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  • Writer's pictureNaomi Kitchener

Beyond SMART - the nitty gritty of goals

Updated: Feb 6, 2023

Aloha friends,

I feel like there’s been more-than-expected chaos in my life this year. I can't imagine I'm the only one. A month or so ago I caught my inner dialogue complaining “if only the chaos would stop, I would do so much better”. Luckily, a wise voice inside said something it hadn't said before: “what makes you think the chaos will ever stop?”. WHAT?! Then a very short and sharp conversation was had between these two voices which went something like this:

Me: I don’t like the chaos. I didn’t ask for it. Other people are causing this chaos, it’s not mine. I don’t like it, it’s getting in the way of my goals. It shouldn’t be in my life, I want it to stop NOW!

Also me: Life is chaos. There is no avoiding it, there’s no controlling it. To be part of life is to be part of the chaos (cue eye roll).

Me: Give me order and predictability. Then I'll be able to achieve something. Please, can someone cut me a break here?

Also me: You can predict this: Every year there will be chaos - so plan on it.

And that, friends, was the abrupt end of the argument between my selves and an important step in accepting life on its terms.

It got me thinking about how 2023 might be different. Google is awash with goal-setting models and templates and as we enter the high season of goal-setting, I wanted to share with you some thoughts that go deeper and get to the nitty-gritty. It’ll cover:

First, take stock

The 4 steps of self-reflection

Form the goal

Set yourself up to “win”

But first - keep an eye out on social media where I’ll unpack these core concepts to expand understanding. AND…. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. There’s not enough room for everything I want to share about goals so very soon I’m releasing a free e-book for you to download. It will include a plethora of questions for you to ask yourself each step of the way. I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready – wish me luck!

So let’s kick off.


Before you throw yourself into a new year, take a moment to look back and appreciate everything about 2022.

Self-reflection is important because relying on others’ feedback has its limitations. Others are focused on their goals, not yours. Others don’t know what it’s like to be you. Others’ feedback can be addictive and disempowering and self-reflection will keep you grounded.

Back when I was new to corporate workshop facilitation, a wise senior colleague gave me the best advice: when I receive a pile of participant feedback forms at the end of a workshop, don't look at them until the next day when I’ve completed my own review. If I was fixated on my failures self-reflection let me see the things I did right, helped me to be open and receptive to others’ criticisms in a constructive way and made it easier to demote the less-useful feedback to where it belonged (they didn’t like the brownies? I won’t lose sleep over that!).

You see, not all feedback is of equal value, whether coming from the outside or the inside.

There will always be more feedback than you have resources to action.

The 4 Steps of Self-Reflection

Step 1: List your successes “what worked well for me was…” this is where you can appreciate yourself for the effort you applied, feel proud of yourself for being brave, and thank yourself for how far you’ve come. Take a moment to let all of your successes soak in and celebrate them.

Step 2: List your challenges “what didn’t work well for me was…” this is where you can get thoughts about the hiccups, catastrophes, omissions and challenges out of your brain and onto paper. Instead of blaming, you get to focus in a strategic way.

Step 3: List the things you’d do differently if you did 2022 all over again because here’s the thing: 2023 will also have hopes, dreams, successes, chaos, challenges, loss, frustrations and failure. You will get another chance to learn and grow next year.

Step 4: Get a highlighter and mark the one or two “do-differentlys” from Step 3 that will have the most impact. This is what you will focus on the next chance you get.

You might be tempted to skim over one part of the process but they’re all equally important. This reflection is not to put on rose-coloured glasses or to torture yourself about perceived shortcomings. The point is to a) understand that every year has its successes and challenges b) give yourself robust, constructive coaching c) build your abilities going forward.


Don’t you love how a new year offers a clean slate that brings feelings of freedom and hope? Thanks to our natural desire for comfort and because growth and change are inherently uncomfortable, if you want something to be different in your life you’ll need to be intentional about it.

  • Accept yourself as you are. When you form a goal, you want it to be from a place of creativity and freedom, not from a place of shame and loathing. Ask “What can help me to feel good about where I’m at right now?” Daily gratitude practices are a good start if you’re finding it hard to accept what is.

  • Allow your heart to want what it wants. This is where your goals come from. Yearning can be a catalyst for the most incredible adventures. It’s all right if you don’t know what you want. Start small: every morning ask your heart “what do I want today?”

