How to Set Goals for the New Year that Will Work!

Kelly Patrick DuganWinners can tell you where they are going, what they plan to do along the way, and who will be sharing the adventure with them.  ~Denis Watley

How to Set Goals for the New Year that Will Work!

If you are like most people (including me) setting New Year’s goals seems like a good idea, but usually is a dismal failure.  If you want to be successful this year, try using some wisdom from Appreciative Inquiry.

Kelly Patrick Dugan

Photo: Kelly Patrick Dugan


  • Brainstorm Your TaDa! List

You are probably good at brainstorming your To Do List!  But for this project, brainstorm your Ta Da! List.  Your TaDa! List is the list of the things that went right this year, the wins that you are proud of.  They can be big or small.

  • Develop a Time-Line

A helpful way to develop your TaDa! List is to develop a time-line.  To trigger your memories of all that you have accomplished in a passed time period, review your calendar, notes and journals.  Think about what you were doing each month of the year, what you were working on, and what successes you had.  I guarantee that you will remember forgotten projects and events that turned out to be important over the course of the year.

So for example, when I was thinking about this, I realized that it was a year ago last December that I started writing my blog.  I felt pretty proud of having posted an entry for every week of the year on my blog; and as I looked over the catalog of entries I could see my own growth and development over the course of the year.

The reason why this exercise works is because most big projects evolve over time; they are a sequence of small steps that accrue.  From day-to-day, it’s hard to see that we are making progress.  From week-to-week, I couldn’t see my blog evolve—but when I looked back to see where I was a year ago, it is obvious to me.

  • Analyze Your Time Line

Now that you have a Time Line of your TaDa! moments, analyze it.  What trends and patterns do you see?  What did you do to contribute to the successes on your Time Line?  So for example, when I look over my blog posts, I think about which posts seemed to work well and why.   I notice which posts generated a lot of comments.  And I think about what I did I to support the success of these blog posts.

  • Now Set Your Goals

Now that you have a TaDa! List of successes and a catalogue of what you did that contributed to those successes, you are ready to set your goals.  Your goals should be based on the kinds of things that you experienced last year that you are strong in, that you are good at.  They should pull on your strengths and be things that you experienced as fun and gave you joy.

So for me, I have set a goal about the kinds of blog posts that I will write each month with some clear expectations for how and when I will write them.  (Don’t want to bore you with the details, you get the point.)

So What Goals are You Going to Set for Next Year?



P.S.  As you can see, this blog is important to me, as are your comments and feedback!  If you found this post helpful, I hope you will comment and share with your friends!

Dr. Lynn K. Jones is a Certified Personal and Executive Coach based in Santa Barbara, California and a sought after coach and consultant for organizations and individuals across the US.   Her doctoral work completed at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University concerned organizational culture; she coaches, consults and trains organizations on what they need to do to create organizational cultures that are aligned with their vision and values using a process of Appreciative Inquiry.  She coaches individuals on achieving their reflected best selves.  An MSW@USC faculty member, Dr. Lynn K. Jones, MSW, DSW, CSWM, teaches Human Behavior and Social Environment and Leadership to social work students at the University of Southern California.




  1. Art ZW on December 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    That’s an interesting idea. There may be several kinds of successes and goals. One that I’m good at is completing projects requested by others. I enjoy many of those projects, particularly because they often extend my skills and knowledge. But there are other kinds of projects that I’m the only one interested in. With less social support, they often get pushed to the side so I can take care of the tasks of daily living and the needs of others. I do have a long range professional plan and am working toward that successfully, but there are other fun goals and “life would be better if” goals that aren’t getting done.

    So,if I were going to set a goal for New Years, I’d make it one of those more personal goals. And if I wanted to avoid failure, I’d also have to plan for how I was going to get to it!

  2. Executive Coach on December 26, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I know very well the syndrome of projects that seem to get completed because there is a deadline. Those projects are often less satisfying because we are more focused on the final product rather than the process inherent in the project but all the same they do get done and that certainly is very satisfying compared to the projects that we never get to or never finish. It could be helpful to analyze what about having a deadline helped you bring the project to conclusion? Is there a way that you can recreate the helpful aspects of a deadline for the projects for which there is no deadline imposed? When you have a deadline, how do you alter your work habits to support meeting that deadline? Can you alter your work habits the same way, even if you don’t have a deadline. You mentioned that the social support that comes with a requested project seems to help. That is a large reason why coaching helps people achieve their goals. It provides that accountability to another person that I think you are referring to as “social support.” I’d be happy to give you a complimentary session to talk about your goals. You can schedule it on my calendar at
    All the best in the new year!

    • Art ZW on December 28, 2011 at 9:30 pm

      Hi, Lynn,
      I wasn’t talking about deadlines but about how the source of the project influences whether it gets done. What I meant is simply that I am more likely to begin and finish projects/goals that others ask me to do, compared to the ones I’ve dreamed up. I also tried to say that I have been moving toward my large-scale career goals. It’s the smaller personal goals that I often don’t find time for. Part of the problem may be that I have more goals/dreams than one person is likely to complete in a lifetime!

