I know I’ve already said it, but Happy New Year! I hope this is the best year ever for you and your business. With that said, how are YOU going to ensure it’s your best year?

If you’re like most people, this is the time of year when our thoughts naturally turn to setting goals or New Year’s resolutions to ensure success this year. Did you set any? If not, why not?

In working with my clients I often find that they don’t set New Year’s resolutions or even business goals because they have such a lousy track record of achieving them. So, rather than face the disappointment of failure, they just avoid setting goals; never realizing that decision ensures the ultimate failure.

Zig Zigler once said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time”

There are two critical elements to success:

  1. Goal setting
  2. Accountability

During this week’s blog, we’ll concentrate on Goal Setting to get you started. Then next week, we’ll take a look at accountability.

Goal Setting: To position yourself to be in the best position to achieve your goals you should set goals that are well-defined, specific and measurable – in other words – goals that you can achieve!

To make goals fun and exciting, you have to begin thinking about them differently. Rather than setting the same old goals you do every year, become more creative. If you become more creative, you’ll redefine the process by which you achieve them! Everyone has weight goals, exercise goals, etc. – year in and year out – and they’ve become almost a caricature of themselves, in other words, the goals you’ll never succeed at.

But what if you set goals this year that are fundamentally different – they help you become better at something you love or improve a valued relationship or help someone else. How would you feel about it then?

Let’s start by considering a goal that’s “abnormal”.

Goal:   Become fluent in Spanish

Now consider what scares you about trying to achieve this as a goal. Think about how you might get started.

Instead of trying to tackle this big, hairy, audacious goal as it’s written, you should break it into smaller more manageable, in other words, incremental goals that when achieved will help you build on your successes and momentum. Incremental goals might include:

  1. Learn 8 basic phrases in conversational Spanish
  2. Have dinner at a Mexican restaurant, in a predetermined time period, and:
    1. Greet the hostess in Spanish
    2. Order a complete meal in Spanish

(you could also set a business goal to learn 8 business phrases and converse with Hispanic employees in Spanish)

By breaking the overall goal into manageable pieces, you can achieve small successes that can be used to build momentum rather than encounter frustration with a goal that has no end in sight, or at least not in the immediate future.

Now, go back and reconsider your New Year’s resolution or goals. Where can you break it down into manageable pieces? Now that you have written down your new, out of the box, interesting goal; the next steps is to evaluate it using the SMART criteria.

The SMART criteria help you set goals, keep them and get results! Rather than making vague statements about goals, such as “Improve safety”, you make positive, measurable, definitive declarations about your goals. With a SMART goal you would say, “Decrease recordable accidents 25% by June 30, 2012” – now that’s a SMART goal!

Making Goals S M A R T

S – Your goals should be Specific:

Goals should be specific, unambiguous, and written so that anyone can read it and have a clear picture of what results you are going to accomplish. As in the example above, “Decrease recordable accidents 25% by June 30, 2012”, you set a goal that will be completed in 12 months.

M – Your goals should be Measurable:

You goals should have a final, measurable outcome so you can determine if and when it has been achieved. In the previous example, you went to a Mexican restaurant (on a specific date), where you greeted the hostess in Spanish and ordered your meal in Spanish. This is easily measured because you had an end date; learn 8 conversational phases, ordered the entire meal in Spanish.

A – Your goal should be assignable

Who is accountable for accomplishing the tasks needed to achieve the desired result? Is it an individual or a team of people? How will you communicate the goal and the desired timing? People have more buy-in and a greater probability of accomplishing the goal when they have input into its development and timing.

R – Your goals should be realistic

Your goal must be realistic. In other words, it must be achievable and attainable. It must be possible to attain your goal in the time frame stated. Don’t set yourself up for failure with goals that are overly ambitious, but be sure they are not a slam dunk either. In other words, rather than setting a goal such as “Become fluent in a foreign language”, break it into manageable pieces – “Learn 8 conversational phrases by x date.”

T – Your goal should have a time limit

Goals should be time based. Having a time limit creates a sense of urgency and prevents you from stating open-ended goals. You want enough time to achieve your goal but you do not want to use a timeframe that will adversely affect the performance of a goal. In our Spanish speaking example, you set a specific date for your dinner engagement.

Now you’re ready to begin putting your goals and strategies into action! At this point you should have a clear vision of where you are and where you want to get to and an action plan of how you plan to get there.

Next week, we’ll discuss the issues of accountability and it’s impact of achieving the results you seek.