Taking aim at your future goals

There is a difference between making resolutions and setting new goals, writes Wendy Grace

Usually at this time of year, people have made a number of New Year’s resolutions that they ultimately fail to keep.

Generally, a resolution is a determination to give up or do something which we specify at the beginning of the year. Goal setting, on the other hand, usually has a definitive achievement and your efforts are directed towards this end. You strive for your goals to achieve or accomplish something. You picture the end result and you take steps to get there.

When setting goals for 2015, unlike many resolutions, there might not be an immediate impact. While a resolution is something you make, a goal takes a resolve where you set short, medium and long-term achievements.


There are six broad categories of goals: professional, financial, health, spiritual, emotional and relationships. Perhaps the most important goal of all is getting your spiritual life right, as this will form the foundation, making all your other goals more achievable.

Before setting your goals, a good start is to pray about them. Where does God want you to be and what is their overall purpose? Will your goals bring you closer to or further away from God? Ultimately, God has a plan for our lives, he wants us to be happy. He wants us to be successful, but if God doesn’t form part of our goal setting, we may find ourselves pushing in the wrong direction, ultimately not finding the happiness we desire.

First step

The first step is to map out your goals. If you do not have a map, you are sure to get lost along the way. Goals can help provide clarity and direction in our lives.

When looking at your goals they should be smart, specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and have a timescale. The next step is to set out your goals for the short, medium and long term. Even though with your long-term goals their achievement may be a long way off, you need to map out how you are going to get there now. For example, if a goal is to save money for a deposit for a house in five years time, doing nothing about it this year won’t bring you any closer.

Start by asking yourself where do I want to be in 12 months’ time? Build your goals from there, then look at your list and see which goals would have the most positive impact on your life.

With each category, set dates that you want to achieve certain milestones by, and put them in your calendar now.

Secondly, set reminders and make sure you celebrate your accomplishments along the way. With all your goal areas it is really important that you find the reason why you want to achieve them. If the goals you pursue are purely based on pride or a selfish end, you lessen their value, and your satisfaction will be fleeting.

What is the true intention behind the goal? Be sure to visualise your goals. You need to be able to concretely grasp what life will be like when these goals are realised. The more tangible they are, the better.

Sometimes, a long-term goal can seem too impossible to achieve. Make sure your big goals are broken down  into smaller more manageable achievements or break them down into regular tasks where they are realistic and achievable. For example, if you wanted to run a marathon by this time next year, you might set a first goal of running five kilometres, the next might be 10 kilometres and following that, a half marathon would be your goal.

A good way of doing your ‘goals map’ is drawing it out. Make sure it is put up in some public place to remind you each day of what you want to achieve. When you write down your goals it makes you more accountable. As part of this process, identify people or things or restraints that might get in the way of your goals.

Spiritual reading

For example, if you decide you are going to do 15 minutes of spiritual reading each night in order that, by the end of the year, you will have read a certain number of new books or had an overall understanding of a particular subject, what might get in the way? Facebook, TV, going to bed too late?

If you are reading a book and you are trying to finish it, ask your ‘goal buddy’ to quiz you or explain to them what you have learned after each evening. When writing down your goals, language can be a very powerful place to start. Often we can use negative or toxic words that are holding us back, words that don’t empower us to achieve our goals.

When you write down your list of goals what objections are getting in the way of those goals? Do words like ‘sometime’, ‘can’t’ or ‘maybe’ feature? This type of language does not empower you. Replace these words with:  ‘now’, ‘can’ and ‘will’.

There are also some fantastic apps on your phone such as ‘Lift’ or ‘Goals on track’ or ‘Strides’ to help you manage, track and achieve your goals.

It is really important that you share your goals and then take ownership of them. When you take ownership of a goal, it moves from being an idea into something that is yours. It almost becomes part of your identity.

Cornell University researchers demonstrated the endowment effect with a clever experiment. First, researchers gave participants coffee mugs and offered to trade them chocolate for their mug. Almost none of the participants wanted to trade.

Next, researchers reversed the trial. They gave students chocolate and asked them to trade for the coffee mugs. Again, very few wanted to trade. This is the endowment effect in action. It was about what they already had, not about the actual objects. When we take ownership of something, we work to keep it. Once your goals are clear you need to set the process of how those goals will be achieved.

Sometimes, we mistakenly think that success is achieved by the fastest, most capable or smartest people, people that always seem so driven. Really anyone can be successful in their goals – the simplest key is don’t quit.

Too often when our goals seem out of reach, we give up, letting the weight of our perceived failure crush a dream. It might seem common sense that doing something is better than doing nothing, but many of us become paralysed by the fear of failure and not achieving our goals. Sometimes, the hardest thing can be just getting started. What causes us to quit?

The temporary suffering or pain caused or sacrifices we have to make somehow outweighs the potential of the goal. Therefore one of the keys to not quitting is really crystallising why your goal is so important and not to lose sight of that. It is important to be realistic and to prepare yourself for difficulties.

There will be obstacles that get in the way, but always remember the end goal and keep moving. Setting goals can be overwhelming. Don’t let yourself be held back by fear, stay focussed and don’t procrastinate, and just think, if you follow your goals, where you could be this time next year!