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Write It Down!

Hooray! 2011 is here! It is during these first few days of the new year that many people make (and break) resolutions. I must admit that I have conflicting thoughts about New Years Resolutions. One part of me believes in renewal and that we should take advantage of opportunities to become our best self – you know the one: that person that we envision others trusting, enjoying and appreciating. However, I don’t think that we should necessarily wait for a new year to roll around. If we recognize the need to make changes in our lives, we shouldn’t wait until a specific day on the calendar, we just need be honest with ourselves and start as soon as possible. Regardless of when you begin working towards your resolutions – the key is to not only identify your goals, but to have a plan to get from here to there. Thomas Edison is credited with one of my favorite sayings “Vision without execution is hallucination”. We can desire something, but until we come up with a solid plan, it’s nothing more than a dream.

Often people have mental lists of dos, don’t, rules, and goals. Some people may have an extended sense of intuition and self-awareness that permits them to meet and exceed their unwritten goals with unwritten plans of action. The other 99% of us need to record our goals so that we can hold ourselves accountable and (even better) monitor our progress. One great example is my fitness quest. It’s not all about the numbers on the scale, but when I established specific, measurable goals regarding the number of pounds I wanted to lose, the number of miles I wanted to walk, how many minutes I’d run without stopping, etc. I am much more successful. I must admit that it was humbling to get on the scale, take my measurements, and record my clothing sizes. However, as I started shedding pounds – the differential between the current numbers and those initial numbers proved very motivational. It was proof that I was making progress. Sometimes, having a way to measure your progress and acknowledge the benefits of your effort – is enough to spur you on so that you continue to make great progress. 

The first step is to record your goals – WRITE THEM DOWN. Post them in a prominent place so that you can constantly reinforce and remind yourself of what you plan to accomplish. Next, consider the interim steps to get from stating the goal to reaching the goal. What is required? What timeframes are associated with your progress? How will you know when you’ve met your goal? It doesn’t have to be extensive, but you should monitor your progress periodically. You must also evaluate whether more or different effort is needed. You may also need to refine your goals as you gather more experience and information.

The management mention of SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) is helpful to every goal – whether personal or professional. There are several key factors that are critical to establishing SMART goals:

1. The goal must be within your control – as much as we’d like to, we cannot set goals for other people. We cannot control others, only how we respond to them. Getting your brother to act like less of a jerk cannot be YOUR goal. Your goal could be to not allow your brother to upset you with his behavior.  Winning the lottery is not a goal (although we’d like it to be).

2. The goal must include milestones – you must be able to periodically monitor your progress. Carefully consider the steps necessary to reach your goal and establish timeframes/deadlines for each step along the way. For example, you cannot reach a goal to work on a degree in 2012 without completing the interim steps of admissions tests, researching programs, completing applications, etc.

3. The goal must be meaningful to you – I believe that each person has gifts, talents and abilities that they can use to make the world a better place. However, if you are establishing goals because they matter to those around you or seem to sound good at the time, you are doomed before you begin. The goal must be something that makes YOU feel fulfilled. If the goal is not meaningful to you, you will only grow to resent it instead of embracing it.

With these tips in mind, I hope that you make 2011 a year where you soar to new heights. Begin with the end in mind. Focus less on rote resolutions and more on steps toward winning outcomes. Happy New Year!

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