A New Take On Goal Setting and Igniting Motivation

With the New Year comes a natural tendency to reflect and maybe a desire to make some changes. Some people really dislike the resolutions that come with January, but this has always been a favourite time of year for me. I enjoy looking back on the past year and setting goals for the coming months.

Let’s shake things up a bit, though. Maybe we need a new approach to goal setting and motivation? Afterall, we all fall victim to fading motivation and bad habits. Here are some of my strategies for tackling change.

A Fresh Approach to Goal Setting

What if we focused on how we want to feel first, rather than being driven by results? Here is a strategy I like to use that puts emotion at the forefront of change:

  1. Ask yourself how you want to feel. Rather than starting with goal setting, begin with emotion. This way you have a clear idea of what you want both at the end, when you’ve accomplished your goal, but also during the process. For example, you might think, “I want to feel healthier this year and proud of my accomplishments”. This gives you an emotional goal, rather than just an accomplishment based goal.

  2. Ask yourself what kinds of things make you feel the emotions you identified in step one. For example, you might recognize that in order to feel more healthy and proud, you could drink more water, or get to bed before 10 pm. Identify some actions you could take to get the feelings you want to get.

  3. Set clear goals. Okay, this one seems obvious, but if your goals are clear and actionable, you’ll know what you want to actually get done. Of course, you can use tried and true strategies like SMART goals (google that!), or you can just work on being specific about your goal. For example, you might say “I’d like to be in bed by 10 pm with the lights out at least 5 days of the week”. The more specific, the better.


Okay, now we’ve got a clear set of goals rooted in our emotional desires. If you feel like you haven’t done justice to that first part, take some time to go back. Remember that you can have more than one goal or emotional outcome you desire. Maybe you want to feel more connected to people in your life, or you want to feel more assertive…identify the emotional places you would like to go and then list any actions that might get you there. Next, we tackle motivation.

The Truth About Motivation

I have some bad news for you. Motivation will not magically come out of nowhere and bop you on the head. Okay, sometimes it does – like when you open your pantry for the 500th time, and the mess finally becomes too much. That day you might just be motivated enough to take everything out and finally clean the whole thing. But most of the time, motivation is much more elusive. You will often have things you know you should do, like going for a walk or getting those papers dealt with, but you just don’t feel driven to create that change. Sorry to be the one to tell you! Here’s the good news: you can create motivation.

The real magic is in this simple equation: an emotional reason + a first step = motivation.

Let me explain what I mean. If you did the goal-setting exercise above, you already have an emotional reason for wanting to do something. You know why you want to do it: it will make you feel something you want to feel. Now, if you take that reason and you add some small action, you will see a rise in motivation.

For example, let’s say you want to feel more excited in your daily life, and you think that taking a swing dancing class will help deliver that excitement. The next part of the equation is to take a first step (pardon the pun). Maybe you can look into swing dancing in your area. The act of looking up classes makes it more likely that you will feel motivated to follow through. The bigger the initial step, the bigger the motivation jump.

I know what you’re thinking: but Kristeen, I’m not motivated enough to take that first step! Yes, I know. This is why it’s crucial that you understand that motivation is not something that just happens. Stop waiting for some impulse to take over and create excitement about change. You’ll be waiting a long time! You must create motivation by first taking action.

In other words, you must decide to do the first part BEFORE you feel like it.

The good news is that once you take the first step, you will likely feel a huge spike in motivation to continue. Success! You had a goal, took action, and then felt motivated to keep going. You’re on the road to building a habit that helps you feel exactly how you want to feel.

Try this strategy out, and let me know how it goes!

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