Goal setting is one thing – achieving your goals is something else entirely. So what makes the difference between a goal that is achieved and one that falls by the wayside?

Research has shown that people who achieve their goals are more likely to do so because they create a vision of their future and are emotionally connected to their goals.i

Goal setting for the new year

This time of the year is often when we come up with goals, but despite positive intentions, we can easily lose sight of them.

There are different approaches to goal setting. SMART goals are often recommended as they’re more considered and measurable, as you follow specific steps in establishing your goal. However, they’re not fail-safe though – a leadership study found that people who set SMART goals are less likely to love their jobs, and only 14% of respondents believed their goals would help them achieve “great things.”ii The study found that many of us don’t strive for difficult goals, which is where HARD goals can help.

H.A.R.D goals

HARD goals connect your vision to your emotions and values, which then really push and challenge you to achieve great things. They comprise of four elements: Heartfelt, Animated, Required and Difficult.


There’s no use setting a goal you have no connection with. For example, climbing the corporate ladder or buying a home, common goals for many of us, don’t resonate with everyone – if they don’t, you’re unlikely to strive to achieve them.

Instead, hone in on what truly matters to you and how you want to feel. If you have visions of a relaxed retirement, financial freedom at the end of your working life will motivate you. Or perhaps that entrepreneurial spirit wants to be set free to start your own venture. Whatever it is, ensure your goals align with your vision and focus on the outcome.


Whether you’re naturally a visual thinker or not, by animating your goal you are picturing exactly what it will look like. By visualising your goal, you’re making it real and building a deeper emotional connection to it.

If you want to grow your business, visualise customers walking in the door or travelling to a new destination to set up a new office. If you want to change careers, see yourself in that field, talking to your new co-workers and learning the skills you will need. This image will provide ongoing motivation and will drive to achieve your outcome.


This element reduces the risk of procrastination, as you’ll be clearer as to why you need to meet this goal. For instance, you might set a goal around doing further training, setting specific courses to complete in the year, in order to progress your career.

You can explore what is required to achieve your goal by considering if it would happen should you not meet it. For example, if you plan on running a marathon, clearly a running schedule and fitness regime is necessary in order to meet your ultimate goal.


Just as the name suggests, HARD goals aren’t meant to be easy – and you’ll get greater satisfaction meeting difficult goals. Identify what it is you want to do but are hesitant about in case you fail, or perhaps even if you succeed!

While you don’t want to create goals so difficult they’ll be impossible to reach, you want them to be a challenge and of great importance to you. Perhaps it will be learning a new language, when you’re not much of a linguist, in order to apply for that job overseas, or to work your way to the top position in your company by taking on more responsibilities.

At the basis of all goals is a desire for change. Picture the future you want and then work steadily towards it.

As many goals are financial, get in touch if you need support with your finances or for advice on how to make these goals possible.

i https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232822271

ii https://www.leadershipiq.com/blogs/leadershipiq/35353793-are-smart-goals-dumb