love (Romantic & Self)
- Friends & Family
- Self Growth (Hobbies/Studies/Self Care)
Now write a paragraph (or several) about what you want to achieve this year in each of these areas. How do you want to improve them, and what would that entail? What baby steps can you take today to make a start? What steps can you take in one week, one month, or three months?
Don’t Worry About The ‘How’
Focus on your ‘what’ instead.
When goal-setting and writing down your intentions, it’s important not to lose sight of how you want to feel. Because if your goals aren’t anchored to an emotion, they end up getting swept under the rug.
Seeing your goals sit next to one another on the grid might also make you realise that some of them are interconnected, and creating action steps will help you work towards more than one goal at a time. To come back to our example from earlier about wanting to have more energy, creating a night time routine that helps you to sleep better can also help you achieve a fitness goal, as you might find yourself waking up earlier and better rested with the energy to go for a run.
Likewise, cutting down on the ‘weeknight wine’ is another step that could also benefit two goals at once, resulting in better quality sleep that will leave you with the energy to hit the gym – and without a hangover to feed!
Feel The Fear – And Do It Anyway
The goal-setting grid gives you an outline, a starting point.
Look at the six squares and decide which is your priority, where are you going to start. It’s highly likely that at some point during this exercise, a little voice will appear and whisper, “you can’t do that” or “what if x, y, z happens?”
This negative inner dialogue is the narrative we create in our heads to stop us from moving forward, and to keep us playing safe – and small.
Kathryn explains, “This is often based on fear. A fear of the unknown, a fear of failing, a fear of change. But when we move into action – we’re no longer in a place of fear. Because we’re doing. We’re not in our heads anymore.”
So, how can you overcome the ‘inner critic’?
Safeguard Your Goals
Take a fresh sheet of paper and look at the first square you are going to focus on. What goals have you set for this area of your life? To safeguard these goals, start to write a list of all the negative narratives you hear in your head, all the reasons your inner critic tells you why you can’t achieve that goal.
Leave a space between each sentence. A few lines. Now you’re going to reframe these statements with all the reasons you know them not to be true. Write an affirmative statement of intent for each one. Turn the negatives into positives!
For example, if your negative self talk tells you, “I am too shy to do this”, counteract it with a statement like, “I can do this because I am friendly, polite and professional.”
Action Tips To Achieve Your Goals
- Break your goals into bite-size, digestible chunks. Do enough each day to feel like the journey towards achieving your goal is in motion.
- State your intent. Today, message a friend or post on social media declaring what your first goal is. Make it public!
- Be accountable. Partner up with a colleague or friend who can check in with you regularly to see how you are doing.
- Be elastic. It’s okay to change your mind, change direction or shift your goal post. BUT – make sure it’s you who is making this decision – and not the negative voice in your head. If you are shifting your goal, what are you changing it to?
- Be kind to yourself. There are things we can’t control in the world. Congratulate yourself for reaching this point, for what you have been through and how far you have come.
- Put Number One first. Focus on your needs, and prioritise self-care.
- Enjoy the journey! Don’t just focus on the end destination, take pleasure in the little steps along the way and celebrate your small wins!
Portraits by @sallydreamsphotography.