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How to Set Yourself Up for Success

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A new year brings hope and a feeling of a fresh start. I listened to a friend share how excited she was about the goals she was pursuing in this new year. And then I watched her expression change as she admitted her fear of not achieving them. That got me thinking – how can you set yourself up for success?

7 Steps to Set Yourself up for Success

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Your Definition of Success

When I first started my own business, I found many women who wanted to support me and were willing to share their advice. One of those women, Missy Baker, looked me in the eye and said, “if there is one thing I want you to leave with today, it is to make time to think about what your definition of success is.” Missy’s point was that your definition of success is personal so it will be different for each person and it may change over time.

The article, Stop Setting Goals You Don’t Care About, states: “Many people fail on their professional development goals for the year because they take on a lot of goals — goals that they feel they “should” do but ultimately don’t energize them.” I believe this pertains to professional and personal goals. And the article goes on to share that the person can feel badly for not achieving a goal when it didn’t match their preferences or ambitions. 

You will be the one doing the work, so you need to own it. Set yourself up for success. Take a moment to capture your definition of success.

Reflection Time to Set Yourself Up for Success

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A big part of my role as a coach is helping others to slow down, think, and reflect. I hear all the time that people are busy, so they don’t take the time for reflection. Yet they see huge benefits when they do.

In the article, Why You Should Make Time for Self-Reflection (Even if You Hate Doing It), it states that “reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple possible interpretations, and create meaning. This meaning becomes learning, which can then inform future mindsets and actions.” 

How clear are you on things like: 

  • what is important to you?
  • what do you really want?
  • How can you use what you have learned from different experiences moving forward?
  • where you are now and where you want to be?
  • what’s working/what’s not working?

Take a moment to reflect on the items above and to consider how you will periodically use reflection to maintain clarity. This is a crucial step to set yourself up for success.

Set Intentions

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For several years now, I switched from making resolutions to setting intentions. An article on the website Nutritious Life explains: The resolution problem lies in thinking that we aren’t “good” enough the way we are, and that we will be better or happier when we get something else, or change who we are. In setting an intention, you resolve that you’re already “enough,” so you move forward without having an attachment to the outcome- it’s more about the journey. 

Maybe your intention is to be more of the leader you have always wanted to be. Or maybe it’s more personal, such as noticing and appreciating moments of joy or improving relationships that are important to you. The trick is to not focus on productivity to define your success. Don’t let how busy you are define your worth. It’s not about what you are doing, but who you are becoming. That’s how you set yourself up for success.

Where are my 80’s women? This is where I hear Pat Benatar bellowing “all fired up – we live and learn from our mistakes”. The best part about setting an intention versus a resolution is that an intention allows for mistakes. And couldn’t we all use some grace on this journey called life?

Take a moment to identify intentions you want to focus on and start by making a list of practices and habits to follow.

Customize the Journey

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What does it look like for you specifically to set yourself up for success? In addition to identifying what you will focus on, contemplate how you will do that in a way that’s sustainable for you. Consider both what you want and what you need.

  • Do you like to write? Does it help to get things out of your head to clear your mind? Consider journaling.
  • Do you prefer to talk things out with someone? Consider recruiting a friend or mentor.
  • Do you need an objective perspective or someone to provide observations? Do you need a thought partner? Consider hiring a coach.
  • Do you need a more structured approach? Consider finding or creating a resource that will help you stay organized and on track or add reminders to your calendar.
  • What are your strengths? Consider how you can leverage them to get what you want.

Don’t be afraid to try something. If it doesn’t work, try something else. There is not a one size fits all approach. 

Take a moment to figure out what works for you. Identify a time to evaluate how things are going, stay committed to what’s working, and let go of what’s not. 

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This article is sponsored by Neely Coaching & Training

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Stay Motivated

When something gets in your way, it can derail your momentum. A lesson I have learned repeatedly is if I have plan B ready, I usually don’t need it. If I don’t have one, you can be sure everything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Address barriers before they even happen. That way, if they do, it doesn’t slow you down.

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One of my favorite questions is to ask someone why an intention or goal is important to them. To hear the emotion in their voice when they answer is great motivation. This becomes a touchstone for them when things get tough. 

2020 was the beginning of a health journey for me. Over the year, I lost 75 pounds. There were times it was hard, and I wanted to revert to old habits that seemed easier. It was then that my health coach, Amy Blount, would ask me about “my why”. (Yes – coaches have coaches!) After I repeated why I wanted to get healthy, she would ask – what has changed? There it was. Nothing had changed. Your why is always there for you to give you the boost you need and set yourself up for success!

Celebrating wins is another topic. I listened to an executive talk about his new team and what he wanted for them, for himself, and for the organization in six months. I could hear how overwhelmed he was, so I asked him what piece he wanted to start with. We continued from there – breaking off pieces, celebrating each small win, and adjusting as things evolved. Six months later, he had achieved his “big win” and his words to me were – “Wow – those small wins can be very motivating to keep you going.” How will you celebrate your progress? What will be your rewards? 

Take a moment now to capture your why. I encourage you to write it down AND share it out loud with someone. Make intentional plans to celebrate those small and big wins by identifying what rewards look like for you.

Be Accountable

A story I hear a lot is that someone had a great plan, they thought they were motivated, and they fell short of making it all work. What went wrong? A common cause is there was no accountability in place. Accountability is both internal and external.

  • Use your values to drive your motivation – Integrity is one of my core values. I use it as an internal accountability driver. Integrity is doing what you say you will do. If I state it, I know I need to do it or I’m not being true to myself.
  • Write down your goals – Capture where you are now, where you want to be, what actions you can take when, and how you will know when you get there. Once you have that, it’s simply working the plan.
  • Schedule check-ins – Time seems to move fast when you are working towards a goal. Set consistent check-in opportunities, either for yourself or with others, so it doesn’t get away from you. 
  • Tap into your support network – you know who in your inner circle will ask you questions, keep you on track, encourage you, give you great ideas, provide feedback, celebrate with you, and kick you in the butt when you need it. 

Take a moment to consider how you will build in accountability to guarantee forward momentum.

Getting the “W”

Go back to your definition of success. It is important to periodically assess how you are doing. 

  • Reflection – You may find that you are making more progress than you realized or be able to adjust to get you back on track quicker.
  • Feedback – Sometimes we cannot see what others can. Ask others for feedback on how you are doing.
  • “Metrics” – depending on what you are working on, there might be actual metrics you can use to track your progress. Are you trying to save money or take on more clients? You can track that. Other things are intangible but that doesn’t mean you cannot measure progress or accomplishment. Take time to answer questions like – what will tell you that you are making progress? Or what will be different once you have achieved this goal? Then look for those things to start happening.

Take a moment to capture how you will evaluate progress and achievement. 

All these moments will add up to your path forward to the success you deserve no matter what time of the year. You can do this! 

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Debby Neely is a Professional Certified Coach through the International Coach Federation who specializes in leadership coaching and facilitation. Her business, Neely Coaching & Training, supports both formal and informal leaders in realizing their potential and in getting results. Their mission is to help you be the best you can be.

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