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Compliments of the season to you. I hope that 2024 is a special year that brings you all that you wish it to be.

It’s that time of year again when we set goals that we want to achieve in the coming year. If you haven’t set your goals yet, perhaps this newsletter is just in time, for today I would like to explore whether we shouldn’t be looking at something perhaps deeper and more meaningful than setting goals.

The trouble with goals is that they begin with the scoreboard, results! Traditionally, goals don’t include the game that has to happen on the field, how we practice, approach and play the game. As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, winners and losers have the same goal and, even when winners achieve their goal, it is often only a momentary change – they put that weight back on. The purpose of setting goals is to win the game. The purpose of building systems is to continue playing the game. To continue playing the game we need to establish habits. To continue winning the game, we need to have good habits. Clear also says if you’re having trouble changing your habits the problem isn’t you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don’t want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change.

So, what would be a good system? First, a confession: I have integrated some of the ideas of three well-known authors on the subject, Clear, Simon Sinek and Anthony Raymond (I have listed their books below) and hope this has resulted in a comprehensive yet simplistic practical system.

This system starts with Sinek’s Golden Circle model – as you can see, three concentric circles with the word “Why” in the centre, his proposition being “start with why”. This is similar to the Japanese principle of Ikigai which roughly translated also means a core purpose, a reason for being. So, the first step in our system is to ask ourselves what our purpose is, what makes us get up in the morning?

In my view, most goals fail to be aligned to our Why, our Ikigai, and that’s often a reason why we fail to achieve them. As Raymond points out, we fall foul of Lingchi which is Japanese for “a thousand cuts” – there is no one thing that points us in the direction of success or failure; it’s normally a recurring habit or habits (a thousand cuts) that ensure either success or failure. That’s our second step: we need to identify habits that are stopping us from achieving our Why or Ikigai and those that are aligned to it – best we make sure that we have only the good habits.

In identifying our good and bad habits, though, we need to apply Hansei – honest self-reflection (as opposed to good old-fashioned rationalization). Only then is the second step completed.

But good habits are difficult to build – bad ones seem to come more naturally! Here another Japanese concept can help us: Kaizen – or continuous improvement. Both Raymond and Clear are clear (sorry!) that we need to start small, a small part of the habit, and build or improve on that every day. Clear’s concept is “1% better every day” – and in the image attached you can see how this improves good habits exponentially (and the converse happens with bad habits). So, step 3 is to ask yourself every day: “How can I improve what I did yesterday?”

To sum up then, I hope you will use the following questions to take yourself ever closer to your Why or Ikigai:

  1. What is my Why? What is the legacy I would like to leave to this world?
  2. How are my habits taking me closer to or further away from this purpose? Am I really being honest with myself?
  3. Ask yourself every day, what can I do today to build on or improve what I tried to do yesterday?

I am busy experimenting and exploring this approach and I hope you will too! I’d be really keen to hear about your experiences and comments.

“The goal is dead! Long live Purpose and Good Habits!”

Let’s all make a world of difference.

Until next month

Take care


I like to look at coach supervision as an opportunity where, together, we develop:

  • The coach as a Person (Restorative Function)
  • The person as a Coach (Formative Function)
  • The coach as an Ethical Practitioner (Normative Function)

If this speaks to your purpose as a Person, Coach or Ethical Practitioner, let’s chat and see if there’s a fit – please use this link to my diary to set up a FREE informal Virtual Coffee Chat with me.

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