The year of personal leadership

At the beginning of each year, do you set goals and achieve them, or watch big ideas fall by the wayside? In our first blog of the new year, Aidan Kearney explores how to take a fresh look at your aspirations for 2018

New Year, new you. It’s the same old statement, right?

Let’s take a radical new approach to that mantra.

Think about your goal-setting behaviour in terms of personal leadership: leading in your behaviours, thoughts and actions and how these relate to setting and pursuing your goals.

Think about the goals you are setting and why.

All too often, our New Year goals are beset by the same problems. They remain amorphous and undefined. We focus on objectives like losing weight and getting fit. There is nothing wrong these aspirations, but without definition and measures, there is a bit of a problem…

Lose weight: how much, by when? Get fit: for what? Run up some stairs or run a marathon? And by when?

My first recommendation for personal leadership for the coming year is to set objectives which have specific outcomes.

Yes, it’s easy to end up thinking ‘look where I’m starting from and look how far I have to go to reach my goal’. But there is a simple and powerful approach which makes a big difference: taking larger tasks and breaking them into smaller goals actually works. What a revelation!

It’s the basis of project management and well-founded approaches to business and strategy. You can apply it just as easily to your goals.

Why would we need to do this though? Surely, it’s enough to set and define the goals and then work towards them, isn’t it?

This is where motivation comes into play.

It’s key to understand your motivation for what it is you are seeking to change. Are you moving away from a setting, environment or habit that you want to change, or towards a goal?

Ask yourself how uncomfortable is it to stay where you are and the benefit of getting to where you want to be.

Write these thoughts down and keep them to hand: one thing I can assure you of is that motivation levels will rise and fall.

Don’t worry, there’s nothing wrong with this; it’s a perfectly normal function of that wonderful piece of kit inside your head (the human brain). However, if we understand this then we can start to use techniques to manage any motivational slumps we may encounter.

Harness the zeal and motivation that first prompted you to set the goal and then use this to get over the slump and re-focus.

Additionally, look at the reality of how much you’ve moved towards your goal and accomplished so far. In project management language, how many milestones have you already hit? What’s the next milestone and what’s the best way to get there from where you are. Don’t be disheartened by how far you are from the end goal, but rather focus on the next action and how this contributes to the whole.

Finally, practise and develop the art of self-compassion. We can all lose motivation and be challenged in our progress towards our goals. The key thing to is realise when it’s happening and what you want to do about it.

And that’s where we come back to that construct of personal leadership. Be your own leader, approach your planned changes from the perspective of owning them. Others may help you along the way but if you want to achieve something it’s up to you to drive this forward.

So, by all means, start the New Year with ambition and drive, but practice personal leadership, apply yourself to planning and measuring change; take ownership and be honest enough with yourself to understand how you might contribute to bumps in the road.

Be kind enough when you get it wrong not to beat yourself up but to learn from it and refocus on the job in hand.

Once you have developed your capacities for personal leadership, these skills will not only help you achieve your goals but will allow you to help others: your colleagues, teams and businesses to drive towards their goals as well.

You can follow Aidan Kearney on Twitter @aidankearney10 and email him at akearney@cartercorson.co.uk

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