I have recently written a series of articles for the Manchester Law Society to help explain how, using Psychotherapy and Life Coaching, people can effect positive and lasting change. Here is one I published in January 2018, the link to the original can be found here.

Ok so it’s that time of year again, that time where we make the same promises to ourselves, ‘I’m going to make a change……’ Yes it’s time for the New Years resolutions! Maybe you even manage to convince yourself that you are actually going to stick to it this year. So what’s it going to be this year? give up smoking, stop drinking alcohol during the week, start exercising, take up a hobby, eat healthy food? As a psychotherapist and life coach this is one of my favourite times of year as everyone what to makes changes! 

So how can this year be different to actually achieve the changes you want? Well here are some tips on how to set goals that I use in my psychotherapy practice which I find to be very effective.

The first step is to positively word your goal; this is important as we are more likely to achieve change when we are moving towards it as opposed to moving away from it. Lets take healthy eating as an example and instead of saying ‘I want to eat less junk food’, word your goal more like ‘I want to eat more healthy food’. Although this in itself in not the best goal it is positively worded. 

Now how to refine your goal. I would suggest using a SMART goal as this will help you to really focus on what it is you exactly wish to achieve. I view this as being a road map to success. So for example if you set your goal as being ‘I want to exercise more’ although this is positively worded it does not provide you with how you are going to achieve this. So lets break down what SMART is. 

S = Specific. 

M = Measurable.

A = Achievable.

R = Realistic.

T = Timely.


Your goal needs to be specific otherwise how will you be able to achieve your goal if you start by not knowing exactly what it is you want to achieve! An example of a specific goal would be ‘I’m going to run a marathon’. One of the best ways to sabotage your success is to fail to be specific around what you want to achieve. I also hear people talk about ‘wanting’ to run a marathon. The difference being is wanting to do something and actually doing it are worlds apart. This may seem like semantics but the way in which you use your words can be the difference between success and yet another failed New Years resolution. ‘I AM going to’ not ‘want’ or ‘try’ to.


Next ensure that you are able to measure your goal, because unless you do this how will you know when you have been successful? So staying with the exercise theme, an example of a measurable goal would be, ‘I want to go running three times a week after work’ however this may not be enough to achieve your goal of running that marathon. I would suggest adding something that would show your progression towards your ultimate goal. Such as ‘I will go running three times a week after work and increase my distance by one mile every week’. 

Achievable & Realistic

Now your plan needs to be achievable and realistic. People often get these confused as they sound very similar in meaning. To take our example of running a marathon in three months time, it might be achievable, if you had nothing else to do with your time. However if you work fifteen hours and sit in an office chair all day it’s not very realistic. A more realistic and achievable goal might be to reduce to a half marathon or take longer to achieve it. 


Lastly make sure that you add timescales to your goal. A never ending goal is a never achieved one! The difference between ‘I’m going to run a marathon one day’ compared to ‘I’m going to run a marathon in six months time’. Take a moment to say each of these statements to yourself (even if you don’t want to run a marathon!) and see if you feel any differently about either one.      

OK so now you have your SMART goal, your road map to success, your path to glory what could go wrong? 

‘Well I’ve tried this before and I still didn’t stick to it!’ 

You need then to have a very strong ‘WHY’ attached to each goal that is underpinned by your values. Having a positive emotional attachment to a goal means you are much more likely to achieve success. Ask yourself why it is that you want to run a marathon. There may be many reasons such as health, fitness, personal achievement or something to tick off the bucket list. If you start thinking about your goal of running a marathon because you value your health, having a sense of personal achievement in your life or maybe for a charity that it close to your heart, you are significantly more likely to not just achieve your goal but to continue on after.  

The last part is to take as much action as you can towards your goal immediately. Write it down, tell others, ask others to support you to achieve your goal (Remember you don’t have to do it all alone!) or if you are lacking in knowledge order books that could help. As soon as you have made a goal start to embody what you would be like if you have already achieved it. For example you might want to buy yourself a ‘gold medal’ and think about what you will feel like when you actually complete the marathon. This symbolic gesture will help remind you what it is you are trying to achieve when you do hit that wall.  

No matter what thoughts or feelings you have the only thing that will ensure your success is taking SMART emotional action towards your goal. 

Taking SMART action = Achieving. 

This is just a brief overview of how, as a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, I could help you to make goals that are unpinned by values, are emotionally linked and use them on your path to success.  If you want to use psychotherapy to better understand how to set goals personal to you or maybe you need to better understand how you sabotage your success contact me to discuss your individual needs. 


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