“The longest journey starts with a single step.” - Lao Tzu
Gearing up for the new year
It’s that time of year again: new calendars, party plans, and “Auld Lang Syne.”
Counting down to the new year just isn’t complete without also making at least one resolution. Chances are there are a few issues you’d like to work on in 2011, broad personal or professional objectives that might top your official resolution list this year.
Turning those broad items into attainable goals is, of course, the real challenge.
Planning for success: how to set short-term goals with long-term objectives
Big picture vs. small steps
Setting a goal often starts with an idea of the “big picture,” the end result you want to achieve. A sense of accomplishment, sometimes at a key moment, usually lets you know you’ve met the objective. Students, for example, daydream about graduation, while job seekers likely imagine signing on the dotted line to accept their ideal position. That big promotion and what it might mean for your career might also be easy to envision.
While the mental image of achieving what you set out to accomplish might seem clear, exactly how to arrive at that specific end result can be less obvious.
Reaching goals is a process that requires time, self-evaluation, and sustained effort. Taking the right approach and maintaining motivation along the way can be major challenges. Knowing how to stay on track can help make any goal a reality.
Tips for managing your goals
Define them: Write down exactly what you want to do and what success looks like to you. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Don’t forget to identify how you’ll define goal completion. Be realistic about what’s possible and when. Learn more about SMART goals.
Identify first steps: Outline a series of short-term goals that lead to long-term objectives. Assess what you need to do and be specific about details. For example, if you want to enhance your communication skills, penciling in “Communicate better at work” probably isn’t specific enough. Instead, try researching local public speaking clubs, finding university classes at a nearby campus, or scheduling a first presentation so that a target date is established from the beginning.
Find support: Let others know what you’re working to achieve. Talk regularly with people who can encourage you and will keep you accountable. If you can find another person with the same goal, try to tackle it together. Friends, family, or a support group can help keep you motivated.
Try small but significant changes: A small change can make a big difference. Trade one behavior for another that aligns with the goal, rather than trying to eliminate a big issue all at once. Know that what you’re doing is going to take time. Develop your skills and take gradual steps.
Revamp goals as needed: Take a step back and look at the progress you’re making. By assessing your progress, you can decide if you need to restructure your goals to better accomplish them.
Reward mini-milestones: Celebrate reaching short-term goals in a meaningful way. Make the reward something you can look forward to. Changing your habits is often the real key to achieving your goals, so choose positive incentives that reinforce what you’ve already done.
Give yourself a break: Recognize that the goal process may not always go as planned and give yourself permission to try something else. Keep an open mind and look into different options if your original plan doesn’t work in the way you thought it would.
New year, new you
Get your new year off to a great start by making your resolution list today. Take the time to determine what steps will help get 2011 off to a running start by following the tips above. Do you have others to share? Post in the comments section.