      • Executive Coach on December 29, 2011 at 9:09 am

        Hi Art,
        You are someone that would be considered to be “pressure prompted” on the Myers Briggs. I misinterpreted that the pressure was deadlines, but what you describe is similar, the “pressure” from someone else gives you the little push that you need to finish something.

        That is great that you have a lot of dreams and goals! I wonder if you are accomplishing more than you think? Read Keisha’s experience below with the TaDa! List. She shocked herself with how much she had accomplished. Why don’t you try it? Let us know what happens!

  3. KymberlyFunFit on December 26, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Ta da! I finished reading this post and a list of others I enjoy. Thanks for the reframing of a tradition that rarely works (New Year Resolutions).

    • Executive Coach on December 26, 2011 at 8:55 pm

      Awesome! I am sure that you will have a long TaDa! List and many great successes to build on in 2012. All the best…

  4. Monique on December 26, 2011 at 10:35 pm

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for giving us permission to look back! Many gurus and experts place so much emphasis on “not dwelling on the past” that we forget that the past has lots of great things to offer. We must build on the past, not bury it.

    I love your idea of the “TaDa!” list!

    All the best for the New Year,

    • Executive Coach on December 27, 2011 at 8:19 am

      “Build on the past”–what’s worked about it, anyway–“not bury it.” Love that, Monique. Here’s to the best of the past in the new year!!

  5. Gloria Miele on December 27, 2011 at 8:58 am

    Great post, Lynn. As you know, I love the “TaDa” list. I do a talk on strengths-based goal-setting, and this is another great way to look at that. Love the process. Thanks!

  6. Executive Coach on December 27, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for commenting, Gloria. I know that you and your clients find many TaDa’s that they can leverage in their futures as they engage in a strength-based goal setting process! Thanks for your support of so many!
    All the best to you in the new year.

  7. Alison on December 27, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Lynn-love your post. Looking back is very helpful to remember what you have done, what worked and what didn’t. From there one can make a better plan for the future.

    • Executive Coach on December 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      Glad you liked the post, Alison! Enjoy the look back!
      All the best in 2012!

  8. KimB on December 28, 2011 at 6:31 am

    After a long time, I am re-inspired to follow my instincts and build my future based on what I love; rather than what I believe I’m expected to do. I have a ways to go, but it’s starting to come together. Things happen for a reason. I want to use wisdom and appreciative inquiry to build the next part of my future. Starting now…


    • Executive Coach on December 28, 2011 at 8:13 am

      You are so right, things do seem to happen for a reason. It sounds like this is something that you have been yearning to do for a while and you got the push you needed to jump in. It is like jumping into a cold pool–it is hard and not so much fun, but once you are in it is OK, in fact it is pretty nice. I can see you standing at the edge of the pool…What help do you need to jump in?

  9. Joni H. Pierce on December 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    These are great suggestions that allow us to build our forward facing goals using the momentum from our prior successes. It seems like sometimes you just need that little extra push to get going and keep the progress moving forward. I’m amazed at the flexible ways to use appreciative inquiry techniques.
    To fresh courage for 2012!

    • Executive Coach on December 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

      So true, Joni that we get momentum from our prior successes! I like the idea of forward facing goals with fresh courage!
      All the best to you in 2012!

  10. Keisha Lowe on December 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I love the TaDa! List! I took the time to create a TaDa! List, and I realized that I have made a great deal of accomplishments that makes me proud. The list helped me to see challenges that I overcame and the growth that I have experienced. The list is certainly a great way for a person to reflect on their past in order to move forward. It points out strengths and serves as a source of motivation to encourage a person. The list leaves a person saying, “Wow, I can’t believe that I did that!”

    • Executive Coach on December 28, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      You made my day! That is fabulous that you did the TaDa! List and had that realization. Thanks for sharing that with me and the other readers of the blog!
      All the best in 2012 building on your TaDa’s!

  11. Calla Gold on January 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Dr. Lynn, I love the TaDa list too!
    You are right that from little steady progress we get big results. This last Monday I posted my 100th blog post.
    This was monumental, as when I started I wondered if I would be able to keep this up.
    Well 100 posts later, yes I can do this!
    Please keep us inspired and moving forward Dr. Lynn!
    Jewelry blogger,
    Calla Gold

    • Executive Coach on February 7, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Calla, Congratulations on your 100th blog post! It is inspiring to see you march forward on this journey!!

  12. LaShasta on March 9, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Great article on goal setting for this new year. I thought of my own goals I have set for this year. I have come to learn that there is so much more that comes with setting goals. Goal setting has taught me much and watching the goals being accomplished is truly what brings great joy.

    • Executive Coach on March 14, 2012 at 1:06 pm

      Why do you think that goal setting has helped you attain so much?
      Dr. Jones

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