Lack of direction? Goal Setting 101

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there????


There are certain periods in my life to date when I haven’t known where I was going. I’ve drifted, I’ve felt quite lost and as a consequence rather low. It’s a funny feeling not really quite knowing where you’re going (especially for a control freak optimist!). I’m sure there have been times in your life where you’ve felt the same? I have a strategy to provide direction and purpose to your days and life.


It’s time for you to set some goals. For the majority of my life mainly because of environmental factors and sport, I’ve been a big goal setter. Always looking for the next challenge. Always looking for the next competition to aim for. And always trying to improve.


My parents used to sit my brothers and I down from about the age of 10 every January before school started back and make us set goals. Pretty hard out really! However, it created great habits which I still subscribe to and advocate for today.

Why we need goals…

Having goals allows direction. Direction creates purpose and provides motivation. Without goals, you’re a rudderless ship with simply hope that you may find your destination. With goals, you’re full steam ahead no matter how daunting the route may be. Goals are really the epitome of the Japanese principle of Kaizen which translates to “continuous improvement”.


What should a goal look like?
I was introduced to the iSMART goal format a number of years ago and it’s a great way to create meaningful goals. The acronym spells out the different components your goal should have. So instead of just wanting to become a better golfer your goal could look like…In six months’ time I want to lower my handicap to twenty. Ask yourself is your goal inspirational to you? Is it specific? Can I measure if I’m effective or not? You get the picture. The key is that it’s about you.

  • I                 Inspirational
  • S                Specific
  • M               Measurable
  • A                Achievable
  • R                Realistic
  • T                Time

This chart was on my wall for a year out from the 2012 Olympics with the goals I needed to hit to make the team. Everyday I woke up and had a purpose because my mission was clear

Goals create accountability

One of the great things about setting a goal is that you become accountable. All of a sudden you have a sense of commitment to actually setting out what you want to achieve. At this point your stomach may have a funny feeling in it – fantastic! Embrace it and get to work.

As an athlete, I was constantly setting goals. Fortunately, athletics is a very objective sport so I always had a measure. In the heptathlon I was never short of goals and not just specific to the event outcome. It could be that I wanted to do a certan distance in the long jump but breaking it down further I knew I needed to firstly record a jump (many times I didn’t!). To do this I needed to run at a certain speed, hit my markers throughout my runup, take off at the right angle, project my hips at a certain angle and when it really came down to it land as far away from the white long jump take off board as possible!

Do I always achieve my goals? I fricken wish! Goals are targets but sometimes for whatever reason you don’t hit your target. This doesn’t mean an abandonment of what you want to achieve. It means an adjustment of how you’re getting there and potentially revisiting the R-Realistic and A-achievable components of your goal.


Accountability achieved through sharing of your goals

In order to create accountability and commitment around your goals I would strongly recommend writing them down. Even better share them with others. In doing so shit gets real. The words that form your goal create purpose and the people that you share them with will help hold you to account. Yes sometimes it doesn’t work out the way you plan but you’re more adaptable than you think and at times yes we need to revise our goals depending on different circumstances that come our way in the game of life.


Go forth and conquer

Goals require action. Stop talking now. Write them down in the ISMART format. Share them. Now go to it. You’ve got this.

, , , , , , ,


  1. 10 minute workout - my go to for a hit on a busy day:) | Sarah Cowley - October 3, 2017

    […] on your knees start there and again build onto your toes as you feel able. Set your own personal goal to eventually make it to 10 reps, 10 times and go for […]

  2. knee-care-essentials-for-taking-care-of-yourself - October 11, 2017

    […] huge change in your pain! If you want to change your weight or start being more active click this link to some great goal setting […]

  3. Family adventures on the Tongariro Crossing | Sarah Cowley - October 17, 2017

    […] was certainly a mix of excitement and nerves leading into the day. Everyone prepared well for our goal and had the right gear. We were not short of snacks or lunch (Samoans don’t generally go […]

  4. Breaking boundaries and entering new frontiers....Dr Ellen Ochoa | Sarah Cowley - November 8, 2017

    […] the extra hurdles Ellen has faced she remained resilient in her goal to be an astronaut.With a background in physics and engineering Ellen tried three times before she […]

Leave a Reply