It should come as no surprise that most of us set personal and professional goals each January, yet we rarely follow through and accomplish them. Often, we start out with great intentions and enthusiasm, then find ourselves flagging within the month.
1. Be specific. A goal “To earn more money” is too vague. Every goal needs to be specific, i.e.: “To earn 15% more income.” The specificity lets you know if you’ve succeeded or not; by December of next year, you'll either be making 15% more (by getting a promotion and a raise, by changing jobs, by generating an extra, outside means of income) or not.
2. Be realistic. Formulate goals that you can reasonably achieve. Deciding to “Double sales within the next three weeks” is overly ambitious and will set you up for failure. Additionally, choose no more than three goals you want to accomplish—any more than that and you’ll lose your focus and commitment.
3. Be passionate. Remember that if your goals are things that you deeply desire, you’re more likely to see them through to success.
4. Develop your action steps. Decide which tactics you’ll use to accomplish your goals. “I will send out 5 resumes per week,” or "I will attend at least two networking events a month,” are two possible action steps for reaching a goal of “earning 15% more this year.”
5. Think small. Meaningful change can and does result from tiny things that we can do every day. Try writing two thank you notes a day, spending 20 minutes each morning working on a specific project, or organizing your desk every evening before you leave work.
6. Keep it to yourself. You may think that telling friends, family, and colleagues about your goals will help you stay on track. But if you encounter a setback or decide to revise your goals, those same folks may give you a hard time. Share your goals only with those you know to be totally supportive.
7. Plan for obstacles. Don’t expect everything to go exactly as planned. Consider all the possible obstacles that may arise, then devise ways to overcome these obstacles when they occur.
8. Stay on course. Review and update your action steps daily. You may well need to modify your long-term plans to reflect changing priorities and new information.
9. Verify your progress. Confirm that you’re following your action steps and making progress towards your goal. What had you hoped to accomplish three months out? What progress did you actually make? What changes may still be needed?
Achieving our goals is a process. Keep that in mind and over the year and you’ll gain satisfaction from the advances you make toward your objectives. As a bonus, that satisfaction should translate into higher energy and self-confidence in both your work and your private life!
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year's Day.
~Edith Lovejoy Pierce