THE BLOG
12/08/2015 11:52 am ET Updated Dec 08, 2016

5 Tips for Setting New Year's Resolutions

Every year, around this time, many of us start contemplating what our New Year's resolutions will be for the year ahead. As we take time to reflect on 2015, we should consider all that we have to be grateful for, celebrate our accomplishments including our personal growth over the year, and explore the challenges that we faced to understand root causes and our reactions. This reflection helps to set us up for success as we get into planning for 2016. Here are five tips to set your New Year's resolutions and increase your chances of reaching your goals.

1) Prioritize three goals.

I remember a time when I used to make a list of dozens of personal and professional goals. I would type it all up and hang it up in my office as a visual reminder of what I had committed to accomplishing. The fact is that although I was ambitious and had great intentions, I was not practical in my planning. When we set too many goals for ourselves, we lose track over time of what is most important and often fail to accomplish much of anything. I suggest prioritizing three goals every year and focusing those goals on what you want to stop, start and continue.

STOP -- We all have habits that are holding us back from being the best version of ourselves. So call yourself out on one habit that you are going to stop in 2016.

START -- It is likely that we also have something that we have talked a lot about doing but never transitioned to action. 2016 is the year to start something we have always wanted to do but never quite made it past the starting line.

CONTINUE -- We have all likely been doing something that has been contributing to our success. So keep it up and continue to reap the rewards.

2) Visualize your wins.

Athletes often visualize themselves scoring the goal, making the touchdown, or beating a record. I often coach clients on how to visualize themselves delivering a successful presentation. Artists often can picture their masterpieces in their minds before ever connecting their brush to their canvas. The fact is that when we visualize our successful achievement of a goal, we heighten its probability in our minds. What was once far off in the distance is now within reach because we see ourselves practicing new habits, taking the first step, and continuing with a routine that has worked for us in the past. Our goals become a little less scary and a lot more practical.

3) Replace "what if I fail" with "what if I succeed."

Once we have mastered visualizing the achievement of our goals, we must replace our negative self-speak with positive affirmations that fuel our desire to achieve our goals. I remember when I was contemplating launching my own business. I spent so much time focusing on what would happen if I failed. A mentor of mine challenged me to alter the voice inside my head by asking a different question: What if I succeed? It was an ah-ha moment for me that transformed the lens through which I was thinking and planning. Suddenly I was spending more time with a solution orientation and less time putting myself down. Besides, the world is full of many who will doubt our dreams and try and convince us that we are not good enough... why do it to ourselves?

4) Engage others.

Every nonprofit and for-profit organization has a board of directors or trustees that advise its strategy and support its goal attainment. I believe that every individual should also establish their own group of advisors, influencers that positively and proactively challenge us and energize us to reach our peak performance. We should communicate with them our three prioritized goals and enlist their support in holding us accountable throughout the year. By sharing our goals with others, we breathe life into them and invite those that we trust to be our biggest supporters. I remember last year being so frustrated with my weight gain that I committed to working out at least 30 minutes every day. By sharing this commitment with my friends and family, they checked in on how I was doing with the exercise routine and joined me in celebrating my weight loss milestones along the way which further fueled my commitment. Plus, I inspired others along the way to join me and established a sense of community with those that shared my goal.

5) Track and celebrate your milestones.

Everyone has good days and bad days. Sometimes it may be easier to roll over, throw the blanket over our heads and wait for a new day to dawn. The fact is that life is truly what you make of it. Goal setting is only the first step in the process. We must move forward one step at a time which is why it is important to both track and celebrate our milestones along the path to our goals. These shorter term accomplishments keep us motivated and on track to achieving our longer term plans. I remember as a kid, I had the bad habit of sucking my thumb. My mother tried everything to get me to break the habit. We finally reached success when we devised a plan where I would get a silver star sticker every night that I didn't suck my thumb. So many star stickers translated to bubble tape rewards. As silly as this may sound, it was the shorter term milestones and incentives that enabled me to break the habit long term.

I wish you the best in both setting and achieving your 2016 New Year's resolutions, and I'd love to hear from you as to what has helped you turn your goals into reality.