Someone wise once said, “With a new year, comes great responsibility”. Okay, I’m lying, it was me, but I truly believe that there is truth to this. While many, if not most, do not believe in new year’s resolutions, for others the start of a new year is an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to realign on hopes and goals for the coming year. Regardless of the time of the year, there are four key fundamental to setting goals and actually achieving them.

1. Get Perspective

Michael Hyatt has a great book on how to achieve your goals. One of the things he highlights as a stumbling block is that we are our own worst enemy. We are held back by what he calls ‘limiting beliefs.’ These beliefs hinder us from moving forward and are often unreasonable, e.g. “I don’t have enough time so I can’t go to the gym” or “I shouldn’t even bother applying for that position; I’m probably not what they’re looking for”. These thoughts discourage us from even beginning to work towards a goal or make us lose momentum because we doubt our capabilities or worthiness. By first understanding what mentality is holding us back from achieving our potential, we can better equip ourselves to dispell these thoughts.

“Beliefs are not the culprit. They can be a good thing when they are rooted in reality. But we have to learn to distinguish between reality and excuses.”

Michael Hyatt – Are Your Beliefs Keeping You Stuck?

2. Create Goals

In an article for Inc., Amy Morin points out that there is a difference between a resolution and a goal. Simply put, a resolution is wanting to lose weight, whereas a goal is wanting to lose 5kgs by the first of February. By being more specific, you can better track your progress. One method of setting attainable objectives and seeing if you’re on track is to use SMART goals.

  • Specific – does the objective clearly state what must be achieved?
  • Measurable – can the results be measured?
  • Achievable – is it possible to meet the objective?
  • Relevant – does this objective align with my long-term goals?
  • Time-bound – is there a deadline for when the goal should be achieved?

Although there are numerous methods you can use, SMART goals is a good starting point. If your goal meets all these criteria, it’s a good goal.

“A goal without a deadline is just a dream”.

Robert Herjavec

It’s important to have long-term and short-term goals. Bigger goals and behaviours that take a longer time to achieve can be problematic as you don’t see the rewards immediately. This can demotivate us because we aren’t seeing results. But what’s important to remember is that some things take time, and having this in mind is imperative when goals are set. Of course, this is easier said than done so setting smaller, short-term goals is an effective way of not only working towards achieving your overall goals but keeping you motivated along the way.

3. Be Accountable

Arguably the most important point is to be accountable. If we do not take full responsibility for our actions, we cannot hope to meet our full potential. Accountability is about accepting the role you play in attaining your goals. This includes how you react to stumbling blocks, how your habits help or hinder you from making progress, as well as monitoring whether you are on track or not.

“If we’re drifting, it’s only because we’ve forgotten the deep-seated, inherent power we have to pilot our lives the way we want to go.”

Michael Hyatt – Are You a Pilot or a Passenger in Your Own Life?

It goes beyond just a mentality or behaviour on a day-to-day basis. One of the most effective ways to keep ourselves accountable is to track our progress. Doing a weekly review, for example, gives you an opportunity to assess your movement and to identify areas that you’re doing well in or that need improvement. Making this a part of your routine is imperative to succeeding. And, by consistently tracking your progress, you will eventually be able to see trends over time, which will give you insight that can help you know how to stay on track.

Holding yourself accountable is vital, but what can also be useful is getting someone else to hold you accountable. I’m a part of an Accountabuddies group where we share our goals with each other, share motivation and hold each other accountable if we aren’t moving the needle. Having an Accountabuddy isn’t about making it someone else’s problem, but rather having an outsiders view for advice, guidance and honest feedback.

4. Acknowledge Progress

One of the things we don’t do often enough, I believe, is acknowledging our efforts and accomplishments, as well as those of others. Why is this important? Well, for ourselves, it serves as a way to gauge how we’re doing. By reflecting on wins, no matter how small, it becomes a positive feedback loop. Without this, we will most likely lose momentum. This won’t happen unless you take a moment to pay attention to the progress you have made.

“if you don’t stop every now and again to look at the “big picture”, you’re going to get overwhelmed”

Dustin Wax – Back to Basics: Your Weekly Review

For others, receiving affirmation from an outside source can be a powerful motivator in keeping us focused on what we want to achieve. It costs nothing to say, “You’re looking so good! Have you lost weight?” or “I’ve noticed you’ve really been putting in the hours at the office and it shows”.

Having high standards isn’t a bad thing as long as it doesn’t make your goals unrealistic to achieve; but regardless of how lofty our goals may be, it’s imperative to acknowledge your efforts. If you ordered more takeout than you wanted to in the past week, make note of that and try to do better in the next week, but acknowledge the 4 nights you did cook for yourself. The secret here is a balance of being objective and subjective in as honest a way as possible.

Whether you advocate for having new year’s resolutions or not, we cannot hope to improve our lives if we don’t frequently set new goals for ourselves as well as monitor our progress. By using the above fundamentals, you can set ourself up for success in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Resources and Additional Reading