Perhaps this time of year has you thinking about your intentions, goals, or any changes you’d like to make. There’s that “new year, new you” message everywhere.

I’ll be honest: I’m not a big proponent of forcing the creation of goals on a pre-determined or dictated day of the year, and then expecting those goals that were set on that dictated day of the year to be the right ones to carry you through to next December 31st.

Instead, I’m a believer in tuning in to your own inner compass on a regular basis; to determine for yourself when it is the right time to commit to a particular action, goal, intention or resolution in your life. I’m also a proponent of ongoing reflection and making adjustments and refinements to your goals and intentions as you live into them, or as the world around you changes.

As a leadership consultant and coach, it’s at this time of year when I often hear resolutions and intentions that sound like this:

“This is the year I get a new job!”

“In 2023, I will get promoted!”

“This is the year I will leave this company for good!”

“This is the year I commit to balance in my life!”

I love the enthusiasm of these resolutions, and the passion that usually underlies them. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of these desires. Here’s the BUT: in my experience working with ambitious, driven people…these statements are often either coming from an externally-motivated place, or a reactive place.

For example, let’s look at the first two declarations above: to get a new job or promotion. This may be coming from an externally-motivated source:

I am supposed to be [insert the role here] by the age of [insert age] or,

Ambitious people are supposed to be… [insert the action, promotion title or role] or,

I should be doing [insert the role] after this many years.

Notice the emphasis on comparison to others, external expectations, and “should’s”. So often, externally-driven motivators guide our goals and decisions. If you find yourself in a state of comparison, or externally-driven goal setting, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting on why you want what you are declaring you want.

So, “This is the year I get a new job!” might become, “this year, I’m craving new challenges, more creativity and an inspiring work environment.”

Or, if you’re the one wanting to get promoted, check in with yourself about what a promotion entails, and whether that is what you’re really desiring. That goal might become “I’m ready to lead a bigger team, excited about greater oversight, and playing a bigger role in shaping the company culture.” (or maybe, upon reflection, you realize it’s a pay bump you’re craving more than the actual responsibilities that come with the promotion).

See the difference? I want your goals, intentions and resolutions to be driven by what you really want – not what you think you should want or are supposed to want.

Now let’s consider the other two declarations: “This year I will leave this company for good!” and “This is the year I commit to balance in my life!”. When I hear statements like this, it often sounds reactionary to me. Something isn’t working in the individual’s life (and perhaps hasn’t been working for a while)…they’ve hit a breaking point and suddenly declare a big change to their current state.

Again, nothing wrong with these desires! As your coach, though, I’d be encouraging you to unpack these statements further. For example, what isn’t working at the current company? Perhaps there’s a way of fixing it or salvaging that relationship. If not, I’d want you to be really clear on what you don’t want and what you do want before you begin to job hunt. Otherwise you might find yourself at a new company, with all the same issues.

If it’s more work-life balance you’re seeking, wonderful. But, what is it that is causing the imbalance in the first place? What’s at the root? Without unpacking what’s really going on – and making an action plan to address those root causes – that heartfelt desire for balance will likely go unfulfilled.

So before you go job hunting, quitting your company, requesting a promotion, or attempting a more balanced lifestyle, I’d like you to start thinking about your relationship with work in general; to get clarity on what’s working, and what isn’t working. This clarity can then help you form specific, internally-driven goals and intentions (at any time of the year). Here are 5 questions for you to work your way through:

  1. What is it about work that you love? Why?
  2. What is it about work that you can’t stand? Why?
  3. Think about your best work-related experience. What made it so?
  4. Think about your worst work-related experience. What made it so?
  5. What is this information telling you about what matters most to you when it comes to work?

Try to spend 10-15 minutes with each question, letting yourself free write your answers without judgment, or censorship. Once you’ve finished, look for themes and patterns – and let these themes and patterns help you craft specific intentions and goals that are really meaningful to you. And then, revisit your intentions and goals often – refine and adjust them. Give yourself permission to change, delete, or add as you gather new information or as your life changes.

Want to go deeper? Get yourself a copy of my book, The Big Scale Back: Success and Balance By Your Own Design and start unpacking your relationship with work. You can also opt in for my Sunday note, where I share reflection questions and considerations to guide you in approaching your work, and life, with more intention (visit and sign up to become an insider).

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