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Thaw Your New Year's Goals

It’s Feb. 3. If you’re like the rest of America, it’s likely you’ve already fallen behind on one or more goals for 2015. All those well intentioned plans have gotten mixed in with day-to-day interruptions. Maybe you just forgot, or maybe you just thought of something new to tackle. 

Thankfully we’re never trapped to relive the same day over and over again like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day.’ There’s still room to redeem the year, the month and even the week. Besides, New Year’s Day isn’t the only starting point for goals. Maybe tomorrow is even better.

It’s not about perfection next year; it’s about progress tomorrow.

With that said, here are three steps for getting on track with existing goals or for planning action steps for new ones.

Evaluate your original goals. Did you have too many to realistically achieve? Are the individual goals focused enough or are they so broad anything goes?

Thinking through each goal will help to prioritize or even evaluate whether it is even needed in the first place and whether something else should take its place. For each original goal, take time to think through the following:

  • What is my goal?
  • Why is it important?
  • Who does it affect?
  • When is the deadline?
  • Where do the resources need to come from?

In their book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, authors Jim Collins and Jerry Porras describe what they call the BHAG (“Big Hairy Audacious Goal”). A BHAG is a strategic and emotionally compelling medium- or long-term goal that is adopted by a company. It’s often seen as impossible, but adopted internally as possible. It is clear, compelling, focused and unified. 

In an article related to the book, Collins described how BHAGs can be used to create progress in a company.

In a visionary company, continuous improvement is a way of life, not a management fad. The critical question is not “How can we do well?” or “How can we meet the competition?” but “How can we do better tomorrow than we did today?” The challenge is to build for the long term while doing well today.

Don’t be afraid to break up your goals into smaller parts. Setting micro-goals can make achieving the ultimate goal easier by helping you stay motivated with successes along the way.

A block is easier to walk than a mile. 

Productivity expert Scott Belsky says the best way to make ideas happen is to create action steps. Action steps are “the specific, concrete tasks that inch you forward.” Be as specific as possible, starting each step with an active verb that gets you in the right state of mind.

Writer Anne Lamott likes to talk about taking goals bird by bird.

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder papers and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Can’t stay on track, ask your friends to help hold you accountable. Sometimes you just need a little support, and your friends make the best cheerleaders.

Sometimes it’s good to round up some trusted companions to cheer you on, but make sure their words aren’t empty encouragement. A recent study found that people who kept their personal resolutions private were more likely to keep them than those who brought their goals public. 

While that might seem like encouragement could do nothing but help, researchers say nods of encouragement might make goal setters feel like they’re on their way even before they begin, delaying them from starting. Friends are most likely to be helpful when they’re able to hold someone accountable. 

A couple of years ago, Jon Acuff said the best way to achieve your New Year’s goals is to start them in December. It frees us from the symbolic starting line. The same could be said for any month of the year. February included, regardless of whether there’s a leap year.


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