Every New Year’s Eve, the ritual is the same. Loved ones and strangers come together to usher out the old and ring in the new. Some don their elegant best and step out to partake of lavish buffets and free-flowing champagne in festively decorated surroundings. As the clock chimes midnight and the band strikes up, guests raise their glasses and toast: “This year, I’m really going to…!”
OK, those may not be the exact words. But for many of us, that phrase-more than the confetti and familiar strains of “Auld Lang Syne”-is what truly signals the beginning of a new year. With eager hearts full of good intentions, we vow to finally make good on the pledges of years past-and present. But by the time spring rolls around, these promises are all but forgotten.
“Most people don’t realize their objectives because they don’t take planned steps to achieve them,” says Hyrum W. Smith, chairman of Salt Lake City-based Franklin Covey Co., a training and consulting firm specializing in life management and personal productivity. “They try to tackle a goal head-on rather than break it down into manageable parts. When it becomes too overwhelming, they get discouraged and abandon ship altogether.”
Undoubtedly, setting goals is relatively easy. But if you have trouble getting them to be more than just items on your wish list, don’t despair. There’s practical advice to help you get in gear for the new year-so that you can plan your goals and see them through to the end.
STEP 1: Determine what you want. “It’s pretty difficult to set a goal if you have no idea what you want to accomplish,” says Michelle Passoff, a clutter consultant and author of Lighten Up! Free Yourself From Clutter (HarperPerennial, $13). “Take the time to focus on what you want to get done and the steps you’ll need to take in order to get there.” She suggests the following visualization exercise:
- Close your eyes and relax. Let go of any tension and forget about the activities of the day.
- Acknowledge and accept how you have lived up to this point in your life. Congratulate yourself on being ready to move forward to pursue your dreams.
- Imagine how you want to live and how your life would change after you make the desired adjustments.
- When you are comfortable with that image, open your eyes.
Samuel Jones, co-founder and managing director of the Mercator Group, a Chicago-based strategic advisory firm, has mastered this mental drill. While working on Wall Street as an investment banker for Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, he began to tire of the New York City rat race. “I gained great résumé-building skills, but I knew I’d be happiest working for myself,” says Jones, 27. In 1993, he enrolled in Harvard Business School, where he envisioned his ultimate goal: to head his own company.
Of course, what you want will depend on what’s important to you, states Smith. “You can’t set a goal without first acknowledging your governing values,” he says. Now that you have a better idea of