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Set Goals Not Resolutions

Updated: Apr 25, 2023

Image of a napkin with the words, A Goal Without A Plan is Just A Wish, and a half-empty coffee cup beside a pen on a desk.

What a year this has been! With New Year’s right around the corner, it’s a great time to talk about the power of goal setting.

Most people start thinking about making changes at this time of year so flexible goals that can be broken down into manageable steps can more easily be successfully accomplished.

As opposed to resolutions, which are usually single, drastic changes in your life, goals can be continuously worked on and adjusted so as not to “fail” them as one could with a resolution. By focusing on incremental accomplishment towards a goal, you can keep motivated and moving forward. Review your progress and efforts to see if there are beneficial alterations you can make to the plan. Add steps where you’ve left too large of a gap and bridge the way to your destination. With these things in mind, how do we create and leverage goals to fuel our success?

Work S.M.A.R.T:

First things first: without good, useful goals, no amount of effort will help you achieve them.

Most of us have heard of S.M.A.R.T goals: the acronym describes effective goals as Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, with some minor variations. There are plenty of resources out there to help you design S.M.A.R.T goals. We recommend starting from your abstract desires and determining specific aspects that you might be able to work on. From there, ask yourself how you’ll know if progress has been made; that’s measurability. Being realistic about your own abilities and limitations is hard but if you can be honest with yourself and avoid goals that just aren’t possible right now, achievability is yours. Bigger, loftier goals might have to be broken down into smaller ones, so don’t give up on something that you’re not ready to fully take on just yet. At this point, reconnect the goal to your original desire. Does this still bring about the change you want? If so, relevance has been met. And lastly, set yourself a timeline for the goal, lest it be relegated to “tomorrow”… until “tomorrow” becomes “next year” or not at all.

Acknowledge what You can Control:

No matter how hard we may try, there are some things that simply aren’t within our own control. And unfortunately, pretty much everything other people do falls into this category.

When setting a goal, make sure that it’s not something totally contingent on other people, situations you can’t influence, or anything else that is likely to change without your input.

That isn’t to say you can’t make reasonable assumptions to base your goals on but try to avoid counting on anything that is too variable as it may derail your goals entirely, or find acceptable and achievable alternatives in advance.

Seek Out Support:

This may sound like a contradiction to the last point but getting support from other people can be critical to achieving your goals. The important distinction is that your goals should not be entirely contingent on this support. Checking in with accountability buddies, reviewing progress with mentors, or having a loved one provide that little push you need when you’re struggling to follow through on your goal can help you keep momentum, increase your motivation, and ensure you progress more smoothly towards your goals.

Don’t Make it Personal:

The pursuit of your goals is a guarantee of only one thing: eventually, you will be met with failure.

This is important, because failure is an opportunity to learn, grow, and be more successful going forward.

Unfortunately, failure is difficult for many people to handle, especially when they compare themselves with those around them who seem to be more successful. Not only is everyone’s path through life different but the prevalence of social media and news tends to show us a curated view into other’s lives: even successful people falter and fall but we’re far more likely to see the times they don’t when we get only a narrow glimpse online. If that isn’t enough reason to stop comparing yourself to others, remember that the time you waste feeling upset or jealous could have been spent progressing toward your own goals instead.

Sweat the Small Stuff:

Or rather, celebrate the small stuff! Because goals are well suited to incremental achievements, learn to enjoy the experience of making steady progress.

Every positive step along the way is something to relish and be joyful about.

Applauding your own progress offers multiple times to reward your efforts and this will help keep your intentions and motivations strong. Don’t let your focus take the joy out of the process and ongoing accomplishments and you’ll be better equipped to keep moving forward.

So as the calendar closes on this year, think about what goals can help propel you into next year’s success: “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” - Tony Robbins [1]


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