Unlocking Success Through Goalsetting – and Aligning Achievements with Values and Beliefs

Unlocking Success Through Goalsetting - coaching for lawyers
A 5 minute read on how to set short term and long term quantifiable goals, review them, and align achievements with values and beliefs.  

Career Goals

Last night, I spoke at an event about mindset, resilience and confidence for a London Barristers’ Chambers’ Women’s Network. Although often when doing so, I quote Baroness Hale’s wise advice about treating life in the legal profession as a privilege which opens up many, often unexpected opportunities to say yes to things even if they take us down a road less travelled, equally, as a coach, I also see huge benefit in setting and achieving career goals.

Written Commitment

I once got heckled at an event when I mentioned an 80% advantage to those writing goals down as opposed to purely keeping them in mind. Maybe there was some cynicism around how the “research” was conducted or, more likely, delegate resistance to actually taking time out to stop and think about where he was headed in his career. I can certainly say from experience coaching female lawyers, there’s something very powerful about taking a goal from out of your head, saying it aloud and committing to it by writing it down. You become accountable, not just to the piece of paper, but of course, to yourself too.

Short Term Goals

But if you’re a busy lawyer, overburdened with the daily firefighting, you might wonder what on earth is the point. Keep in mind, it’s hard to score without a goal. How else do we measure our own career progression, development or successes without setting short, medium and longer term goals? Doubtless if you are at a law firm, you will be encouraged to do similar by Managers in your annual appraisals. Barristers are often asked similar in their yearly Practice Development meetings with Clerks. Whilst really helpful to do so, additionally, you might find benefit in doing similar for yourself, and instead of only re-visiting these every 365 days, think about how you can identify 3, 6 and 9 month goals and set aside half an hour or so, in 3-monthly rotations, to check in with yourself, review progress, celebrate your successes, and assess any areas of learning or development to keep you on track for goal achievement.

Long Term Goals

In one of these self-coaching review sessions, also encourage yourself to go beyond those short term goals. Think about where you see yourself a year from now. Then look at 3, 5 and 10+ year goals. Some people find being specific about these a little more tricky. Perhaps think of them in terms of significant birthdays, or in connection with certain points in a child’s life, for example, starting or going to senior school for example. This should help you visualise them with more clarity.


You might also like to explore a visualisation technique which teleports you into the future, imagining your 80 year old self – where you live, who you associate with, how you behave – and then piecing things backwards on a timeline to imagine how it was you got to that point.

SMART Goals and Action Planning

Formulating goals can be an art form – especially making them “SMART” – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time bound. I know so many start with good intentions around goal-setting, then forget to break those goals down into smaller, more manageable chunks. A goal without a plan is just a wish, so make sure, having made the goal, to start you off, you also identify action-steps to implement in the very immediate term, (in the next day or 2 for example). And diarise a follow-up with yourself to keep you focussed, on track, and with a method by which to measure progress.

Goal Revision

Regular check-ins also allow you reflect honestly on goals set, and whether priorities remain as they once were. I know from my own experience at the Bar that the goals I had as a 22 year old single, pupil barrister were a far cry from those at 44, as a working parent with 3 small children. To review and revise goals is not only sensible but also necessary given changing priorities in life. Plus this avoids goals becoming sticks with which to beat ourselves. View them as helpful as well as adaptable.

Accountability Partners

For those finding difficult the self-discipline required to do this, think about sharing your goals with a friend or mentor. They can then act as an informal accountability partner. Better still, hire a coach. Formalising the relationship means you are committing to both your coach and, most importantly, yourself and, by demonstrating a commitment to put your money where your mouth is, you have a higher likelihood of following through on those actions, and most significantly, smashing those all- important goals.

Values and Beliefs Sense-Check

As a final thought though, always remember that goals need to align with your values and beliefs. No point climbing the career ladder only to find, when you get to the top, that your ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall. Think about your values and beliefs, the things that are important to you, that make you you, and sense-check them with the goals you have set yourself, to ensure they are congruent. Otherwise, you will always end up coming up short, as research from Bronnie Ware, Australian Palliative Care Nurse revealed. She found that one of the top five regrets of the dying was not having had the courage to live a life true to yourself as opposed to living the life others expected. Goals with a built-in values and beliefs sense-check give us the opportunity to identify congruent goals and achieve them knowing that success is as you define it, no one else. Surely the greatest of all goals to achieve.

Nikki Alderson Biography

Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker, author, and former Criminal Barrister:

  • supports legal organisations retain female talent; and
  • empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.

Nikki specialises in:

  • Women leadership;
  • Enhanced career break returner support; and
  • Workplace resilience, confidence and wellness.

She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (https://amzn.to/3fodKQX), nominee for 2019 Inspirational Women Awards, and finalist in 2020 Women in Law Awards and 2019 International Coaching Awards.