For better or worse, despite the good, bad and the ugly, 2017 has come to an end. It is now January 1, 2018- the start of a brand new year. It is a great opportunity to start something new, re-invent yourself, or maybe just continue the same course of action from the year before. As with the beginning of the year, it is the time where people make their yearly New Year’s Resolutions. This is where I suggest you take a different route.
From losing weight, starting a business, becoming more financial responsible, ending a negative habit- resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. The issue is that at the end of the year we often look back (as we should) and find that we fell short of these resolutions, often within weeks of the new year starting. Why is that the case? A resolution is simple a firm decision to do something or not do something. I believe that many people simply state their resolution then, as if by some sort of magic, the resolution will work itself out into a plan of success. That is not the case at all.
This is why I resolve not to treat my desires and expectations for a new year as simply a resolution. Instead, I am creating my New Year’s Goals!
What is the difference between a resolution and a goal? To me there is a drastic difference. For many years I resolved to do something and fell short immediately. The reason why is there was no plan, no follow-through, nothing to guide me towards success. In addition, the resolution would be specific yet general. I would resolve to save money but how? How much would I save in order for it to be considered a success? What sacrifices would I have to make to save? There is not a lot of hope for success if there are more questions than answers after a resolution. A goal, however, requires much more planning and detail. A goal will not be accomplished without proper foresight and a detailed plan of action as well as a way to evaluate whether a goal has been achieved or not.
As 2018 begins, I implore you to create a plan of action for your New Year’s Goals. Here are three suggestions on how to go about accomplishing this.
- Create clear and specific goals and plans – Focus on the things you want to accomplish in 2018 that will lead to personal or professional growth. Set goals that matter to you and will positively affect your life. Once you have those goals in mind you must create a plan of action. What needs to be done to accomplish those goals? What are the steps that need to be taken? The more detailed your goals and your plan the easier it will be to both follow it as well as know when you are not on track. Understand that this plan will constantly be redrafted and updated, as circumstances beyond our control will come up and adjustments need to be made.
- Establish deadlines – There must be benchmarks on the path to achieving success. These benchmarks should be based on a timeframe. In 3 months where do you need to be? In 6 months? If we simply set a goal and no deadline then it becomes incredibly easy to keep succumbing to distractions and obstacles that delay our progress. There have been too many times where I have said I wanted to accomplish a goal without a deadline and found myself saying “It’s ok- I will start tomorrow”, as days and weeks go by. With a deadline, that date stays in the forefront of our minds and serves as a daily reminder that there is a task to be accomplished.
- Develop a way to evaluate your progress – When creating goals, we need to understand how to determine what success looks like. For example, if the goal is to lose 10 pounds then determining success is easy. However, not all goals are that simple and straightforward. When we set those benchmarks, it is an opportunity to evaluate our progress to know how far we have come and how much more we have to go. It is critical to be both realistic as well as fair when creating these evaluative tools. We often tend to be most critical of ourselves and without a proper intrinsic motivation we will only set yourself up for failure.
A final piece of advice will take us back to the days of applying for college. When I applied, I remember being told numerous times that I must apply to safe schools and reach schools- safe schools being the ones I would likely get into and reach schools being the ones that may be out of reach but were worthwhile pursuing because I never knew what would happen. I take this same approach when thinking about my goals each year. I establish multiple safe goals which I believe I can accomplish with effort and planning. The reason I set these goals is to keep motivated and focused after each victory. Reach goals I know will require effort, sacrifice and perseverance. I know it will require me to grow, by choice or by force, in order to place myself on a path to achieve it. These goals, both safe and reach, are mixed in throughout the year so I maintain a steady stream of energy and focus throughout the year.
As the first day of 2018 will come to an end in a few hours, you have homework to do. Do not wait and see if 2018 will be a successful year. Do not leave it to chance or in the hands of anyone else. Make it a great year. Plan and expect success and greatness in 2018!