How to set goals you'll actually achieve.

A framework for goal setting as we launch into 2021 with new hopes and dreams.

Good morning

Happy January, we did it, 2020 is behind us.

2021 looks… interesting.

But hope is on the horizon even if things do not look so pretty.

When the external situation all we can focus on is our internal mindset and what does lie within our control (good habits, reasonable news consumption, emotional resilience etc).

Whereas last newsletter we looked back to take stock of 2020 today we look forward. To build a plan around what we can.

What hopes do you have for 2021?

My M.O this month is planning and goal setting and I wanted to give you a flavour of what this looks like over in my world.

Read on for tools and tips if you’re in the mood to get your objective setting hat on!

Image source: behance.net/narageovana

The Four Steps to Goal Setting

If you’ve been following this newsletter any amount of time you’ll know I love a structured list format per topic, and today is no different. We’ll be breaking down goal setting into the following aspects:

  1. Creating a Vision

  2. Setting Intentions

  3. Building a Plan

  4. Taking action

You can use my break-down of each step provided, and step five would be on step further — to seek support on a 1-1 basis to get exclusive access to coaching.

Read on for more.


i) Creating a Vision

Goals connect the present to the future you want to create. They require a shift — a change in focus, energy or momentum.

To begin your initial step involves dreaming up where you want to get to by adding context and texture to your innate desires. Creating a vision is an exercise in faith (what do you hope might happen for you).

For this exercise you may want to do one year from now, or for some of you going further ahead makes more sense.

So, where is this end destination you have in mind? What does it look like?

Dreaming up your vision and then crafting a vision statement that reflects it requires thinking big — removing limitations, tapping into your hearts desires and letting your subconscious mind override the rational responses.

Allow yourself to visualise a future that has all the things you hope for. You can do this using a guided meditation, through journalling, using crafts or with a coach like me. There is no right or wrong way provided you can get out of your own way; shifting your brain into hopes and dreams land and far away from inner critic territory!

A vision is your north star that guides you. Deliberately vague, it’s less about the ‘how’ and more about the ‘where’ and ‘why’.

Why do you want this thing?

Your ‘why’ should be aligned to who you and are the life you want to lead. Aligned to your values and your mission.

Need some help here? Try these earlier posts:

ii) Setting Intentions

Once you have your vision in mind, set intentions for how you want to show up, to feel, or be whilst pursuing it.

This is about selecting ways of being that are essential when it comes to actualising what you want.

For example, if your vision is performance related (e.g. getting a promotion, being a better leader) your intention might be related to one of the traits essential in getting you there, such as discipline, focus, or proactivity.

Consider the gap that exists between where you are now and where you want to be.

The intention you set will revolve around the way of being that best describes what should change in order to get you to that end result.

You have to change a belief to make change happen and so I encourage you to dig deep and look at any limiting beliefs that might be holding you back from seeing this as possible. (Low confidence, imposter syndrome, procrastination, fear being the common ones).

When you’re done sit with your intentions to make sure they are an accurate summary of what you want by the end of 2021, then, you can get started on setting your goals and building the plan.


iii) Building a Plan

Image credit: behance.net/jamesrdesign

This is where we get into the how of goal setting.

Tangible, measurable and quantifiable (yes I know, they all mean the same thing but they are fun to say) actions and targets.

So if your vision involves ‘setting up a business’ and your intention is to be ‘balanced’ e.g. not working 24/7 your plan may include timelines about when you work and deadlines for tasks.

When building your plan focus only on what you can control.

Full transparency, last year one of my goals was to hit 1k email subscribers. Today I’m still in the hundreds category. I cannot fully control this goal but I can control the output that will lead to this result.

The output might be consistency in posting, writing and researching quality content, and sharing posts on social media. Sticking to a schedule for these three things is what I can control. The number of people who ultimately subscribe, I cannot.

(I can ask you to share this newsletter with someone who might like it though!)

Share The Ask.

So as you design your plan, look not just at the outcome you want, but the process you will use to get there (the activities that will lead to you this result).

Goal setting is a mixture of an art and a science.

There are plenty of frameworks that exist out there. You can read my post on setting meaningful career goals to learn more about the SMART framework and setting process goals.


iv) Taking Action


So you’ve set your vision, intentions and plan according to what you most want.

Now it’s time to turn it into reality.

Do this by reviewing your plan to consider what the actions it leads to would be.

‘Create website’ as a step doesn’t tell you too much about what you’ll be doing or how long it will take. Better to break this down into ‘research web platforms’, ‘buy a domain’, ‘choose a logo’ etc.

So review your plan and turn what you’ve written into doing words (verbs) that tell you what you need to do. All your plans should have associated words and timeframes, and remember, be realistic. If you have four big goals for the year can you focus on one per quarter, for example.

Having the right tools can be helpful here. I got this beautiful 2021 diary as a Christmas present made out of stone paper (eco-friendly, tree-free and super smooth).

Taking action is also about setting yourself up both before you do the work, and during, for optimum success. Whenever you sit down to work on your goal (or stand up to run if your goal is run a marathon) you should know exactly what it is you are you doing in that moment.

Deciding to do the thing and doing the thing are not the same thing.

So decide up front what you will do (CEO mode) and then do it at a later point (employee mode).

Too many of us, myself included, often start their days deciding what actions to take and then expect to switch modes into doing it right off the bat. But when taking action, moving from thinking into doing can be a tricky transition.

TLDR: build your action plan before you begin to execute.

And last but not least - in fact most importantly - get some accountability for your plan. Get someone to check in with your progress who is on your side and can help prevent the good intentions from being just good intentions, but to turn into your reality.


Those are your four steps. Well done on reading…. now over to you to bring them to reality.


Want a helping hand to set goals you’ll actually achieve? Get clearer thinking and accountability to boot?

Image source: behance.net/jamesrdesign

I’m offering 1-1 Goal Setting + Planning sessions for the month of January.

For people who have big ambitions for the year, are full of expectation and hope, just want a little guidance to help structure their thinking, clarify specific goals and create a solid plan with associated actions that truly move the needle.

Think of this session as an introduction to coaching — working with me at a lower price point than my usual services — leaving with a super actionable plan out the back of it.

Here’s how it works:

  • Sign up by replying to this email or filling out the form here

  • I’ll email you with the next steps (pre-session questionnaire, invoice + link to book in)

  • We have a 90 min 1-1 coaching session, including a guided visualisation exercise, to then set intentions, make plan and action these results. Everything is aligned to your decision and I bear no influence on your goals or plans, my role is not to tell you what to do, but ask you the right questions to come to your own best answers.

  • Post session: I share your session notes + recording in a private coaching page

  • 4 weeks later: 20 min follow up accountability call to check you’re still on course.

Total investment: £225 (Includes VAT).

Here’s a video of client testimonials from 2020 if you want a bit more context on what people get from working with me.


Thanks for reading and I hope you got some value as it relates to setting and working towards achieving your goals.

Ready to work with me one-one in coaching?

You can read more about my coaching here or book a free no-obligation call if you’re ready to take action on building your dream business.

Until next time ✌️

Ellen Donnelly, Founder + Chief Coach, The Ask.