Can I ask you something?

(It's just us here. No one else has to know.)

When was the last time you set a "New Year's Resolution" that lasted more than a few weeks?

Wow, that long?!

It's okay. You're not alone.

Many of us are in the same boat. Year after year, we come up with lists of goals that sound awesome but have no basis in reality. They are often framed around an ideal, such as a standard of beauty, or status, like personal wealth.

Ultimately, this type of thinking often leads to disappointment and can cause us to feel depressed and have a generally negative outlook--which can, in turn, shed a pall over the rest of our year.

So, what's the solution? How can we create resolutions that will "stick"?

Here's five ways to make sure any goal you set will be successful:

1. It Has To Give You Goosebumps

This sounds silly, but it's surprisingly obvious: When you're passionate about something, it electrifies you (giving you goosebumps, eh?). On the other hand, if you aren't interested in something, there's no "spark."

Basically, if you're not feeling it, you won't be motivated to do it. Run your goal through this filter first--and if it fails, ditch it.

2. It Has To Be Specific

A lot of people have "generic" goals, like "I want to win an award." The problem with that is because it is so broad, your brain has trouble comprehending it. Being spoiled for choice in the sheer number of categories and amount of awards available in the world, you can spend the entire year without making any progress.

Instead, spend the time to determine exactly what you mean. A goal such as "I want to win at Sundance for best Digital Non-Fiction Short Film" is specific and gives you a clear direction.

3. It Needs to Hurt

You've probably heard the phrase, "Nothing worth doing comes easy." When setting your resolutions, you should think of things that will be a challenge for you, so that when you reach them you'll feel a sense of accomplishment.

The amount of acceptable difficulty is purely an individual thing. For some, giving up eating chocolate is as hard as another person completing an Ironman triathlon.

4. It Can Be Either Time or Outcome Oriented, But Not Both

When setting goals, adding too many restrictions gives you additional opportunities for failure. If you tell yourself that you absolutely have to lose ten pounds by a certain date, and you don't reach that, you can open yourself up to a spiral of negative emotions that's hard to break.

Instead, give yourself a concrete goal of "I will lose 10 pounds" or "I will do 30 pushups a day for 30 days." By removing the secondary constraint, you will be more likely to reach your target.

5. It Needs Accountability

No matter how motivated you are, it's easy enough to let your resolutions slip. If you build in a level of accountability, however, you'll keep yourself on track to completion.

Jerry Seinfeld famously used a wall calendar to cross off days until he reached his goal. You can post daily updates to Facebook or Snapchat, engaging others along your journey. Or, if your resolution is something private, you can ask a coach, friend or family member to check in with you frequently to challenge and encourage you.

With this framework, you'll set yourself up for success not just for New Year's resolutions, but for whatever goals you target.

Published on: Jan 5, 2017
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