Setting goals for success with a growth mindset

With the new year here, it's the time many of us reflect on the 12 months just passed and start thinking about the positive changes we'd like to make in the next 12.

But making new year's resolutions is often a fast track to disappointment and even failure. A lot of us have simply given up on them.

Strava, the social network for athletes, has worked out the exact date most people give up on their exercise goals – ‘Quitters Day’ is on January 12.

And a university study in the USA found only eight per cent of people achieve their New Year's resolutions.

So why is that?

A lot of it comes down to our mindset when we set and start trying to achieve our goals.

Setting goals is an excellent habit to set up good behaviours, help you achieve what you're aiming for and lay a foundation for success in life.

Your goals can be about anything - your health, relationships, work, life, finances, or something else (it's good to have them on all aspects of your life).

Setting goals with targets along the way, to measure how you're going, will help you get where you want to go.

Just as important as setting measurable and achievable goals to achieving success is your mindset when you make them. What's also needed is what we call a 'growth mindset'.

Fixed mindset vs growth mindset

People have a natural tendency to stay within their comfort zones. It can make life easier and less stressful.

But it can also be because of a fear of failure and a fear of leaping into the unknown that stops us from getting out of this zone. Sometimes it's about self-esteem.

People don't believe they have the skills, talent or circumstances to develop themselves.

So they don't try, or they give up quickly. This is the 'fixed mindset'.

The alternative is a much more proven path to success.

People with a 'growth mindset' believe they can develop their talents and improve their lives through hard work, good strategies, and dedication.

You're in a much better mental position to adapt to change, learn new things and grow in work and life.

You're motivated to make it happen.

If you believe you can make positive changes, your goals will not only reflect the changes you can achieve, but you have a much better chance of successfully reaching them.

Setting goals is good for you

The right mindset is vital when planning and working towards your goals.

But the act of setting goals is also good for your ongoing mental wellbeing.

Goals, and the steps you set along the way to reach them, give a sense of clarity to what your actions will be, which in turn relieves your anxiety or worries about where you are headed and your personal or professional development.

As you track your progress on your steps along the way, you reassure yourself that you're heading in the right direction.

Set some SMART goals

Here at APM, we like to follow the SMART goal method.

They're designed to set you up for success, help give you direction and organisation, make planning easier, motivate you, and allow you to track how you're going and see if you need to change your approach.

It's a relatively simple five step process:

Letter Description Question


Make it specific What goal do you want to achieve?


Make it measureable How can you tell when you've achieved your goal?


Make it attainable How will you get there?


Make it relevant Is this goal important to your development?


Make it timely What's the deadline for achieving this goal?

The other benefit of going through the SMART steps is that simply writing them down, helps you commit to your goals.

Even better, you can show them to someone who can help keep you accountable.

Don't let the wrong goals put you in the wrong mindset

While setting goals can be a way to reduce your anxiety and worry, it's important to know that having goals can also be a source of stress.

Set them too high or make them too hard, without achievable goals along the way, will be stressful, and you'll miss your targets.

This might put you into a more "fixed mindset", which will also have an impact on you setting and trying for goals in the future. It can create a cycle of failure.

Sticking to the SMART approach will help avoid this but remember, when you're making your goal, include some that specifically address stress relief, like ones that focus on happiness, managing or reducing stress, or improving your resilience.

Ones that address stress are long-term, ongoing goals. So, actions like regular exercise, eating well, maintaining relationships, and practising meditation, are just some of the things you can consider.

Stay positive to keep growing

One of the keys to success is making achievable, small steps on the way.

Try to reward yourself for these minor achievements, and maybe give yourself a bigger reward when you reach your goal.

It keeps you motivated, and it feels good to know you're on the right path.

And remember, slip-ups are part of the process, don't let them stop you.

A growth mindset is understanding that you can only go as far as your mind lets you.

You won't grow and develop if you stay in your comfort zone with a fixed mindset.

But if you believe you can make your life better and aim high and work hard, you have a much better chance of creating the life you want.