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Why 80% of Your Resolutions Fail by Valentine’s Day

A goal is a dream with a deadline.”


Did you know 80% of New Year’s Resolutions fail by Valentine’s Day according to the New York Times! We hate to be dire, but it’s true – goal setting and goal accomplishment can be the Achilles heel to some of your greatest ideas and achievments.  However, there are ways around being one of the statistics.  We thought we would take this special opportunity, on Valentine’s Day, to help you stick with your goals, both professional and personally, and power through the February malaise.  Here are some of our tricks to goal achievement:

3 Levels of Goals: Some are strategic in nature, usually representing 3-5 years out.  A strategic goal might sound like what President Kennedy said, “Land a man on the moon by the end of the decade.”  Most organizations have five or six high level strategic goals that they are working on each year related to productivity, new market development, process efficiencies, quality, staff development and customer service.  Personally, you might make strategic goals for your life – what does a year down the road look like?  5 Years? 10 Years?  Operational goals are typically limited to a one year horizon and define what you expect to achieve in that year.  You should then write down the tactical goals (ground floor goals) that define exactly what needs to be accomplished in each area of your career or personal life to achieve the larger goals.  Looking at it from the bottom up, the accumulation of the tactical goals should achieve the operational goals which over a multiple-year process would then achieve the strategic goals.

On a Piece of Paper: Write down from a strategic, operational and tactical viewpoint, what goals you want to accomplish.  When we write our goals down on paper and stick it on our board in front of us day in and day out the effect is huge.  It shows we have a game plan, it let’s our mind work on the task at hand rather than worry about the goals swimming in our head. We know of one woman who cut out a picture of a Tibetan monastery and put it on her board.  Before the year was out, she found herself staring at a monastery in China – half a world away.  Visual stimulants play a huge role in achieving your goals.

Is your goal an activity or the end result target?: Too many times goals are written as activities, rather than the end result target.  For example, one organization identified an operational goal as “defining a plan that will create a balanced budget.”  Whenever a goal begins with an “action verb,” it’s not a goal, but rather a task.  What this organization actually wants to accomplish within the year is a balanced budget, and the plan is simply the way to get there.  The correct goal statement should have read “achieve a balanced budget by 2010.”

Being SMART with your goal setting: To help groups craft effective goals, use the SMART acronym with a slight twist.  The S stands for specific, so we’d need to go back and make the previous goal a bit more specific.   The M stands for measurable, a clear determination of what must be accomplished.   The A stands for achievable.  Here the argument is always whether to build a stretch goal or one that is seen as achievable.  It’s important to set realistic, achievable goals that people believe can be accomplished, rather than a stretch goal that is laughed at by yourself or your staff.  The R (which some people define as standing for realistic) is where we put the twist in and instead say the R is for results-oriented, rather than activity-based.  The T stands for time-bound, with a clear deadline identified.  So, rewriting our original goal as a SMART goal, we would have, “achieve a balanced operating expense budget of $X by the end of Q4, 2011.”

Ask Why: Ask yourself the question, “Why am I doing this activity?” The answer will get you closer to the goal.  For example, if I’ve written a personal health goal of “implement an exercise program into my daily routine,” that’s really an activity.  So, I need to ask “why.”  Why do I want to implement an exercise program into my daily routine?  When I can answer that question, then I’m getting closer to the target (goal).    In my case, the “why” might be “to achieve an improved score of X on my cholesterol blood work report by the end of 2011.”  Notice how many times the goal is written using words like achieve, increase, decrease, improve, and reduce.

Work the Work Breakdown Plan: Once the goals are written correctly, the next step is to craft a work breakdown plan that identifies each of the key milestones (objectives) that must be completed to satisfy the primary goal.  Now is the spot where “implementing the exercise program” comes in as an objective to help me reach the larger goal.  I also will need to “establish a new dietary plan” and “track results.”  Under each of these objectives, I then need to list the activities to be done to achieve the objective.

So, as you look back on your New Year resolutions and goals implement some of the mentioned methods and see if it helps you crystallize the goals that might be heading off the tracks.  We hope this helped and wish you the best of luck in sticking with it and achieving great key milestones this year.

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An innovative training and employee development firm located in southern Vermont since 1984, we specialize in helping organizations get the most out of their people by raising the bar, inspiring potential and partnering with organizations to build a people-centered, high-engagement culture.

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