SingaporeMotherhood | Parenting

December 2023

Identity Hack to Enjoy Goal Setting in the New Year

As usual, talk of goal setting and resolutions abound as we approach the end of the year. “Girls, why don’t people stick to their New Year goals and resolutions?” I asked my four daughters as we chatted about our hopes and plans for the coming year. As always, each had a different answer.

“Honestly, I don’t remember the goals I set by the end of the year…,” number two bashfully grinned.

“That’s because you don’t come up with a plan or deadline,” the eldest pointed out, wisely.

“The same reason why people smoke… ‘cos they want to stay in their comfort zone,” was my 11-year-old’s insight.

“I don’t know… because it’s hard…?” shrugged the youngest.

“Because… we… are… NOT… motivated… enough!” my perky teenager dragged out each word for emphasis.

My response: “Great! Let’s deep dive into goal setting and do a shapeshift exercise!” Blank looks and furrowed eyebrows greeted this. So as the kids leaned in, I continued.

“Remember how Mystique’s (from X-Men) superpower is the ability to morph into anyone she wants? A shapeshifter alters their physical appearance to look exactly like another person. That allows one to adopt a new identity instantaneously. How would you like to have this superpower?”

Amid their quizzical, skeptical stares, I drew three concentric circles on a piece of paper, and explained. “There are three types of goals — Outcome (outermost circle), Process (middle), and Identity-based (at the core).”

Outcome-based Goals

SMART goal setting
Image: Waewkidja on Freepik

Outcome-based goals focus on results. These are some common outcome-based goals:

  • Health – I want to lose 3 kg in three weeks.
  • Studies – I want to get AL2 (achievement levels) for Maths or Chinese.
  • Finances – I want to earn a specific amount of money within a stipulated timeframe.

The problem with these ‘SMART’ goals is that they start off with huge emotional charge that wanes over time because external motivations are simply not sustainable. It doesn’t matter how strong your willpower is because effort has an expiration date. Many of us get caught up trying to achieve such goals and spend a lifetime feeling pressure or being miserable chasing after something elusive.

So, go easy on yourself and instead of feeling bad, identify why your goal makes you happy. For example, why do you want to lose weight? So that you’ll fit into your old clothes?


Dig deeper. There is always an emotion linked to that result, so discover why you desire a particular target. Do you want to lose weight because… you secretly love getting admiring looks from others? Perhaps you want your spouse to desire you the way he used to.

Instead of giving superficial, socially correct reasons, get comfortable with confessing what’s true for you. At least to yourself.

Then you can help your children and loved ones discover their truths too. Like this:

Scenario 1: Societal Expectations

I asked my daughter why she wanted to get AL2 and her reason was because she wanted me to be happy and proud of her.

I dug deeper. “Why is it important that mummy is proud of you?”

“You’ve done so many things for us, I just want you to be happy,” she said.

A few more probing questions later, she discovered that her personal truth was that she wanted to get into Singapore Sports School. She loves sports and hopes for the opportunity to train competitively instead of taking the standard curriculum.

kids playing football
Image: Freepik

If we are going to spend effort on an achievement, let it be birthed from that individual’s spirit, not another’s. Life is too short to live for others’ expectations. Answers may start from practical needs to societal norms. Let’s be parents who help our children discover their unique paths in life.

You will know when you have discovered an individual’s foundational bedrock when they light up. The reasons behind effective goal setting should never be for someone else. Always anchor it back to why is it important to that individual.


Scenario 2: Personal Trophies

I asked another daughter why she wanted AL2 and she said it was so that she could boast about it. (I love children’s candour!) Her grades were a trophy that would give her a sense of self-achievement.

“Wonderful! If you work for it, you deserve the bragging rights! As long as you remember that your grades are not your identity,” I reminded her.

Take time to caution that there will be disappointments from not achieving goals along the way, and reiterate that results never define a person. Trophies are external symbols of the fulfilment of hard work and yes, we celebrate those. Gloriously.

Yet, it is the intrinsic muscles the individual develops through the process that matter. Enhanced wisdom, strengthened perseverance, exercising empathy, assertive leadership — how have we expanded through life’s lessons?

So, results-based goals are a great starting point to get us present to our personal emotions and deepen our resolve for that achievement. Taking time to drill deep ensures we are not chasing someone else’s dreams, but rooting us in discovering what is uniquely important to us.

Process-based Goals

woman doing goal setting
Image: Freepik

Process-based goals are action-oriented and focus on developing new habits. For example:

  • Complete 50 sit-ups every night before bed.
  • Spend 15 minutes reading one chapter of a Chinese book daily.
  • Set aside $500 monthly into a specific account.

A counterintuitive hack? Make it ridiculously simple!

