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January is a time that many people think about the challenges ahead and about striving for new aims.

All studies into performance improvement and changing your life for the better agree on one thing – that to achieve anything you need to have a clear goal (or more correctly, goals) to focus upon. All high-achievers set goals. Jessica Ennis, when training, didn’t say “I’m going to go out and run really fast” she had two goals -

1. An Outcome or Dream Goal (Olympic Gold) 2. Performance Goals to achieve the Dream Goal (Fitness Training Programme)

Goals will be critical (if not essential) if you wish to change your life or improve your performance – your goals should be like your North Star, guiding you to where you want to be. You are much more likely to achieve your goals if you have written them down, it also helps lots of people to keep them somewhere visible (I have seen them laminated on key rings, written in diaries, taped into black & reds, on monitors, on mirrors, etc., etc.).

Whilst I would love to achieve Olympic Gold, I know that it is unattainable for me at my age and ability; it is important that goals are achievable, but not too easy or they are likely to be perceived as boring and irrelevant – you need to be pushed. They should also be specific, e.g. “I would like to do an Olympic Distance Triathlon in under three hours” is better than “I want to get fit”.

The time honoured (and yet to be bettered) way of developing Goals is to remember to keep them SMART:

  • SPECIFIC – e.g. to have a new career
  • MEASURABLE – e.g. affording more satisfaction, better hours, happiness and a better use of my skills
  • ACHIEVABLE – (Do I have time and the ability to achieve this? Yes)
  • RELEVANT – e.g. relevant to a wider goal of achieving personal contentment
  • TIME-SPECIFIC – Goals must have a time element attached to them to provide momentum and urgency, e.g. “By September 2015″

Taking the example above, a typical programme for a new career would be broken down into smaller performance goals, e.g.:

  • Produce new, enhanced CV by 1st February.
  • Update LinkedIn Profile by 28th January.


And so on, and so on. Smaller, short term achievable performance goals leading to the “dream goal” are more motivational than huge outcome goals – break it down into achievable pieces and start to see results. Whatever you do, remember to make a start – the longest journey always starts with a single step.

Scott Hutchinson is the Principal for Consumer, Retail & Technology at Interim Partners.

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