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Goal setting: It takes two to manage your mindset

The step that can make all the difference in achieving our goals is to find support

Did you make any New Year's resolutions in January? There’s a big difference between wishing things would change and turning resolutions into reality. Three differences actually: a crystal-clear goal, laser focus to make it happen, and then resilience to ride the inevitable setbacks. (No setbacks envisaged? Revisit your goal and make it more challenging.)

You probably know the process already: write down your goals and break them down into sub-tasks, then the actions to make them happen. These actions give you the backbone of your to-do list. Laser focus comes in here; to focus your time and energy on achieving your actions, and to say a charming yet firm ‘no’ when other people try to hijack your time and foist their needs over yours.

So why don’t we all achieve our goals?

The step that can make all the difference is to find support. A cheerleader, fan, co-coach, partner, knight, mentor, manager, colleague, accountability buddy: anyone who will support you whole-heartedly.

They don’t need to understand what you do or what you want. They just need to defend you against two threats you create to get in your own way: your lack of willpower and your negative self-talk.

There are two stages where their support is most needed:

1. Visualising the end result and wanting it

If you can’t see it it won’t happen. The more burning your desire to achieve these goals, the more chance you have of achieving them. This is the difference between a wish and a resolution: determined, ingrained, bloody-minded willpower.

Tell your partner/cheerleader how important these goals are to you and how they will take you closer to the future you want to create. Give them as much detail as possible so they can see it too.

Vagueness is the enemy of goal-setting. Get them to quiz you deeply on the specific outcome you want to achieve: that G in the GROW coaching model is the one with all the power. Why is it important to you? What will be different? What will we notice about you if you achieve your goal? What’s the consequence of not making it and staying just as you are? Why, why?

Get them to push you to find a visual metaphor for your goal – a picture you hold in your head of what you are working towards. It could be a job title on your new business card, the grade on your appraisal, the paid school fees bill, the family holiday, a pay award – whatever inspires you.

2. Stopping you from being your own worst enemy

You’re motivated to keep your eyes on the prize and have chunked up your goal into daily actions to lead to seismic change. What goes wrong? Your own mind gets in the way.

It’s those voices in your head: the self-talk that reminds you of how deluded you are in aiming so high, that you should be grateful for what you’ve got, not rock the boat, that your skillset is weak, that your boss doesn’t like you, that people like you don’t get promoted, that success is too risky, that you are too old – whatever it is.

Get your partner to listen objectively to what you are thinking and feeling. You don’t need their advice or platitudes, just their rational common sense. If they played lawyer on this would they defend your argument that your goal is too far out of reach? You might have a logical, rational point. Or you might not.

Either way, keep taking steps to move forward and find out. Inertia is your enemy at this point – keep taking small actions.

You get what you expect. Get someone else to help you set those expectations and commit to supporting you in making them happen.

It’s natural to find yourself sliding into the old habits and patterns that hold you back, particularly when you feel under pressure. The support from someone who you respect, and who believes in you, will make all the difference.

Zena Everett is a motivational speaker; executive coach specialising in career confidence, work goals productivity and performance issues; and author of Mind Flip