  • If you’re a person who struggles with procrastination or puts off going for what you really want, ask yourself: “Would I rather fail to start, or fail knowing I tried?” and “Would I rather have certainty and fail, or have uncertainty and possibly succeed?” and “What will I lose by not going for it?”. Not knowing the outcome when you begin a journey to give yourself what you want most can be terrifying.

  • Consider your why “what’s the value or meaning this goal will give to my life?”. Sometimes what the heart wants defies logic, and that’s okay.

  • Give yourself time. If I said to you that I could guarantee you’d have a solid 30 years of healthy active years in which to achieve any goal you desire, would that change your goal in any way? Don’t let your perception of time be a barrier.

  • Your goal will require action. Find a way to incorporate that action into your identity: “In 2023 I will be a person who…” If you want to run a marathon, you will be a person who runs. If you want an education, you will be a person who reads. If you want to quit smoking, you will be a person who is smoke-free.

Note to self: you don’t need a new year to get a clean slate. A mindset of freedom and hope can be created at any moment, even this moment if you wanted to.


So you’ve decided on a goal. Hopefully, it’s audacious. By now you should have a flutter in your stomach or broken into a sweat. You deserve a fair shot at it so take the time to set yourself up to win. Here are some things to consider:

  • Test your willingness. Ask: “How willing am I to start, even if I don’t yet know how to achieve my goal?” and “What’s my plan to get to the start-line?”. Willingness is what drives you to put the work in to achieve your goals.

  • Like the order of your priorities. When your priorities clash or resources are limited, you need a way to move forward with minimal drama. Priorities are a vertical list, showing that each one has an ever-decreasing value as you move down the list. If you can never seem to make time for something “important” it’s because you have other priorities that are higher on your list. If you don’t like the way you use your time and resources it might be time to reassess the order of your priorities.

  • Build your commitment. There will be times when moving towards your goal is inconvenient, painful, lonely and lots of other unpleasant things. Rate your current commitment to the goal on a scale. Then ask “What do I need to do to go up the scale?”.

  • Audacious goals demand frequent action. What will you do every day to reel in your goal?

  • Find ways to feel good during the journey, not just at the end. Motivation is fuelled by dopamine. Your brain naturally craves dopamine and can become very motivated by the anticipation of a reward. You can use that desire for dopamine by making goal-related activities more enjoyable.

  • Expect to falter. If you’re not failing, you’re not learning anything new. How will you handle setbacks along the way? If you have a current goal and you’re not failing, you might want to revisit your goal and develop it to stretch you more.

  • Your goal will test how adaptable you are. What that means is that you’ll make a plan and some things won’t work the way you expected. You’ll need to adjust your plan and the question is, how quickly can you make those changes? How can you be more adaptable in your approach?

  • Decide how you’ll track your progress. Working towards goals can be a numbers game. Assuming you’ve created a SMART goal, you’ll be aware of looming deadlines but it can be easy to put things off day-to-day. Sometimes you can feel like you’re doing all the work but not seeing any progress. When you’re having a “what on earth am I doing this for?” moment, it helps to be able to review your progress and see how far you’ve come.

  • Review your resources. What resources are at your disposal? That includes time, money and people or relationships. Then consider what resources you need and whether you need to develop a plan to build resources.

Lastly, what happens if you don’t succeed? Failure is hugely perception-based and can feel like heartbreak: realising you’re just not cut out for the career you dreamed of or that the baby you want isn’t biologically possible or that you couldn’t finish that race.

Recently my partner Mr D took part in a bike ride. It was a charity fundraiser in which riders had four hours to complete as many laps as possible. Mr D’s goal was to ride 100km which he'd never done before. When the clock reached zero he’d completed 37 laps covering 99.9km. Although he achieved other goals that day - improving his fitness and raising money for charity - the distance was achingly close but technically he failed and there was nothing he could do about it.

You can decide what the result means: Will this failure be the reason to quit? Or will you decide that you’re just not there yet? Mr D. is keen to do it again next year and I'm certain he'll smash 100km. The process has changed him for the better, he’ll know what to do differently next time. So are you willing to risk heartbreak? Only you will know if your goals are worth it and what failure will mean – just be sure you like your answer.

With much aloha,

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