for Pharmacy Times, I wrote about why you shouldn't commit to making a New Year’s resolution, and what to do instead. In this post, I’ll tackle how to set goals (or resolutions, if you prefer), how to make them stick, and most importantly, how to set yourself up to achieve them.
In my opinion, how you go about setting a goal can have a major influence on whether or not you actually achieve it. You need to position yourself for success by giving your goals some serious thought upfront. If you make vague, wish-like statements, such as, “I will get a better job this year,” I can almost guarantee that you will not achieve your goal. Here are 4 tips to get you off to a good start:
- Set a SMART goal. I know you’ve heard this before, but it’s important to mention again: vague goals are easy to create, but they are less likely to be achieved. Instead, make your goal Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. Let’s look at how you can apply this SMART approach.
- Your goal must be specific. Ask yourself exactly what you hope to accomplish. If you want to get a better job, what does that mean? Do you want to earn more money? Do you want to work the day shift? Switch career fields? Get a promotion? Whatever you decide, you should lay it out in almost painful detail.
- You must set a goal that you can easily measure. You can measure an elevated job title, a higher salary, and more day shift hours, but you can’t measure “better” or “lose weight.”
- You need to make sure your goal is actionable and includes strong, descriptive verbs. You want to “earn” more money, “promote” to a management position, or “work” the day shift.
- Keep it realistic. If you have any doubts about being promoted, changing your schedule, or lobbying for a raise, don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal that you can’t (or don’t want to) achieve. Also, be sure to set a realistic deadline—it may take longer than a month to get a promotion, and you don’t want to end up disappointed and frustrated with yourself.
- To make it time-bound, your goal needs to have a deadline. “A goal without a date is just a dream” - Milton Erickson It’s very important to assess your goal and the surrounding circumstances so you can set a reasonable, realistic timeframe for completion. You could ask your boss for a raise by the end of next week, change your schedule by the end of next month, or obtain a promotion by the end of the year—but you have to figure out what timeframe is feasible for you.
- Write it down. My wife and I collected roughly $90,000 of college debt over 6 years. We wanted to eliminate that ASAP, so we put whatever money was left over from my paychecks into debt. We quickly found out that we weren’t paying off our debt as fast as we wanted. So, we wrote down our goal to pay off a certain amount within the year. We even put it on our fridge using alphabet magnets. Instead of using whatever money was left over, we actively set aside a portion of my paycheck for debt. Because we made this a simple step, we paid off $24,000 in 8 months. Write your goal down, in all of its SMART glory, because it’s easy for a goal to stay amorphous in your mind. To help keep you focused, I also recommend displaying your written goal in a place where you will see it several times a day. So, go ahead and put it out there—tape it to your work computer or stick it on your bathroom mirror!
- Tell everyone. If you are uncomfortable about conspicuously posting your written goal, then you’re really not going to like this step! Telling family, friends, and co-workers about your goal creates accountability. It’s easy to “get away” with creating resolutions that you don’t execute and don't tell anyone about. Sharing your goals keeps you on target. People will ask about your progress and—being the motivated person that you are—you will want to have a good answer for them.
- Get a buddy. When setting a goal, enlist the help and support of someone you trust. Having a mentor, spouse, friend, or co-worker in your corner can be a huge motivator. Back in 2008, I wanted to buff up. I had been a twig most of my life, and I was a little embarrassed about how I looked. I tried going to the gym, but I always felt awkward. Benching 125 lbs by myself was not only embarrassing, but also disheartening. It wasn’t until I had my best friend go to the gym with me that I actually felt confident in myself to complete my goal, which was to bench 225 lbs by July. (Thanks Andy!) Finding a buddy will not only motivate you, but also increase accountability and give you someone to commiserate with when the going gets tough. Best of all, you will have someone to celebrate with when you reach the finish line!
Set your goal(s) and get to work. By giving it some serious thought, you're on pace to have a successful, fulfilling 2015.