The simpler the habit, the easier it is to inculcate into your daily routine, and the higher chance it’ll stick. Instead of setting a goal to run for 20 minutes daily, make it unbelievably easy. Jog for just one minute daily, or learn just one new Chinese word daily, or save just $1 daily.

Here, we don’t focus on results, but rather, the process of creating a regular habit loop. Make it something so delightfully fun that you look forward to this daily accomplishment.


Somewhere from the second week to the fifth week, you’ll reach a point where something’s missing if you skip this routine. Feel free then to scale up on the intensity. Increase your jog to three minutes. Speak an entire sentence in Mandarin to a family member daily. Save $5 daily.

You’ll be amazed, after a habit is created, how automatic and natural it feels. Definitely more sustainable and enjoyable than purely result-oriented ones.

Finally, to complete the transformation, we have to effect a shift at one’s core, at a cellular level. Just like the caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, what if you could effortlessly sail in your new habits, permanently?

Identity-based Goals

losing weight illustration
Image: macrovector on Freepik

What’s your internal dialogue with regards to each goal?

➡️ I need to lose weight because… I am fat versus I am a sexy athlete.

The former will put on weight again after an exercise regimen has ended because the core identity has not shifted. On the other hand, a sexy (replace it with healthy, attractive, or any adjective that inspires you) athlete loves to bound up the stairs at the MRT station (instead of taking the escalator), eat healthy food because it serves their body, and pamper their body with well-deserved massages.

See how a new minted identity creates a completely different sense of self? What adjectives inspire you?

➡️ I’m learning Mandarin because… I don’t want to fail my exams versus I’m effectively bilingual.

The first identity is fuelled by fear, while the second opens a world of possibilities by being able to communicate proficiently. Which is more empowering? Your new identity needs to be personally inspiring, nuanced in positivity, and in the present tense.

➡️ I need to earn more money because… I want to afford a better lifestyle versus I am rich.

One comes from lack, strife, and a future tense, while the other embraces abundance in the now.

The reticular activating system in our mind scans for opportunities and reflects back a reality that mirrors our unconscious thoughts. So, if we are subconsciously preparing for a rainy day, it is no wonder we attract emergencies that wipe out bank accounts.

To identify your mental models of reality, simply observe your actions. Your behaviours clue everyone into your unconscious truths.

identity hack to goal setting
Image: Freepik

Hacking My Identity

We walked into a shop and my daughter fell in love with a top. As she went to try it on, I looked at the price tag and mentally decided against buying it. Then she came out of the fitting room and said she loved it. “How much do you like it?” I asked. “10 out of 10!” she chirped.

I had so many reasons to not buy it — it looked faded and the colour was weird. It probably won’t last more than five washes because it looked so fragile. Are these holes in the sides? And it’s $90!

In that moment, I decided to take actions congruent with my rich persona. “Let’s get it then!”

My daughter stared at me in surprise and as she went back into the changing room, I asked the staff for a new piece. My old habit of asking if it was on offer came out, and when the staff said no, my reflex was to back out.


Yet, identifying with a new persona includes taking drastic actions aligned with that new image. How would a wealthy person behave in this circumstance?

When my daughter got back, I asked her to check the new piece. As I watched her beaming while inspecting her top, waves of pride and elation filled my whole being. I felt something within me change. Prior to this, I mostly bought sale items because my logic was that I had to clothe five kids. Yet, this I am rich identity meant I could afford to buy something that brought such cheer to my daughter!

Goal Setting in the New Year

woman shopping
Image: benzoix on Freepik

It felt so good to give my child what she wanted. I realised a truth. It wasn’t that I could not afford the top — all these years of buying clothes on sale was consistent with someone who did not have enough. My unconscious identity was rooted in scarcity and my shopping habits reflected it!

I continued taking new actions reflective of my abundant identity. Stinging on myself was my automatic mode since I became a mother, so I intentionally decided to splurge a thousand dollars on a facial package. “Because I’m so worth it!” I almost danced out of the shop. My worthiness factor shot up as I basked in my new truth.

The mere act of appreciating what I had and creating joy through my decisions elevated my experiences to exponential heights. I stopped saying we can’t afford that and focused instead on how we could get what we wanted. I also taught my children how to tap into our resourcefulness to achieve our targets.

As my internal thoughts shifted, I observed how my external reality also uncannily reflected my new identity. Instead of having less, my bank account miraculously showed more!

So, goal setting is no longer a tedious or meaningless chore today. For a start, instead of just outcome-based goals, thoughtfully identify one process habit to include into your daily routine.

Then create an identity that inspires you and take consistent actions that align with this new personality. How would this persona think? How would they dress? What mannerisms or style are befitting of this individual?

Finally, allow quantum physics to bring synchronicities into your life. 2024 can be that miraculous breakthrough year for you… if you believe.


Featured image: Lifestylememory on Freepik

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Identity Hack to Enjoy Goal Setting in the New Year