Time for a different kind of New Year´s Resolutions

Time for a different kind of New Year´s Resolutions
by Nigel Cumberland 

 As coaches we are immersed in goals and goal-setting models, frameworks and theories; spending so much of our working hours supporting our clients’ journeys in creating their own goals and objectives and in planning their achievement. I am sure you are expert at helping others in this area but how well do you help yourself in this regard? Do you practice what you preach?

 As an example, how well have you created some New Year’s Resolutions? What do they look and read like? In the past mine were pretty normal looking and might have included:

  • Exercise more by going to the gym;
  • Saving a certain amount of money;
  • Learning a particular skill;
  • Having a certain holiday;
  • Upgrade my car; and
  • Getting a promotion at work.

This year I have decided to ‘walk my talk’ as a coach and to create goals which reflect latest best practice thinking in neuroscience and goal setting. As a result I have set myself the following three New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Being at peace and doing what I love;
  2. Focusing on family while having healthy fun; and
  3. Growing and sharing my expertise and wisdom.

Allow me to share my underlying reasoning:


1.    I have value-driven goals

My resolutions express my dominant values rather than simply being a list of actions or hoped for accomplishments. In the past, my resolutions would have read like a to-do list or action plan. This year I have looked behind such goals and asked what are my underlying values. Many academics, such as Sydney University’s Tony Grant, support this by cautioning against allowing too much focus on action plans and what he calls subordinate goals while neglecting the underlying values.  For those of you using cognitive behavioural coaching in your worek, you will be familiar with the importance of understanding one’s values – the simple idea that it is our values that underpin our actions.

But how well do you apply this thinking to yourself? How easily can you explain your underlying values or what I sometimes call a person’s primary drivers?

We might easily list some resolutions but do we really know what lies behind them? If you are keen to create a ‘2017 Action Plan’, then take a critical look at each goal and explore what are those values that underlie them. Then ask yourself do you need to re-state your goals to express your values.


2.    I have positive creative goals

So many of my friends in the coaching profession ‘beat’ themselves up with all kinds of negative thinking about themselves. So often setting themselves so-called avoidance goals (I wish I did not always….; I must stop doing…… etc.) rather than having more productive so-called approach goals. Reframing avoidance goals as approach goals is best practice but do you apply this to yourself?

The academics Richard Boyatzis and Anita Howard re-iterate this thinking. They write about focusing on goals based on our positive emotional attractors of the ideal self, rather than having deficit goals based negative emotional attractors (i.e. those things that we want to put right). There is a nice touch of positive psychology here and the transformative benefits of focusing on our exploring our strengths rather than on our weaknesses and deficiencies.


3.    They are 100% my own goals

My three resolutions are aligned with my own inner real needs, desires and feelings i.e. my authentic self. To use NLP terminology they are ‘at cause’ rather than ‘at effect’.  My goals were not always so and in years gone by I found it hard to avoid externally imposed goals. I was expert at hearing other people’s expectations and well intentioned suggestions and taking them onboard into my own goal setting framework. It has taken me over ten years of being a coach and working on myself to be able to finally say ‘I am living my own life’.

To what extent are your New Year’s Resolutions coming from within you enabling you to live ‘at cause’ rather than in the shadows of other people’s feelings, requests and expectations?


4.    I am ready to work towards my goals

Reflecting upon my past life and work goals, I realised that often I was not really ready or needing to change. I may have shared with others that a particular goal was important to me but then would have quietly neglected it, freely making excuses when challenged.

I have learnt to align my actions with my intentions. In this regards I have found the transtheoretical model of change written about by Prochaska and DiClemente to be really helpful. The model’s 5 stages provide a great framework to fall back on when observing where you may be placed with regards to your aims and goals. For those not familiar the model’s 5 stages they are:

  • pre-contemplation,
  • contemplation,
  • preparation,
  • action and
  • maintenance

Too often in my past I have been stuck in the model’s first 2 stages, allowing myself to talk about my aspirations rather than actually working towards them. With my 2017 resolutions I am no longer held back in this way.


5.    I do not have goals for everything

I have matured my thinking and understanding in the last couple of years. I now have a more holistic view recognizing that at times no goals are needed in a traditional sense.  Helping someone create actionable SMART goals is often missing the real issues and can superficially give the impression of the coaching being readily successful. This applies equally to yourself. David Clutterbuck is one of those who has written in details about such goals-free coaching. Try applying this thinking to your own life.

In creating my own 2017 goals, I held back from setting goals in a number of areas. These areas included in regards to my business’ revenue growth, timing of writing a new book plans to remain or move on from Dubai. I felt that setting goals in all such areas of my life was too limiting. Instead I am confident that my three values driven resolutions will serve as a perfect foundation. A foundation to allow me to face all manner of challenges and issues, which today are not in need of clearly written defined outcomes.

Have a fantastic 2017 and good luck in creating some really helpful and authentic goals for the year ahead and beyond!




 Nigel Cumberland holds the Practitioner status with the IAC and had previously been an IAC Chapter President in the Middle East. He also holds Senior Practitioner status with the EMCC in which he heads their ‘Global Code of Ethics for Coaches and Mentors’ Working Group. Based out of Dubai, Nigel coaches leaders globally and is the co-Founder of The Silk Road Partnership. He is author of several books including the best-selling “100 Things Successful People Do: Little Exercises for Successful Living” which was recently published in the US and UK


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