It’s 2013 – a new year. Already there have been a myriad of articles about why we can’t achieve the resolutions we set for the new year. Experts tell us that few people actually meet the goals they set, so in many articles the advice is not to set those goals at all! I tend to disagree. I think it is the way we approach resolutions that gets us off track and leaves us in a ditch on the side of the road.

The problem with standard resolution-setting is that it’s often too broad. We set a goal like, “I want to exercise more this year” or “I will lose that stubborn 10 pounds” or “I want to be nicer to my family and more patient with my children.” While these are all worthwhile goals and important ones, they don’t really tell us (a) what success looks like, and (b) how we are going to achieve what we want to. We can make significant changes, but only if we have a clear roadmap and a specific plan for what we will do, when we will do it and how we will get ourselves back on track, if need be.

Let’s look at five things you can do differently, starting this new year, to make it a successful one in terms of realizing your resolutions.

  1. Know where you want to go. This involves taking the time to set goals, actually writing them down in specific terms. Make sure you crystallize what’s really important to you. For example, I have a goal for my business in terms of revenue, but I also have lifestyle goals. I don’t want to compromise my family time in favor of taking on larger projects just for the sake of more revenue. When setting goals, be sure to think about all of the components of what matters to you and set goals that are more holistic. If you can include both quantitative and qualitative components, it will make the goals more real.
  2. Identify the obstacles. Think about why you haven’t been able to accomplish what you care about in the past. For example, I strive to be a kinder, more gentle person. What obstacles have I faced in being so? Oftentimes I am feeling overwhelmed and worried about how I will get everything done. When I pause and let myself breathe, I realize that I just need to take it a step at a time. Getting caught up in the frenetic pace is a big obstacle for me. It’s important to know this, because now I can recognize the next time it happens and start to breathe earlier than before and center myself accordingly.
  3. Know what makes you happy. We are often chasing things that we don’t really want – “be careful what you wish for” is a true adage. We think certain things will make us happy (i.e., winning the lottery) but we know from our own past and from others’ stories that it isn’t always the case. Take a minute to ponder what really makes you feel warm and confident inside. For me, I’m happiest when I have quality time to spend with my children and I know what’s happening in their lives. I’m happiest when I am volunteering my time and talents. I’m happiest when I can spend time with my aging mom and dad. When I can carve out time to do things that fill me, I have so much energy left over for kindness and compassion for others. I need to organize my days, my weeks and my months throughout the year to allow for the things that increase my energy.
  4. Take little steps. For most of us, our calendars fill very quickly. There is always something demanding our attention. It can be too easy to just give up on our new goals because we can’t find a way to fit things onto an already overflowing plate. When can you do something new? How small can you break down the steps to take? When we break things down into smaller steps, and then put those steps on our calendar as a commitment, we are often more likely to do a small bit each day. Identify the steps and put them into your daily calendar. Make a commitment to yourself, because each small step you take moves you closer to the larger goal.
  5. Note what you do well, and shake it off when you stumble. We have a tendency to note the things we aren’t doing well and ignore it when we have taken a positive step forward. We beat up on ourselves, and this makes it all too easy to give up: “What does it matter anyway, I’m never going to lose this weight!” Then we pick up yet another piece of pie to remind ourselves that we are failures. Instead, we should look at life as a learning experience. We learn from every mistake we make. Learn to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over again as many times as you need to.

Let this new year be the year that you move in the direction of your desired goals. You can do it if you take the necessary steps to get there. Happy 2013! 

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