Editor’s note: This article was originally published in January 2012.
It’s that time of year again, when we sit down and start developing our New Year’s resolutions. Oh what joy! For many of us New Year’s resolutions have a bad rap. We start off overly-ambitious, but then on January 2, we experience a post-holiday letdown which gives us an excuse to throw in the towel. This year, I challenge you to think about New Year’s resolutions in a different way, with different expectations, in order to start taking control of your life and resolutions.
#1: Set Goals vs. Resolutions
In year’s past I adopted resolutions with a wonderful sense of positive intent, but most of them rarely made it across the finish line in December. So instead of resolutions such as “I will go to the gym more often,” I began making annual goals like “In the next 90 days I will go to the gym and workout for 30 minutes, three times per week.” Resolutions are definitely a means to a goal, but goals imply not just intent but a certain amount of effort or action to achieve it. Many people use the SMART method for setting goals, which I think is a great way to create achievable goals.
Specific = Goals should be specific and emphasize what you want to happen and are willing to do.
Measurable = Establish criteria that will help you measure your progress toward the attainment of each goal. You can also use online tools such as 43things, StickK or Joe’s Goals to help you track your progress of your annual goals.
Accountable = Tell others about your goals or find a person who is working towards the same goal and partner up.
Realistic = The goal needs to be do-able and yet challenging enough for a satisfying achievement.
Timely= Set a time frame and put an end point on your goals to give you a clear target to work towards. You can also set mini-milestones to help you feel successful early on. Break your big goal into weekly or monthly goals.
Also make sure your goal is something you want to do, because then you are more likely to succeed at reaching it.
#2: Think of What You’d Like to Add to Your Life Instead of What You’d Like to Take Away
People who take something away from their lives rather than adding something good, may subconsciously feel more deprived and therefore struggle to achieve their goals. Plus, it’s usually easier to add a behavior than to stop one, so this New Year’s think about what you want to add to your life instead of what you’d like to take away. For example, instead of making the goal of “eat less unhealthy food,” why not focus on trying to “eat more healthy food.” Here are some questions to use as a springboard to help get you thinking about what you might like to add to your life in 2012.
- What healthy character trait would you like to see developed in your life this year and what are some specific steps you can take to develop it?
- What is something you would like to learn about this year?
- What is one area of progress you’d like to see this year for maintaining or improving your physical health?
- If married or in a relationship, what are some things you can do as a couple to strengthen your marriage or relationship?
- What are some of your long-term financial goals and in what ways can you make progress on them this year?
- What are some ways you can be of service to your community?
- Who would you like to be and what steps can you take to become that person?
#3: Pursue One Goal at a Time
Begin by writing down all the things you’d like to consider for your 2012 New Year’s goals—and then prioritize them. Pick the most important goal and focus on it until you feel you have had some success. You don’t have to pursue all of your goals at the very beginning of the year. Spread them out, so it’s not so overwhelming and you can obtain greater focus.
#4: Keep Going
Let’s be honest—achieving goals can be challenging and you need to be prepared for setbacks. The best way to deal with setbacks is to keep your focus and stay centered. Constantly remind yourself what your goals are and why you want to achieve them. Don’t just look at your goals once in a great while, keep them in mind every day if possible.
In the past, it has been helpful to me to select a word of the year–a word I can say to myself to help carry me through. Examples include “Hope” or “Generosity.” I am still formulating my list of goals for 2012, but I have decided the word that will motivate me throughout the year is “Journey.”
What about you? What are your goals (or resolutions) for 2012? What is your motivating word for the year? What strategies will you use to take control of your life and make your resolutions stick?
As an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Trainer with The Village Business Institute, Dawn Kaiser lives her passion–to energize, encourage and equip others to live their strongest lives now. She is a motivational speaker, writer, teacher, and positive-thinker extraordinaire. She draws on more than 12 years of experience in the Human Resource/Organizational Development field, a Bachelors of Business Administration from the University of MN Duluth and a Masters of Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is also a certified HR Professional and a life-long learner.
Dawn is available to speak nationwide. For more info, visit Dawn’s website.