Goals Are Great. Awareness Comes First.

  • Goals
  • 5 mins read

2024 is well underway. We’ve all made our resolutions. We’ve all made our ambitious declarations. We have big plans for the New Year. Bring it on, we say!

A fresh calendar marks a demarcation line for a fresh start. Opportunity abounds. It’s natural for you to feel the urge to set goals—for yourself, for your business, for your relationship with the world around you.

News flash! In this annual rush, we’re skipping the first step–awareness. Before the resolutions, declarations, and big plans, before all the January goal setting–first take the time to look inside.  

Goal setting.  It’s an inside job.

For years, I took part in the annual goal setting rush. I compiled exhaustive to-do lists—feverishly cataloging the goals I hoped to achieve over the next year.

It didn’t work. But why?  Why did all this goal setting trip me up instead of pushing me forward?

I was building out goals blindly, without first taking the time to look at my own values, behaviors and thoughts, the results I really wanted or the blocks that got in my way of achieving my goals. I couldn’t see how I was getting in my own way because I wasn’t looking.

When I learned this, it changed everything about my goal setting and achievement.

I discovered that I had a tendency to absorb the expectations of others, to define my goals according to perspectives that were not my own. We’re all subject to so many external influences —professional pressures, personal relationships, cultural norms. It isn’t obvious to us that these external influences, and many unexamined patterns of automatic thinking and old stories, are driving our goal creation in the first place.  Awareness allows us to look at all of this for what it is. 

Awareness is so vital to your journey as your own leader and as a leader of others. Once I understood this–and only then–I was able to move on and get down to the business of identifying different goals that I wanted and make different choices to accomplish them, from the inside out.

Step One: Block Out the Noise

Awareness comes out of creating the conditions for it –  muting the noise all around you. And for women leaders, life can be extremely noisy!

At any given moment, your child is texting you for homework help, your aging parent is calling because they still can’t figure out the remote control, and your email inbox is piling up.

Push the “Silence” button on all of it—just for a little bit.

Hear your own thoughts more clearly, notice your feelings, remind yourself of your core values and you can see the results you actually want with your eyes wide open. Let your who and your why drive your goal creation. 

Try it.  

Step Two: Take Stock of Your Core Values

We face unique challenges as women leaders. Awareness plays an especially important role in staking out your own identity, defining your leadership style, and steeling yourself against unproductive, default patterns.

Take stock of yourself. The benefits are considerable including:

  • Improved performance;
  • A clearer sense of purpose;
  • Stronger conviction in your beliefs, values, and identity;
  • A richer relationship with yourself and with others; and
  • An internal compass that guides your decision making and keeps you focused on the right things.

Your core values, your greatest aspirations, the endeavors that give you more energy than stress–identify these things before you set your goals. 

Take a look under the hood before you get on the road.  

Step Three: Shift Your Perspective

So how, as a leader, do you prioritize reflection when you’ve made your success through always rushing into action? It takes a shift, in perspective, mindset, energy – whatever you like to call it.

To quote Marshall Goldsmith, “What got you here won’t get you there.”

I once worked with a client who was reluctant to “waste time” looking “underneath the hood.”  She was in a rush to set goals and take action.  

It was only when we began to look at her core self that she started to make connections. Suddenly, she could give a name to what her gut had been telling her for years. Her thinking shifted. She could see what she really wanted, and could then set goals to get there. 

It was like turning on a light switch. 

Awareness is a Practice and a Journey.

You can tell how I feel about Awareness by this point. It is one of the most important practices you can develop within yourself for your goal setting, your leadership and your life.  I am excited for you to start today in your own practice. Be gracious with yourself and as always, have some fun too. Let me know what you find and how it impacted your January list of goals!