Self-improvement, or at least the desire for it, is a shared American hobby. It’s why so many of us—some estimates say 45% of Americans or about 140 million people—make New Year’s resolutions.
Have you ever wondered why people don’t make May 1st resolutions? Or September 12th resolutions? Why it is always at the beginning of the year? Maybe because it is a fresh start; time to put the last year behind us and look forward to the future. Maybe it is because that is what everyone else does so we too feel compelled to set a goal for ourselves.
But for all the good intentions, only a small fraction of us keep our resolutions; University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. For the other 92% why do we wait until next January to start this vicious cycle all over again? Who says we can’t make February resolutions?
In fact, the most successful people make resolutions daily. We often think that a goal has to be a monumental task that require months of hard painstaking work. Where in fact you can’t quit smoking permanently if you don’t make it past Day 1. Congratulations, you made your goal of not smoking for Monday February 1st. If you don’t succeed on February 2nd that doesn’t mean you quit trying to achieve your long-term goal, you press on and your goal for the 3rd should be to make it through the day without lighting up. Baby steps. Plan your work and work your plan.
Often though, some professionals go through their day and their careers without any goals in mind. Sure, you might know you want to advance and be happy in your career but what does that look like? Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 5 years? 2 years? 2 months? 2 weeks?
I follow several job forum boards and every day people ask should I do this or should I do that? Which job should I take? Should I accept this promotion or not? Our chief competitor made me an offer, should I take it? Should I go back to school or take X job? My answer is same each and every time, does X gets your where you want to go? Does X help you accomplish your goals? It is awfully difficult to make the correct decision if you don’t know where you are trying to get to.
Life has a funny way of throwing us curveballs just when we think we have things figured out. Our professional and personal goals should be reevaluated on a routine basis. If one of your parents suddenly becomes ill, you may need to rethink your goal of obtaining a promotion and instead focus on finding a new job in a different part of the country so you can be closer to your ailing parents. What is important to us can change in the blink of an eye and our goals should reflect that. Just because you set a goal on January 1st doesn’t mean you can’t change that goal on January 15th.
Without having goals in mind, we simply spin our wheels and never get to where we want to go. 10 years down the road, I don’t want to look back and feel like I’m in the same spot; having never felt that sense of accomplishment.
So what are the keys to successful goal-setting?
- Keep it simple – You have to lose 5 pounds before you can lose 20
- Set SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound
- Write it down – It helps you hold yourself accountable
- Create an action plan – What do you need to do to get to where you want to go?
- Believe in yourself – Often the only thing holding us back is ourselves
Tomorrow is a new day and with each new day comes new opportunities for us to thrive.