Strategies for reaching your New Year’s goals

Think it through! Why do we so often fail to make the fresh start that we planned when the New Year dawns? Here are some traps we might be setting up for ourselves.

Barbara Barb Bowes Transitions
Barbara Bowes

I know! Most of you have made your New Year’s resolutions, and I haven’t. But I’m not feeling contrite. That’s because my experiences with setting New Year’s resolutions hasn’t ever been very successful. In fact, in most cases my resolution probably didn’t last more than three days! What about you? And, now that it’s early January… how many of your resolutions have been broken already? I know I’m not alone!

Frankly, I’ve always found New Year’s resolutions to be rather depressing and goals in general rather claustrophobic. I prefer to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. This strategy has worked for me. But I admire people who can set and achieve their goals, and I’m curious as to why so many people have the same trouble that I do.

On looking into the reasons why individuals fail in this, and the mistakes people make, I found a number of potential reasons. These include the following:

Mistake 1. Overestimating what and when.
When people get excited about making a change in their life and begin to explore how to make this happen, they seem to get too ambitious and overestimate just what a person can accomplish and in what time frame. They set a goal that is unrealistic. Remember, change is slow and deliberate.

Mistake 2. Setting too many goals.
Making changes in life or work is difficult as it is, let alone trying to change too many things in your life all at once. Too many goals lead to scattered efforts. You will be juggling too many balls in the air and several of your goals may begin to fall by the wayside, leading to a collapse of all your goals. Be sure to limit your focus for change.

Mistake 3. Copycat!
Many individuals, especially younger people, tend to set goals that are more for the group of close friends rather than for themselves. If the goal is not a true reflection of a personal need, the goal is not really yours! If you are to be successful, a goal must reflect what you need and want, not what others want for you or what others are doing.

Mistake 4. Focusing on the wrong image.
Most of us have an idol whom we truly admire: a movie star, a sports player or a coach/mentor. We see these individuals as perfect; their hair, dress, body movements, voice, their smile and just about everything are simply perfect. Of course, we want to be just like them! But hold on…take a look at your body; is it the same? Are you as experienced in a favourite sport as is your idol? Let’s face it, you are NOT your idol, so focus the goal on yourself and not on an idealistic image.

Mistake 5. No rewards, no pleasure. Go goal!
Making life and work changes are hard. They have a better chance of success if you can track and reward your progress. After all, we are all motivated by achievement, not by having negative messages stare us in the face. So track your progress, and reward even the smallest achievement with a small and appropriate reward. Get motivated.

Mistake 6. Writing in the negative.
How you phrase your goal statement will also have an impact on your success. For instance, “Stop snacking and eat proper meals” is written in a negative format. It will not create much motivation. In fact, your mind will focus on the word “stop” which has a negative connotation that your mind will inadvertently struggle against. Phrase the goals in a positive framework instead: “I will eat healthy at mealtimes.”

Mistake 7. Adopting a failure attitude.
We aren’t perfect, and so we will slip and slide our way through any goal, let alone a New Year’s resolution. And, sometimes we will not truly accomplish our goal. But don’t look at it as a loss if you don’t fully achieve your goal. Instead, focus on some of the accomplishments along the way. More than likely you did achieve something. Celebrate it, revise your strategy and get back to working on the goal you had set yourself.

In the business environment, we often teach employees to follow the SMART goal process. This refers to an achievement that is specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time-based. When this strategy is applied to personal goals such as New Year’s resolutions, it gives them a better chance of success. For myself, I continue to focus on taking advantage of opportunities but I also continue to learn how to apply a more focused goal strategy. But just one at a time!

Good luck with your goals in the New Year.

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group and Career Partners International, Manitoba. She can be reached at

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