How to Set Goals for 2017, Rather than New Year’s Resolutions

We’re near the end of 2016, and you know what that means, time for our new year’s resolutions.  Realizing I am a couple of weeks early to the party, it is unlikely that you have yours yet.  And, I encourage you NOT to make them this year.  Yes, you heard me.  Hold off.  Rather than resolutions this year, set goals instead.

Here’s why.  Resolutions rarely stick.  They are aspiration, and rarely rooted in reality.  Often, this leads us to lack commitment and follow through on them.  In fact, according to Forbes, only 8% of people accomplish their new year’s resolutions.  By contrast, setting SMART goals, has a much higher chance of success.  According to my research for Pivot Point, I found that having goals and a plan contributes to an 80% higher success rate.

So, how do you know what your goals are?

Over the holidays, I recommend you noodle on your goals, asking yourself:

  • What is that I am so excited about, that when I am doing it, I forget to go to the bathroom?
  • What is ONE thing I could do to make a positive impact in my life?
  • What is something that my friends, peers, family always say I should do, but I choose not to?

So, how might we turn these wants into goals?

SMART goals lend focus

To set good goals, I like the SMART goal framework – creating goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. I look at these criteria like a checklist to make our goals even better:

  • Specific: What specifically will happen to achieve this goal?
  • Measureable: What numbers will I use to measure the successful achievement of this goal?
  • Attainable: During the time frame specified, how attainable is this goal?
  • Relevant: How relevant am I to making this goal happen?
  • Time bound: When will this goal be achieved?

Think of this framework like a checklist.  You have a goal in mind, and you want to make it even better.  Good goals help us focus on what is important.  They are the guard rails for our days.  As 2017 ramps us, and the days blur together, I recommend a daily reflection to focus on your goals.  Reflecting at the end of each day, how did I progress on my goals today? And, at the beginning of each day, what is one thing I could do today to positively impact my goals?  Pare this with meditation to clear your mind, and you might just surprise yourself with how much more clear and focused you are on your goals.

Time is finite, and so are goals

The questions above help you self-discover what is important to you, and what areas you might focus on building goals that align with your purpose and help you live an even more purposeful life.  But we only have so much time in the day.  Time is finite, and therefore, so should our goals.  With those I coach on what I call a Career Game Plan, we collaborate on our purpose statements, goals, competencies, and actions to fulfill our purposes.  When in the goal setting area, we limit our goals to no more than three goals at a time.  The challenge with more than three is the loss of focus.  One, two or three remain easily in our forefront, more than that becomes tricky to balance, and compromises the ability for all goals to be successfully completed.

In the book, The ONE Thing by Gary Keller, I learned that having a limited number of goals is pivotal.  Keller asks the question – what is one thing you could do… as a pre-cursor to some of the most powerful questions to self-discover what areas to focus on, and how to manage your time to gain positive traction more quickly.  He shares that on average, humans take 66 days to change a habit.  Say we want to work out more often, and even made it a SMART goal – I will work out three times per week for a half hour at the gym every week of 2017 – it will take us on average three months of doing this before it becomes a habit.  That explains why most new year resolutions derail in January.  It’s not even a habit yet, and we have given up.  This is much harder to do in April.

A Framework:  The Strategic Growth Plan

One of my business partners, a phenomenal coach and inspiration, Tina Jaynes, creates sustainable growth for her clients through consistent and proactive leadership solutions.  She and her team use a Strategic Growth Plan to outline the key areas of the client’s life that matter most to them – business, career, family, etc. – then map a goal for each area, noting where they are today, and where they want to be in the future.  The clearer the action steps are to close the gap, the better.  And, with metrics for success, it creates a bogey to make positive progress towards, an excellent way to book end the day – what progress will I make today in the morning, and what progress will I make tomorrow in the evening.  We review the Strategic Growth Plan monthly one-on-one for accountability and to celebrate successes.  Tina finds that her clients achieve their goals much faster when they are documented in the one-page plan with key action steps to get there.  In fact, on average, they achieve their goals within six months of working together.

As we approach the holidays, take time to reflect on the successes of 2016, and what you want from 2017.  By setting goals, your chances of success are 80% higher.

Remember, good leaders set good goals.  How will you set your goals?

#goalsetting #SMARTgoals #leadership