It’s easy to get caught up in the flurry of activity the holidays bring. With all of the items on our to-do lists, many of us neglect to look ahead beyond our plans for New Year’s Eve.
Don’t let the new year catch you unprepared.
Whether you’re feeling defeated by past mistakes or broken promises you’ve made to yourself, or you’re swept away with a romantic or unrealistic expectations, pause and collect your thoughts. Give yourself the gift of assessing where you’re at. Take an honest inventory of your successes and failures from the current year. Think of the new year as a clean slate and an opportunity to make a fresh start.
Before you begin making goals, think about what's realistic. Resolutions often fail because we set unrealistic expectations and don't create a plan for success. You definitely want to reach for the stars, but the way to get there is through a million small wins. It takes intentional and sensible growth to achieve goals.
It's a marathon, not a sprint.
Focusing on continuous growth and improvement is the best way to achieve your dreams. For example, weight loss is a common New Year's resolution and the reason why people are often unsuccessful is that results don't happen right away or too many behaviors are changed at the same time. People get frustrated and quit. However, if a series of short-term goals are established to support a larger goal – like weight loss – it can make all the difference. When a sensible plan is put into place and small changes are made each month (rather than all at once), by the end of the year, 12 effective and sensible changes have been implemented and the results are tangible.
Establish your goals, then set them in motion.
Use these steps as a framework for setting your goals and taking action steps to achieve them.
Step 1: Get right down to it. Develop your goals.
Think about your main goal and what you want to accomplish. Start with your long-term goals (for example, where you want to be five years from now) and ask yourself:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to be?
- What am I afraid of?
- What have I already achieved?
- Where do I want to go?
- Who do I need to include as I consider my goals?
If thinking ahead to your long-term goals is too daunting, think about where you want to be at this time next month, and next year, and ask yourself opposing questions:
- What do I want to be doing this time next month/year?
- Where do I not want to be?
Write everything down and think about who needs to be involved and who will be affected by your answers. For example, if you have a spouse and you want to move across the country but s/he doesn't, you have a conflict in your goals. Rethink them.
Step 2 – Think through your goals and break them down into small steps and tasks.
Step 3 – It's about to get real: set a deadline and create a timeline for your action steps.
- What's my deadline for achieving these goals? Am I underestimating how long it will take?
- This is the tricky part: take those action steps you wrote down in Step 2 and assign a deadline for each one.
Step 4 – Be prepared to make adjustments throughout the year.
- Keep a journal, spreadsheet, or document to keep track of your goals and progress. People who record their goals and progress have been shown to be far more effective in achieving them. Download our free goal-setting worksheets below.
Tips to stay on track.
- Keep a journal, spreadsheet, or document to keep track of your goals and progress. People who record their goals and progress have been shown to be far more effective in achieving them.
- Review your skills, interests, and work values. Self-awareness is a critical part of the equation when it comes to setting and achieving goals. Completing career assessments – like the ones in the Kuder Career Planning System® – can provide you with information and insights on your personal interests, skills, and work values, and give you a list of careers that you should consider based on your results.
- Include others. Invite your trusted friends and mentors to weigh in on your goals, and help you remain accountable to reach them.
- Reevaluate your goals periodically. Ask yourself whether they align with your long-term strategy and tweak them as necessary.
Free Goal-Setting Downloads
Print these free resources to help you set and achieve your goals.
Go for Your Goals!
No goal is impossible. This sheet will help you measure yours.
Measure your long-term goals with this handy download.
Keep your short-term goals on track with this helpful sheet.
Update your Professional Portfolio
Cultivate Your Professional Network
Make Professional Development One of Your Goals
- goal setting