Reaching our goals is partially determined by the time we invest in creating them. I’ve read a lot of books and articles about the fundamentals of goal setting and I’ve distilled that information into my 3 Top Goal Getters. I use these fundamental ideas when setting my own goals – and when I re-assess them during the year.

These 3 Goal Getters will virtually ensure that you reach your goals.

1. Use last year’s struggles and successes to inform your new goals.

As I’ve said before, it is critical to do some work on reconciling our successes and failures from the past year to set ourselves up to succeed for next year. While some people focus on studying what didn’t work in minute detail, I prefer to look at what did work. It’s okay to take a little time to mourn your disappointments/failures, but don’t dwell on them.

Instead we need to take the time to pull apart our successes – to closely examine why they were successes. Did your work environment affect the successes? Were they a particular type of task? Or, were they a particular type of overall project? How did you know you succeeded? How did you feel when you succeeded? Did you receive recognition? Was it the type of recognition you need?

Find the patterns

When we spend time thinking about those questions, we’ll see patterns. We can figure out how to repeat that pattern (or recognize it when it’s in front of us) and make sure we have the opportunity to create that type of success again. And, since we’ve taken the tasks or projects apart to the very smallest level, we’ve learned how we work best. We can grab what worked for us and take it forward into the New Year!

So, what about the things that didn’t work? Maybe things that we don’t consider a failure but didn’t quite work out, or just did not work for us – this could be anything from an approach we take to work, a type of assignment we receive, to goals we set that just didn’t work. There’s an easy answer to this one. Spend a little time identifying these things and then torch them because, hey, they didn’t work. Don’t waste much time going through the coulda/ shoulda/ woulda chorus. We can torch what didn’t work, grab our successes, and move forward confidently.

2. Goals should be catalysts.

Dictionary check: a catalyst is an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action. Yep. Check it out. It provokes significant change. Not some easy-to-do task. A catalyst pushes us forward. It has the elements that can speed up our rate of change. A catalyst is critical if we want to level up our work or our lives. Just for the record (and a brief commercial announcement) the best coaches are catalysts for change. We help you push to the next level.

What do catalyst goals look like? The first thing they do is energize us to stretch so we can reach them. Maybe we’ve been toying with taking a technology class. And we decide to add it to our goals for our New Year. Because, what could be better than acquiring a new skill that we like, is in demand, and will help us earn more money?

This goal acts as a catalyst because when we pursue it, we get excited about what we’re learning. We’re eager to deploy our new expertise and we’re motivated to make sure we get paid to use it. We might even forget to be scared to look for a new job. It provokes significant action and change.

Goals that remind us why we chose them also act as catalysts. For example, maybe your goal is to feel great again. You choose to accomplish that by getting your body mass indicator from obese to normal – say from 32.8 to 24.1 (I did this). When you choose to base your goal on body mass instead of just weight, you’re looking at more than just pounds. You’re looking at building muscle and losing weight. So, every time you look at this goal, you remind yourself it’s about your overall health, not just losing weight.

3. Base goals on values.

This is absolutely critical. Our goals have to be based on our values, not someone else’s. And, this applies to both our work and life goals. Just because your boss values working more than family time, doesn’t mean you do. As a matter of fact, when our values and our workplace or boss’s values are too out of synch, we find that we can’t stay in that job. We may not realize what’s going on at first. But eventually we figure out that your values aren’t in synch.

Let’s take a goal that addresses how you value work-life balance. Let’s say you’re working, on average, 10-12 hours a day. But you have a family – and you’d like to have a life. But this is what you feel like you have to do to get your work done. Your want to live out your values by spending more time with your family (I didn’t say quality time because time with your family is quality time).

Dig deep

Your goal could be to figure out why you’re working 10-12 hours a day. You could track your time and see where the logjams are and where there’s too much wasted time. As you’re tracking all of this, you’ll also find ways to save time. I’ll bet you can even figure out a way to cut back to working a couple of long days a week – not 5 of them.

Now let’s look at a specific work value. You value change and variety at work. You get bored when you do the same thing all the time. And, uh-oh, you’re stuck behind a desk, creating Excel reports most days. You could create a goal to find a way to talk to your supervisor or manager about making your job more interesting. You could come up with some ideas yourself. Maybe you’re creative, so you could figure out how to present that data in a more dynamic and useful way. Maybe you like to be in front of people. You could propose that you present some of these reports yourself.

Successful goals match our values

Our values keep us going when things get tough. It’s why teachers continue to teach when they’re exhausted and worked to the bone. They value education and seeing their students succeed, so their values both inform and fuel their goals.

When you take the time to reconcile the previous year before you address the New Year, when you create goals that act as catalysts, and when your goals align with your values, you create a well-designed and well-thought-out path that will propel you forward to where you want to go.