Today’s Courier Herald Column:

No, I’m not going to write the last column of the year telling you what I resolve to do in 2012, nor what you should resolve to do or what our elected officials should be considering. Instead, I’m going to end the first year of this column outlining how I tend to set personal goals for those of you looking to set resolutions for the upcoming year that you can actually stick to.

It’s part of the sometime tradition of using Friday’s for non-political topics, and frankly, it’s been a long year and I’m about politicked out. There’s plenty of political material on deck starting next week. For now, I’m going to rip off the works that I’ve learned from every corporate training class that apparently represents the minimum qualifications to be a corporate trainer/consultant. I do find that following these guidelines for goal setting does help to refine goals that help turn everyday chaos into steps that lead to verifiable accomplishments.

The first step in setting goals is to make sure they’re SMART. This is an acronym for the components that separate actual goals from meaningless feelings, resolutions, or general wishes. SMART goals must have the following characteristics: They must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timed.

A goal must be specific so that you know exactly what you are trying to obtain. You don’t want to “lose weight”, you want to “lose 15 pounds”. Avoiding generalities helps you lock in on your target so that the good intentions of the new year aren’t quickly lost when daily routines overtake the changes you are trying to make.

Goals must be measurable so that you know if you are making progress. If your goal is to lose 15 pounds, you won’t know if you’re losing weight – or gaining weight – if you don’t use a scale. You must inspect what you expect, and to do so, you must measure your progress along the way. Measure daily for whatever goal you have, and it will remain a focus for achievement.

Goals must be attainable and realistic. There’s no sense setting goals that can’t happen under reasonable assumptions. Setting goals to become independently wealthy in 30 days or to start as a center fielder for the Atlanta Braves this season would not be attainable nor realistic for most of us. Making goals that fit these criteria separate goals from pipe dreams, and help us hone in on the successes that are within reach.

Finally, goals must be time specific. If you’re trying to lose weight, then how soon can you reasonably expect to lose 15 pounds? If you can lose 2 pounds per week, then you would set a goal of “I will lose 15 pounds by the end of February”. Deadlines are important, and setting a schedule for you to track against lets you know if you’re on track, or if you need to make adjustments in your schedule.

One of the key things I think is most important about goal setting is writing them down. There’s some permanence in this that helps you remain accountable to yourself. Goals should be tracked daily if you’re serious about actually accomplishing them, with notes to yourself about your progress. Things that are working should be celebrated, and things that are not must be honestly criticized to see where the problems are and what corrective adjustments can be made.

There’s no rocket science in the above steps, but I’ve found when I practice them I’m a much better multi-tasker than when I just wing it. Life rushes at us from so many angles now that if we don’t take the time to organize our time for what we want to accomplish then it will be filled for us.

We’ll have 366 days next year to get us further down the path of life. Figuring out now what we each want to accomplish during those days will determine if we’re looking back and asking “where did the time go?” or saying “look what we did”.

With that, I thank you for reading this column for the past year, and wish you a safe, happy, and prosperous 2012. Happy New Year.


      • Mike Stucka says:

        Dude. DUDE. Dude. By going down that road just a little bit, you’ve completely eliminated your ability to argue against universal mental health care.

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