Our founder, Stefan Wissenbach, always says “play a game you know you can win.” That’s not just about beating your kids at Scrabble – it means setting yourself up for success when creating personal and professional goals. When you set goals you can realistically accomplish, you help yourself build positive momentum and confidence that contribute to even greater successes.
Here’s our guide to setting realistic, achievable goals for 2018.
Forget “New Year’s Resolutions”
Nobody keeps their resolutions past February. (Seriously, statistics show that only 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions)
Why do they fail? Mostly because they set too many resolutions and become derailed by small failures.
So while we do think setting a goal that begins on January 1st is useful timing, let’s skip the New Year’s nomenclature. Set a few goals for yourself for 2018 – but do it the SMART way.
A SMART Take on Goal Setting
Studies show that people with written goals are 50 percent more likely to achieve them than people without written goals. With that in mind, here’s a writing exercise to set you up for success in 2018.
Holiday travel is great for carving out time for self-reflection. Whether you find yourself in a plane, train or automobile, take a little time to review 2017. If you set goals for 2017, write down what they were. Which were you able to accomplish? Which did you leave undone? Note down what worked, what didn’t work, and what you can do to improve in 2018. We’re essentially applying the Experience Transformer technique to goal setting.
Then, draft out a short list of what you’d most like to accomplish this year. We recommend setting one big goal, or up to three. But no more than that, because you may find that following through is more of a commitment of time, energy and resources than you think.
Once you’ve sketched out three goals you’d like to achieve, make them SMART.
SMART is a goal-setting structure that helps with clarity, focus and motivation. These goals are:
Specific – What do you want to accomplish? Why is that goal important? What resources do you need to do it? What is your plan for getting those resources?
Measurable – How can you track your progress towards your goal to stay motivated? For the same reason it’s so important to measure engagement for your employee engagement strategy, it’s also important to measure your own progress in any area of your life you wish to improve.
Achievable – When goal-setting, be careful not to overestimate what you can do. If anything, underestimate and make sure you’re playing a game you can win.
Relevant – Write down why this goal is worthwhile to you right now. This statement will come in handy when you need to remember your motivation later.
Time-Bound – Set a time limit on when you can reasonably expect to meet this goal, and don’t make it too far ahead (like December 31st). What can you do in the next three months to get closer to your goal? Plan in bite-sized increments.
Adding details and giving yourself a structure to reach your goals will get you most of the way there, but there’s another component to success: Sharing your goals.
Make it a Team Effort
Research has shown that sharing goals with a friend and sending that friend regular updates on your progress can improve chances of success – people who write goals down, enlist friends, and send progress reports have been shown to succeed 75 percent of the time.
Sometimes a friend isn’t enough. Sometimes you need someone in authority to hold you accountable. If you need that extra layer, consider investing in a coach, trainer, or other professional (You can also enlist your own team members to be your “Goal Buddy”). Finding the right tools can also help. In the age of smartphones, you might well ask: Is there an app for that? There are probably several.
Most importantly, consider how you’ve achieved goals in the past. What about those situations contributed to your success? How can you recreate what worked then now? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to successful goal setting. The truest compass is always yourself.