Set goals not resolutions

January 7, 2008

by Kristen Miller

With the new year here, many people consider making new year’s resolutions. Many times, it doesn’t take long before these resolutions fall by the wayside.

This year, instead of making new year’s resolutions that are unlikely to be kept, I am going to make a list of goals – things I will aspire for all year long.

I won’t go into the list, partly because I haven’t begun one yet, and partly because some things need to remain personal, but I will try and help you make a list of your own.

As a Rotary member, I am a volunteer in STRIVE, a Rotary mentorship program for high school students. For our last meeting, we discussed goal setting.

There are six professionals in this group including myself, along with about 10 students. We discussed how goal setting is important well after high school and into a person’s career and adult life, as well as how to do it.

Prior to this, I hadn’t thought much about goal setting. Yes, I strive to do certain things, like make deadlines and pay my bills on time, but these should be done on a regular basis – they are more or less a requirement, and not so much of a goal.

With the onset of the new year, I think it’s a good idea to reflect on the past year – both accomplishments and disappointments.

I think, as human beings, we should always strive to be better people and to improve where there is room (speaking for myself, there is plenty). We often don’t take the time to reflect on our lives in this manner and bad habits only go on repeating themselves year after year.

Disappointments, although a bit depressing to reflect on, might be a great place to start when setting goals for oneself.

For example, think back to when something didn’t go the way you felt it should. What could or should you have done differently? How did you end up in that situation? How did you get yourself out?

This might make a good goal so that the same thing doesn’t happen this year.

A list of goals can be as far-fetched as a person can dream up, but realistic goals – goals that can be obtained – will bring a sense of accomplishment and success when reached.

During our STRIVE meeting, some other tips were offered for making a list of personal goals.

First of all, it’s important to write the goal down on paper. Just having it in your head will make it more likely to be forgotten. It doesn’t hurt to have something tangible, either, to hold you accountable and also to see where you’ve succeeded.

Gene Donohue from Top Achievement recommends being as detailed as possible when setting a goal.

He gives the example of setting a goal to buy a new home. Explain what kind of home you want, how many square feet, how many bedrooms, etc.

Donohue suggests setting goals in six areas of life – family and home, spiritual and ethical, social and cultural, financial and career, physical and health, as well as mental and educational.

Write goals in a positive manner – reaching for something, instead of trying not to do something. Thinking positively helps create a positive outcome.

Donohue also suggests setting a goal for something you really want, not just something that sounds good.

For example, it would be great to write for a large New York City magazine, but would I ever move out to New York, much less get a job at Glamour? Probably not.

Another important thing to remember when setting goals, make sure one doesn’t contradict another.

Donohue gave the example of setting a goal to purchase a $750,000 home when your income is only $50,000.

Sorry to shatter any dreams, but a goal would probably have to include winning the lottery in order for this one to be accomplished.

My suggestion, throw away new year’s resolutions and start setting goals. Goals are more likely to be obtained and a person will have a guideline throughout the year.

Maybe, at the end of the year, you will have a better sense of accomplishment and greater success overall. Good luck in developing and reaching your goals.