By the time you read this article the chances are some of you will have already broken some of your 2018 New Year resolutions! How many bright people have set the same goal each year with little lasting change? Will 2018 be the year you feel genuinely inspired and motivated to make a sustainable change to your life? The value of goals Most successful people have goals – top athletes, successful business people, high achievers – giving them both long-term vision and short-term focus. In Mark McCormack’s book ‘What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School’, he relays a study where MBA students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” 3% had written goals and plans; 13% had unwritten goals; and a colossal 84% had no specific goals at all. Ten years later, although predictable, the findings were nevertheless astonishing. The 13% who had unwritten goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84% who had no goals. The 3% who had clear, written goals and plans were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97% put together! None of this is new or rocket science – in 1968 Locke pioneered the technique of goal setting, believing it would improve performance by focusing attention and mobilising effort. Creating the bigger picture You may have missed 1st January, but perhaps it is worth taking the time now to create your bigger picture and make 2018 the year you become the 3% of the Harvard class. Instead of looking just at 2018, take the time to create some space and imagine you go to a dinner party in 10 years’ time and meet yourself. What would that person be like? At aged 80 and looking back, which dream would cause greatest regret if you had not pursued it? If you knew you would be successful, which goals would you like to achieve? Visualising Once you have got an image in your head of where you would like to be in 10 years’ time imagine yourself in the situation in detail. Bring this mental picture to mind often so it becomes integrated into part of your life. Einstein stated “Imagination is more important than knowledge” believing mental images exert a powerful influence on performance. Sports coaches are aware the brain does not make the distinction between an imagined experience and an actual one. Mental rehearsal is virtually as effective as real thing. As part of his training Olympic diver Greg Louganis mentally rehearsed dives 40 times prior to an actual event. Outcome goals and performance goals From the picture you have in your head you should be able to write outcome goals. Outcome goals for athletes are often centred on winning or outperforming someone else. Whilst these goals can be motivating they are not entirely under the individual’s control. Outcome goals can be distinguished from performance goals which encourage the development of skill. These are under your control and enable satisfaction with a performance even if the outcome goal is not achieved. These goals can be used to monitor progress towards the desired outcome goal. Part of the skill in goal setting is to identify performance goals that provide a high chance of enabling you achieve your end goal. Focus Most successful people have a sharp focus. One of my favourite examples of applying focus is that of Olympic rowing gold medallist Ben Hunt-Davis. He assessed everything his team did in their 2000 Games preparation against the question: “Will it make the boat go faster?” The message for those in pursuit of excellence is to stay focused only on what is relevant. In an overstimulated world, excessive multi-tasking creates a disruption of performance. This simple phrase – “Will it make the boat go faster?” – can be adapted for your own personal goals. Evaluating your chances of success As a final step in your 2018 goal setting, evaluate your chances of success. Look at each goal and evaluate on a scale of 1-10 how likely you are to succeed. If you score less than eight then cross the goal off your list as the chances of achieving it are low and your limited energy can be better spent elsewhere. Wishing you every success in pursuit of your 2018 goals!