Better Resolutions: 5 keys to good goals

Image courtesy Angie Torres. CC License.

Did you use the new year to set a new goal? Lots of people do and for good reason. A new line in the sand seems to give us permission to let the past go and look forward. Setting a new resolution isn't the hard part. Getting them to stick is!

A good resolution (new years or otherwise) includes five key qualities. As you read, check your own goals and resolutions and see how they stack up.

  1. Meaningful - One of the biggest pitfalls of making a new resolve is picking something that isn't really meaningful. Gyms make a load of money off of people resolving to lose weight but for whom "losing weight" doesn't mean much more than dreaming of making more money or vacationing in Hawaii. Finding meaning in losing weight (like fighting off diabetes or training for an event) brings that goal some substance. Regardless of what your resolution is, make it meaningful and remind yourself of that meaning until your goal is met.
  2. Achievable - Pie in the sky resolutions are a non-starter. If you can't reach your goal then you'll never have the push to get going. Set a reasonable goal that may be challenging but is absolutely achievable. Nothing is going to stop you from setting another goal if you meet this one earlier than you expected. Running a marathon probably isn't a good goal if you're struggling to get off the coach.
  3. Measurable - There's no bigger motivation suck than feeling like you're not getting anywhere. That's a death sentence even for achievable goals. Find ways to track your progress as you go. Set up measures that tell you how you are doing. Your goal may be to read more books this year but what does "more" mean? Twelve books in a year is a great, measurable goal because you'll know if you meet it and can check your progress (one book a month) along the way.
  4. Accountability - It is just human nature: we tend to do better and more consistent work when we have to answer to someone about it. Build some accountability into your goals. Meet a friend for that 10k training. Secure a sponsor in your quest to be smoke-free. Set up monthly lunches with that co-worker to discuss your professional development. Do something that puts you under a bit of a microscope. It feels great to talk about success and can be a huge motivator to have to discuss where you fell short.
  5. Make It Fun - All work and no play hasn't done anyone any favors. Goals should include some form of reward or payout at the end and, whenever possible, along the way. Some rewards are external like buying yourself a treat, taking some time away, or dropping a pant size. Others are internal like finishing a good novel, learning a new skill, or hitting your one month mark on a new habit. When you love working towards your resolution, you're more likely to meet it.

What did you notice as you read those point? Is your new year's resolution geared for success? If not, it isn't too late to make some adjustments.