Goal Setting – with a difference!

In this article, which I wrote for Prime Women Magazine, I share how I have found a new way to set goals so they don’t become just another to do list..

As I write my article this month, I am hurtling down the M1 to spend the festive season with my family in the South with my laptop wobbling precariously on my lap.  I am not driving, I hasten to add, but it will be my turn soon.


Every year, we do the same journey at some point, and every year, I get out a pencil and pad and between the two of us, we talk about the year ahead and our goals and wishes.  The piece of paper gets folded up and put in the glove compartment, often forgotten but the act of getting clear about what we want to accomplish as an individual and as a couple and family sows a seed in our subconscious mind.


In the early years, our goals were big and in obvious buckets – career, relationships & family, health and finances – get the next promotion usually for me, find his next move for him; get married (always me!), have a baby, have another brother or sister for the first baby; get back to the gym, lose the baby weight (for me), do a triathlon (for him… and eventually me)…  and always, striving to be financially free.


Over the years, the list became the same list, a repeat of the year before.  We still weren’t or aren’t financially free; we are past the baby years and triathlons have been checked off the bucket list and now clash with the kids’ sporting fixtures.  The goals just became another list but the list had lost its excitement, its motivation and rather than feeling good about it, we started to feel deflated.


Until a couple of years ago; when as I boarded a plane, with my first marriage over, my life in tatters, future totally unknown, I took out my pencil and pad alone and wrote down my goals for 2016 – it just said ‘to be happy’. It was the start of my ‘joy list’ as I asked myself, ‘what do I need to do or be or have to be happy?’  My list included spending time with my boys, experimenting in the kitchen with food, running, being with friends, meditating, researching health, spirituality and nutrition, writing my blog….  Simple things that I could do daily, even on the dark days.


Despite starting the year in despair, by the end of December 2017, I had achieved my goal of being happy and I was the happiest I had been for a long time.  I had achieved my goal by doing what I written down and determined as my daily plan.


This year, I stumbled across an interview with Danielle LaPorte by Marie Forleo and subsequently have bought her book – ‘The Desire Map’ where she explains the theory behind this new way of setting goals and why it works.  “You’re not chasing the goal itself – you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”


I have been using this new way of ‘flipping’ goal setting on its head with my clients for various different goals – whether it be around a career change, a health goal or relationship to beautiful results.  I have used for myself as I shape my working life next year and my husband for a new job.  By taking our goals out of our heads with external targets, and taking the practice internally and starting with feelings, we have far more clarity on what we want to achieve and how to achieve it.  Rather than with the ‘same old, same old’ goal list, we have a plan that we are excited about and a list of mantras and a metaphorical signpost to reflect on throughout the year to ensure we end the year on a high!


It is a very simple art, with just a few steps and I would urge you to try it for your goals for 2019 or even just a smaller goal or achievement.  Grab and pencil and pad now… and just go for it!


  1. Ask yourself how do you want to feel? How do you want to feel during and at the end of 2019? (or how do you want to feel in a new job / relationship, etc).  Write and keep writing all the feelings that come to mind…  (happy, healthy, loved, excited, energised…. )  Keep going!
  2. Reflect on the list and choose the top 3 or 4 feelings that you connect with most or feel the most strongly about.
  3. Write those 3 or 4 feelings at the top of a new page each and then ask yourself for each feeling, ‘What do you need to DO and/or BE and/or HAVE to feel that feeling?’ For example, if you want to feel healthy – what makes you feel healthy? What have you done in the past to feel that way?  What else can you do? *
  4. Keep fine tuning your plan and ideas for each feeling and then start to plan each of these in to your daily and weekly schedule.
  5. Write out your mantra or affirmations in the present. For example, ‘I am healthy.  I feel loved.  I am happy.  I am full of energy.’   Keep this safe on a piece of paper or a screen saver so you see it often.
  6. And finally, use your feeling list as a way to determine your path through the year to make decisions.   For example, will eating this cake make me feel healthy?  Will accepting this offer, make me feel happy?



*One of my favourite examples of doing this exercise was with one client who said she wanted to feel loved.  We talked through what she would need to do, be or have to feel loved.  She determined how she could feel loved by surrounding herself with her family, spending more time with her Mum and being with friends who made her feel good about herself.  I asked her one question… How about taking time to love yourself?  This idea brought her to tears as she realised she had the power herself to make her feel loved, rather than looking for others to feel that way.  We wrote up a plan for her to do just that.


As always, feel free to contact me via ali@heal-yourself-happy.com if you have questions or would like more support to write your own goals but more importantly, I would love to hear how you get on!


And lastly – wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy, Healthy New Year!

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