Set Goals, Not Resolutions

There are many benefits to setting goals. Goals direct your focus and attention. They help you remain persistent in the face of adversity. They increase your self-confidence and help you develop problem-solving strategies. They help you train smarter and harder. The bottom line is that when you set effective goals, they help you perform up to your potential.

Research conducted within sport psychology suggests that the world's best athletes have clear, simple and targeted daily goals. They know what they want to accomplish each day and each workout. They know how their daily goals connect to their long-term goals, plans and dreams.

The start of the New Year is a good time to think about what you want to accomplish in the coming months. Perhaps you have already committed to a New Year's resolution, which is a good start.

However, resolutions tend to be all or nothing. Black or white. We usually focus on what we don't want to do rather than what we do want. And we don't usually plan out how to sustain that resolution for a whole year. Perhaps that's why only 8 percent of people who make a New Year's resolution actually keep it.

Instead of resolutions, set goals. Dedicate the time and effort toward setting and evaluating your goals and think of what you could accomplish.

Here are some tips to help you be all you can be:

1. Set specific, but challenging goals.

If your goals are detailed and measurable, they are more likely to improve your performance than vague or "do-your-best" goals. Also, to keep your motivation high, goals should be set that are just beyond your reach, but not far beyond your reach.

2. Set multiple goals.

An ideal number is three. More gives you too much to focus on, but only one can put too much pressure on you. A runner who only focuses on qualifying for the Boston Marathon, for example, may feel too much pressure before and during the competition.

3. Ink it, don't just think it.

People are more successful if they write down their goals. A study of Harvard alumni suggests that the three percent of alumni who wrote down their goals at graduation made more money combined 30 years later than the 97 percent who did not.

4. Frame your goals positively instead of negatively.

Rather than saying what you don't want to do, write what you do want. Changing "I will avoid eating sweets this year" to "I will eat one small piece of chocolate once a week" has a dramatic impact on your focus and motivation. It allows you to think about the chocolate you can enjoy, not chocolate you can't have.

5. Plan out what you are going to do weekly or daily.

This is incredibly important and a step that most people miss. We tend to think about our goals, but don't write a plan that includes short-term daily or weekly goals. Someone who is trying to lose a certain amount of weight this year should break that total into smaller monthly goals.

6. Include a plan to adjust your goals.

Many of us think that when you set a goal you can't change it. But life sometimes gets in the way. You may get injured during training, and may have to readjust your goals.

7. Ask someone to sign your plan.

This person can help hold you accountable for your goals and support you in the process. Think carefully about who you choose. It should be someone who can be honest with you when the going gets tough.

Spend some time reflecting on what you want to accomplish today. Use this opportunity to reflect on what you accomplished last year and look toward the next. Then set goals instead of making resolutions. This increases your chance for success and keep you motivated and focused for the year to come.

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