The Art and Science of Goal Setting

Many of us start setting new goals for the new year when we have yet to reflect on what happened in the past year. We jump onto the New Year’s resolution train, throw a few goals out there, and hope for the best. January rolls around, and we are still in a holiday mood, pushing our start date further down the month. For me, January has always been my buffer month, a time for me to reflect on the past 12 months and identify what went well, what areas needed improvement, what made me happy, and what challenged and drained me. I gained some perspective and balance by listing what I am grateful for from the past year. As you can see, everyone can set goals. But taking action and completing them is a very different story. Let’s dive into the art and science of goal setting.

The Art of Goal Setting

What is the ‘Art’ of goal setting? It’s about knowing your ‘why’ and setting goals based on your intrinsic motivation. Sometimes, looking ahead can be overwhelming, leading to mixed emotions. The reflection process helps you gain some balance by listing the things you are grateful for from the past year and allowing you to find ways to continue bringing this appreciation forward in the coming year. 

“All things are created twice: first in your mind’s eye and then in reality.” – The Mastery Manuel, Robin Sharma.

It’s a good idea to write them down. It helps your brain to process your vision and makes you more accountable to yourself. This gives you clarity and focus. Whenever you need a reminder, your entry is there for you so that you can rededicate yourself to your plan and live by your intentions. So, don’t just blindly and aimlessly set your goals. Your motivation to do them won’t last very long. Dig deep and do the inner work to discover your core beliefs and values. The art of goal setting is about enjoying the ride and not solely focusing on the destination. Savour in the vision of the future you. Find fulfilment and enjoyment in trying to achieve your goals this year. You got this.

The Science of Goal Setting

Now, the science part of goal setting. 

This part is more about the doing, getting into action and creating routines and habits that stick so that you are actively rewiring your brain to work towards the goals you have set for the year. 

“The most effective way to change your habits is to focus not on what you want to achieve, but on who you wish to become.” – Atomic Habits, James Clear.

Once you have identified your intentions and values and answered the ‘What’s your why?’ question, you should have a good idea of the person you want to become. This is the new identity that you are crafting for yourself. Once you are proud of that being, whatever habits and action steps you set for yourself will have a more significant meaning. You will embrace them, live them and breathe them. 

For example, I am a runner (identity) vs I want to complete a marathon this year (short-term goal)

In the case of ‘I am a runner’, you may ask yourself, what kind of healthy habits would a runner have?  Of course, there will be training involved. But what about nutrition, sleep & recovery, and mindset? 

This is a science of goal setting. Shifting your mindset, rewiring your brain and setting up a system and routine that works for you.

Goal Setting

We have all heard about setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, which is definitely part of the equation. Well-considered goals take advantage of your subconscious motivations. Examining your beliefs and values can uncover these deeper aspects of your psyche. 

Below are the four main things I focus on when working to achieve my goals. I call this 


Specific: Setting a goal is basically sending an instruction to your brain. Your brain is designed to follow instructions. If you are not specific enough, your brain will revert to your old auto-response when carrying out action steps for these goals. You want to rewire your brain to think outside the box and create new habits and ways of doing things. Because let’s face it, we had had so many New Year resolutions and goals before that did not materialise. So, describe the goal in as much detail as possible and avoid leaving anything to interpretation.

Environment: Our environment influences us more than we think. To increase your chance of success, create the space and the conditions you need to help you thrive and stay focused. Ask yourself, ‘When and where are you at your best?’. Don’t just think you will do the task. Schedule it with time blocking method – blocking off time in your calendar to focus without interruption on the one thing you’ve chosen to dedicate that time-blocked session to. This will significantly move you forward in accomplishing your goals.

Track: Make your own habit tracker to keep yourself accountable and as a daily check-in. I use both an app and also draw my own tracker in my journal. There is a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment every time you put a checkmark in the box to indicate you have completed that task or habit. Our brain loves that we check things off our to-do list. And once you get a few days going, you won’t want to break that streak. 

Track your progress. Having daily check-ins will allow you to course correct or change your goals altogether where necessary. Achieving goals is more likely if you select and stay consistent with an effective routine or ritual and less likely if you resort to taking big, inconsistent once-in-a-while actions towards your goals.

Scribe: Always write down your goals and action steps. Once we have committed our goals to paper, we automatically begin to scan our environment and search for people and situations that will facilitate attaining those goals. Just writing down your goals stimulates a more hopeful mindset and evokes a more creative type of pathway thinking that generates multiple solutions. Scribe (journal) about your wins and areas that you can improve on to continue refining your action plan.

Start Crafting Your Goals

I hope this helps you set goals that you genuinely identify with. Enjoy the process as you strive towards them. Once you have everything mapped out, take it one step at a time, one task at a time and one day at a time. You will get there. I believe in you, and I am always here to work with you.


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