THE BLOG
12/29/2014 03:11 pm ET Updated Feb 28, 2015

Set Goals Not Resolutions

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The end of the year is a time for self-reflection for many. For me, it's a time for me to take stock of what I have accomplished, think about those who made an impact on my life, those individuals lost through the year, and the items not yet achieved.

The new year on the other hand is a time to start fresh, a clean slate full of possibilities. The new year is also synonymous with the much maligned 'R' word... yes, resolutions. Many would argue the uselessness of resolutions. I would tend to agree. Rather than make resolutions I would choose to set goals.

Why even bother with goals?

Goals keep us focused, they provide us a roadmap and a result. Think about your life without goals. What if you had not set up that goal to go to college which helped you get the good-paying job which helped you buy the house of your dreams? Without goals, life would be aimless.

In business, each year our employees set goals and are held accountable for achievement of those goals. Individually, these goals may not seem impactful, but when you look at the totality of all the employee goals; these make a huge difference in the company and its results.

Whether you are setting goals for work or in your personal life, keep the following in mind:

  1. Set no more than three goals. You will know best how much time and effort each of your goals will require. Perhaps you have set three BHAGs (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals) and anything more than three may spread you too thin.
  2. Set goals that take you out of your comfort zone. While we all gravitate towards the familiar, there is no better feeling than achieving something that you would not have ordinarily done had you been in your comfort zone. This is the only way we learn and grow. I think back to my experience in 2007 and my first trip to China, I was excited and terrified all at the same time at the thought of spending two weeks in this vast country. While my mission was to visit our factories, I set a goal that I was going to hold a training session for our China managers. The session was well-attended and I remember the exhilaration of having succeeded at something I was very nervous about. Once you have experienced that feeling, you want to experience it over and over.
  3. Remember the SMART acronym. Goals should be: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based.
  4. Check in periodically. Don't just set your goals on January 1st and forget them until December 30 or 31st. Check in and track your progress periodically, perhaps quarterly.
  5. Make time for you. Achieving your goals means nothing if in the process you become burned out. Step away and take time to do what you enjoy, perhaps it's heading to the gym each morning, a long walk at lunch, or turning off your cell phone on the weekend.

Keep in mind that goals are personal and you can dictate what you want the year ahead to bring and where it is you want to go. Have fun along the way and have a very Happy New Year!