It happens every year. Stop this. Change that. Avoid almost everything. When it comes to resolutions, the list of things you’re not allowed to do can be never-ending. And soul destroying.

As someone who believes goals are for life and not just for after Christmas, it got me thinking more about how the language we use can hugely affect the success of the goals we set. Read on for my three tips to significantly boost your chances of reaching your ambitions – or whatever you like to call them!

1. Work out exactly what it is you want


It feels like there’s a list of universal resolutions – and your job is to pick one or two. Get fitter, lose weight, drink less, get a promotion, get off your phone. But one size doesn’t fit all. Pin yourself down and consider what would make 2022 particularly extraordinary for you.


Ask yourself:

  • What’s bothering me at the moment?
  • What needs my attention?
  • What have I been putting off?
  • What just won’t go away?
  • What makes me happy?
  • What do I want more of?
  • What do I want less of?
  • How do I want to feel?

The clearer and more specific you can get about what you want in your life this year, the better. Get it out of your head and onto paper. Discuss it with loved ones.


If you’d like some help, try this ‘Be Do Have’ exercise. Write down everything that you’d like to be, do and have over the next 12 months with a brief explanation as to why it’s important to you. If you can’t answer the ‘why?’, it can’t be that important so take it off the list. You’ll probably have some initial ideas and then draw a blank. Sleep on it and come back to it a day later. More will bubble up.

Then read your list. What is it telling you? What’s jumping out? What are you going to commit to? Make your goals razor-sharp.


2. Decide what words work for you


Once you know what you want, it’s time to make a plan. But if the word ‘goals’ makes you squirm, find one that doesn’t.

Recently, a client I work with was really nervous about an upcoming interview. We established that it was the word ‘interview’ that was putting her in a tailspin. By renaming the experience as her ‘moment in the spotlight’, she was able to refocus her energy on what she wanted to showcase and enjoy the process. I wasn’t surprised when she got the job.

If you don’t like ‘goals’, grab a thesaurus. Aims. Targets. Desires. Ambitions. Intentions.

Deepak Chopra says: ‘An intention is a directed impulse of consciousness that contains the seed form of that which you aim to create.’

I like the word intention. It’s softer than goal yet feels like it has real energy and curiosity. It’s a commitment that’s not fully formed but sets you on a course. It’s a promise to something that’s important. It’s not having all the answers but being willing to explore what they could be. This year, as well as specific SMART goals (a framework often used in corporate settings), I also have some more gentle intentions to work towards.

Reframing and renaming can work in all aspects of life. Give it a try. I dare you.

3. Keep things positive


At this time every year thousands of people start a diet or fitness regime with the goal of losing something – pounds, inches, a dress size. It can work, but after a few weeks the negativity can also get you down. ‘It’s not working!’… ‘I’ve been naughty and had a cake!’… ‘I’m giving up!’

It’s time to reframe all those negatives into what it is you want to gain instead. So instead of the ‘By Easter I want to lose 10lb’ narrative, you rework it into ‘By Easter I will have completed couch to 5km with my sister and will be able to run up the stairs without getting out of breath’.

How does that sound to you? Sounds great to me. More appealing, more realistic, less prohibitive and not as breakable. It’s also positive! And losing weight will be the lovely by-product of your now positive intention.

In a work context, take a look at your annual objectives. What language are they in – positive or negative? How much efficiency saving, budget cutting, headcount reducing is in there? How could you re-work these objectives into the positive?

This January, I challenge you to give up on giving up and instead get clear about what you want, check your language, turn negatives into positives and then notice what you notice. For anything you don’t want, what is it that you do want instead? For everything you want to give up, what is it you actually want to gain?

Happy goal/ intention/ resolution setting!

This article was written by career coach, Emily Bal.