This year, I am excited to be celebrating ten years working as a professional high performance coach. Over that time I have loved motivating hundreds of clients to achieve their personal and work related goals. Everybody is different, however what continues to surprise me is how frequently we get in our own way toward success, or that life / society can sometimes encourage us to make things far more complicated than they need be.

Take goals and expectations for 2013 for instance. At this particular time of year, it is natural to consider the year ahead and what we would like to achieve. We dream “Maybe 2013 will be the year when X (insert whatever is relevant for you) finally happens” or “I’m going to have the best year ever”. Some people will then take action and actually write down an extremely long list of goals, perhaps even create deadlines and then formulate plans and strategies.

This is a brilliant method of course if you then follow-through and accomplish every goal (or hire a coach to support you in taking action and amongst other things hold you accountable!) However, experience reveals that often we are setting ourselves up to fail, as our focus is too wide and the number of goals too overwhelming. Sometimes they are “shoulds” instead of the more compelling “really want to more than anything else in the world” type of goals.

Therefore, may I suggest a different approach for 2013 which I trust you will find simpler and perhaps more inspiring?

Find a place and uninterrupted time where you feel relaxed (my local gastropub works for me!)

At the top of a piece of paper, write down the question: “What gives me joy?”*

Write down bullet point answers as your intuition and thinking delivers them. Refrain from any self-censorship. Even if the answers are totally bizarre or shocking, write them down. No-one need see this list unless you desire.

To stimulate thinking about any long-buried joyful experiences and new ideas, keep repeating the question in your mind, or say out loud if you prefer.

Next, using the same approach, on another page write down your answers to this question: “What do I want to do more of in 2013?”

When you have finished, compare answers on both pages. Which ones feature on both lists? What are the activities that are going to deliver most bang for your buck? Which ones jump out at you?

Having personally done this exercise a few weeks ago, I guarantee that if you simply use the answers as a general guide in the background for 2013, you will find yourself doing more of what gives you joy. It is as if your brain unconsciously reflects on this blueprint as a compass or North Star to follow. You will automatically find yourself saying no to anything that is devoid of meaningful joy, or those energy sapping activities that you wish to do less of.

In addition, if your answers are incorporated to create specific positive goals (Tip: work towards a maximum of three separate goals per quarter to maintain focus and manageability) you will further ensure that you are committed to taking decisive action towards having a happy 2013.