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How to Set a Goal, and How to Reach It

This time of year, goal-setting becomes a bit of a cliche. That's because we're doing it wrong. How our goals can help us learn who we are, and what we're capable of.
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Gifts wrapped? Check. Waistband? A little too tight. Harmony at home? Well… Business running like clockwork? No? Time for New Year’s resolutions! 

Why bother? Why reinforce the cliché -- make a resolution and then go ahead and break it? I do it because I know setting goals is the secret to progress.

Resolutions aren’t destinations. They’re starting points. We may never reach our destination or goal, and even if we do, we may discover it isn’t where we really want to be. Goals help us figure out what we think we want, but more importantly, goals help us figure out who we are and what we’re capable of achieving.

There is no right or wrong way to do this, but here are four things I always keep in mind when making my New Year’s resolutions:

Stretch, but not too far. My yoga teacher always tells the new students, “Take it easy. If you wake up sore tomorrow morning, you’ll blame me and not come back and we’ll both be disappointed.” On the other hand, meeting too-easy goals is unfulfilling. Set stretch goals, just don’t reach so far that you won’t take them seriously. 

Consider the power of three. One coach I work with suggests resolutions that consist of three words. I like this a lot. It’s more loosely defined than one ominous goal. Select three concepts that will bring positive change in varying degrees throughout the year. Fun. Power. Attitude. Fit. Courage. Listen. Give. Post your three words everywhere as reminders to make decisions that reinforce your positive concepts—not in terms of pounds lost, dollars made or quantum shifts achieved.

Be an exhibitionist. In addition to reminder Post-It Notes on my mirror and computer, setting goals and working on them in public has two benefits. It makes me more accountable and can be a source of strength. A friend recently created a Facebook group called “Just Stick With It” to support her effort to become physically fit. It’s become a great motivator and confessional for 21 busy women. Suddenly we’re accountable to someone else, with our goals and integrity at stake. If we all hadn’t shared our fitness and weight loss goals, we wouldn’t be receiving this support. So live your life out loud.

Work with a coach. More than just a buddy system, a coach can work with you to take the previous steps and turn them pro. Business and personal coaches can help you set realistic goals and measure your progress. Many of us can’t see our own strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. I’ve worked with coaches for years and found the experience so valuable that two more people in my company are now engaged with coaches. They love the results. Professional coaches help me and my team set goals to go farther than we ever thought possible.

Just as I want my employees to succeed, I want other entrepreneurs to succeed, too. What works for me may not work for you, but together we can share a wealth of strategies. The beauty of writing this column on the Web is the space beneath these words where you can add your comments and make this article even more valuable to others. I’m very eager to read your ideas.

Happy New Year!

IMAGE: image courtesy flickr user caitlinator http://www.flickr.com/photos/caitlinator/
Last updated: Dec 20, 2011

RENE SHIMADA SIEGEL | Columnist | Founder, High Tech Connect

Rene Shimada Siegel is founder and president of High Tech Connect, a unique consulting partner for expert marketing and communications. After a successful career in Silicon Valley, she founded her company 15 years ago while juggling three kids under the age of five.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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