Saturday, December 29, 2007

Goals, not resolutions

Each year, countless people around the globe propose New Year’s resolutions. Particularly in the U.S., these proposals fixate on the physical—to lose weight, join the gym, eat healthy—while often falling short of their intent.

According to (glad to know my tax dollars are being put to good use—studying my fellow American’s top resolutions for the New Year), some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions are losing weight, paying off debt, eating right and drinking less booze.

Like many good intentions, these so-called resolutions will be long forgotten by the end of January. Like the co-worker who says he/she hopes to lose weight and then, over the cubicle wall, you regularly hear them rustling the paper of another fast food meal and smell the waft of French fried potatoes, these resolutions are born in weakness.

While I can’t say honestly that I’ve never failed to achieve success in my own resolutions, I can say in all honesty that I no longer make resolutions. Rather, I’m given to writing down goals, which serve as signposts for me along the road, during the upcoming year.

The practice of setting goals, versus making resolutions, might seem semantic to some. For me, however, it has been empowering. I can’t pinpoint the year I made this transition, but I think it was probably either 2004, or 2005. More than just speaking forth my goals, I’ve made a habit of writing them down, in a notebook, where I regularly refer to them. These provide regular feedback and help me to gauge my success, or help me to step back and reassess where I’m headed. A case in point—in 2004, I set forth a goal of researching and writing a book. In September, 2005, When Towns Had Teams was released. The book was well-received, won a national award in 2006 (an IPPY for best regional non-fiction title in the Northeast) and still continues to sell copies.

2007 has been a great year for me. In my personal life, relationships, work and writing, I’ve been able to maintain a focus in my life that wasn’t the norm, even five years ago.

Setting goals can be tricky, if you’ve never experienced success. That’s why it’s best to set realistic goals for yourself, so you can start achieving success, rather than setting yourself up for failure.

While life is rarely perfect and even in the midst of a good year, there have been disappointments and setbacks, I am confident that 2008 will be an even better year and that I’ll find success in hitting my targets on several fronts. That confidence helps breed further success. In fact, once more, I have a goal of getting a new book to market. I’ve tentatively set a July release date and have begun researching my subject and have already made some solid progress on the writing side. I may have to adjust the release date, but 2008 will see my second book in print.

In looking back over my life, I haven’t always felt this confident. Too often, I would be caught up in bitterness, resentment and blame others for my own shortcomings. Now, I’m much more likely, when confronted with a setback, to ask the question, “what are you not doing right,” or better, “what adjustments do I need to make in my approach?”

I encourage you to abandon playing “resolution roulette” and start practicing something more practical. Get a notebook, or a notepad and set down five practical goals to get you started in 2008. Periodically (after two weeks, one month and after six weeks) check back with those goals and see where you stand. If you’re not hitting your targets, what’s preventing you from doing so? If you are honest and accept responsibility for your own success, I assure you that you’ll start seeing some positive results.

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