New Year’s resolution: a new approach to goal-setting

Jan 7, 2013 | Goal-setting

The New Year is a perfect time to tackle new goals—or not-so-new ones. Whether you’re looking for a fresh start in 2013, or trying to revive your initiative on past resolutions, there’s something about January first that fills so many of us with inspiration, determination, and excitement to check off to-do lists and make our dreams come true.

Fast forward to February first—or January 2, for that matter!—and how many of those well-intentioned resolutions have fallen by the wayside?

The common mistake here lies in blaming oneself for lacking willpower. In reality, it’s just the opposite—most people have plenty of willpower when it comes to their visions and goals. The trick is knowing how to direct that drive. It’s important to dream big, but lofty goals can be overwhelming.

Say your resolution is to finish a marathon this year. Would you step out the door tomorrow expecting to easily run over 26 miles? Of course not—probably, you’ll start by trying to run one mile, and build up to a 5K, a 10 K, a half marathon, and so on. On the other hand, say your resolution is “save for retirement.” For most people, it’s not so clear where to begin and what steps to take.

Don’t get discouraged come February. Rather than conceptualizing your grand vision as the goal, you should think in terms of concrete, smaller goals and how to achieve them. For example, let’s take the vision of preparing for retirement. Goal 1: meet with a financial advisor. Seek out an independent fiduciary advisor, who is legally beholden to your best interests. Goal 2: determine a budget that prioritizes “paying yourself” for the long term (your investment accounts) as well as the short term (daily bills and expenses, emergency funds). With smaller, less overwhelming goals, your work is cut out for you.

By breaking down goals into realistic, actionable steps, you’ll move forward continuously inspired by the knowledge that you are making progress. This way, you focus on the achievements you’ve already made, rather than how far you have left to go to make your larger dream a reality. Change is very possible in the New Year—it all starts with changing the typical approach to goal-setting.


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