Happy New Year! I hope 2024 has started well for you. Do you make resolutions and set new goals for the new year? If so, do they motivate and excite you?

January in the UK is a great time to pause, to slow down along with the season, and take stock – reflect on the past, get in touch with your thoughts and feelings now, and look ahead.

Here are some practical principles for setting motivating goals. For a fuller description see Motivation: The Ultimate Guide.

Principles for setting goals


Make them specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time-bound, exciting and rewarded.

Let your team participate in setting goals

They will be more committed to them and will want to put in more effort.

Apply the Goldilocks principle

The tasks you set for yourself (or others) need to be “just right” – not too easy, nor too difficult but with the right amount of stretch, so that you will feel a sense of achievement when you reach them.

Break an elephant task into mouse-sized bites

A big task or project can seem daunting. Breaking it down into a series of smaller steps makes it easier to make progress.

Reward effort as well as achievement

Sometimes we put a lot of effort in, but don’t reach the desired results, and other times we get good results without a lot of effort.

Plan for the planning fallacy

When you are setting timescales, assume that things will go wrong, and that unexpected things will happen – plan extra time for this.

Focus on the A in SMARTER

It’s the most important letter – it means achievable or attainable – and it’s the one that we spend almost no time on. To make a goal attainable, we need to plan how to get there in detail and check if there are dependencies that make your timescale unrealistic.

Set a goal that excites and motivates

Rather than a “negative” target (e.g. reducing customer complaints), express your goal as a positive (e.g. getting great customer feedback). This is more motivating. Find ways to remind yourself of your goal – have a picture on your desk or an object to remind you. Imagine how good it will feel to succeed.

Do you want to revisit your goals, taking these principles into account?  If so, try these prompts:

Specific: What is my goal for this issue?

Measurable: How will I know I’ve achieved my goal?  What will I see, hear, think and feel that tells me I have got it?

Attainable: What are my first steps? What are the dependencies? What resources are needed?

Realistic: What is my plan? What could go wrong? What contingency time should I build in?

Time-related: What is my timescale? What are the milestones?

Exciting: What will achieving this goal do for me? How will I feel when it is achieved?

Rewarded: How will I celebrate when I achieve this goal?

Download the template from my Resources Hub here and learn more about goal-setting in Motivation: The Ultimate Guide to Leading Your Team

You can buy it with discount code MTCS25 for 25% off the RRP.

If you don’t know where you are going, you are not going to get there – I hope this helps you find your way!