January heralds the beginning of a new year and a new beginning for each of us personally. The start of a new year is the perfect time for us to set new goals and revisit our hopes and dreams. Most people take some time to look back on the previous year and plan out what they want to accomplish in the new year. After a late night heralding in a new beginning, January 1 feels like a fresh start and comes with the excitement that anything is possible. The problem comes around mid-January, when life tends to settle in and before too long, old habits return and new goals are put off yet again until next year.

This was brought into stark relief for me when I went to the gym the morning of January 1. Normally, at 8 am, my gym has a few dozen people going through their various exercise regimes. There is never much wait for equipment and never a wait for a treadmill. I had a hint that it was going to be different when it took me nearly 15 minutes to find a parking space. When I arrived on the exercise floor, I was met with a wall of humanity. Hundreds of people packed the floor, every single piece of equipment was in use and for the first time in my memory, there wasn’t a treadmill, weight machine, elliptical or any other available machine. I promptly turned around and went home. Fast forward to January 11…a Saturday morning which is typically the busiest day of the week…and there were less than a dozen people on the floor. All those goal setters already fell off the wagon.

Making sure your goals are achievable is the first step when looking ahead towards accomplishing your desires. Once that is done, you have to have a plan. A wise person once said “A Goal Without A Plan Is Just A Wish!” For a person to stand firm in their goals, and to work to achieve them, you must be intentional in setting your goals.    

Write Them Down

The first step to being intentional in goal setting is to write them down. Writing down your goals makes them more tangible, and you have something tactile to remind you of where your focus should be.

Be Realistic

It is very tempting to try to shoot for the moon when creating your goal list but you should avoid that at all costs. Being practical and realistic will help you stay focused and not get discouraged. There is nothing that will kill a goal faster than making it virtually unattainable. It becomes the first casualty soon to be followed by other goals as you become discouraged and increasingly pessimistic. Make your goals SMART:

Set your goals making sure to include benchmarks for what you consider most important. Adding benchmarks easily breaks up what might otherwise be considered unmanageable and overwhelming. Breaking any goal into smaller pieces will keep you centered and give you a feeling of accomplishment each time you hit your benchmarks, which will fuel your desire to remain focused and stay the course.

One of the most common mistakes in goal setting, other than making them impossible or unlikely to attain, is vagueness. If you are setting a goal, you should make it quantifiable. You have to be able to measure progress…especially for a goal that is more long term. Some goals are simple and take a fairly short time to accomplish. It is important to include some of these goals in your overall plan since your satisfaction in achieving these smaller goals will help you move forward.

While your goals should not be too lofty, they should absolutely challenge you. If your goals don’t make you stretch, you won’t be inspired and will quickly fall by the wayside. Try to choose goals that you are passionate about. One reason people fail is because they pursue goals that they don’t really care about. They may set that kind of goal because they feel like they have to or because people tell them that they should but if your goals are not your own and have no passion, you will be hard pressed to make them happen. You have to know your why. Why are you pursuing the goal and what’s the benefit or end result you hope to get out of it.

For example, if your goal is to exercise and get into shape, your why could be how you will feel, look, how others will see you, that you will more likely be healthy and be there for your family, etc.

Make sure you know your why and write it down.

Write it down. Visualize it. See it.

Why is that important? Because dark days are ahead…they always are. There will be days you just don’t want to move forward but if you can visualize it and you understand your why, you will continue firmly ahead. When those moments come, as they surely must, pull out the paper where you wrote it all down and remember why you are doing it. It will help you push forward.

Proper goal setting is deeply personal and every individual takes a different approach. Next time you are feeling stuck, pause to reflect on the goal you are chasing, remember your WHY and finish strong! Make 2023 a great year.


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