By Marti Benjamin, MBA

Professional Certified Coach

Certified Career Management Coach | Certified Professional Resume Writer

 As a new year begins, many people resolve to change a habit or improve themselves in some important way over the next 12 months. This practice has been popular since the ancient Babylonians began the New Year with promises to their gods to return borrowed items and pay back their debts. And yet, a 2007 study from the University of Bristol reports that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail.

Whether it’s January or any other time of the year, here are some tips for improving your chance of success. Make your goals more motivating by following these suggestions:

  1. State a desirable end. Use achievement language, specifying what you want to gain. Describe what you are working toward, not what you are trying to escape. Rather than a goal of eating less junk food, phrase your goal as, “I will add vegetables to my diet at least five days a week.”
  2. Make it achievable. Stretch goals—those where you go way beyond anything you can even imagine doing—are an energy drain, not inspiration. If the goal is too much of a stretch, you’re more likely to abandon your efforts because you can’t see a way to get from here to there. Define small, achievable steps that lead to your goal and chart your progress for a motivating sense of accomplishment.
  3. Set concrete goals. Remember the Cheshire Cat in the Alice in Wonderland story? When Alice asked which path she should take the cat asked where she was going. Alice replied that she didn’t know and the cat said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.” Don’t be an Alice! Plan the specific outcomes you want to achieve and state them explicitly so you’ll know if your actions are moving you closer to your goal or off on a tangent.
  4. Make measurable goals. Set objective targets so you know if you have achieved 10% or 90% of the goal. Rather than a vague goal like, “I want to earn more money,” or, “I want to change jobs,” specify how much more money and what type of job you want to hold.
  5. Align your goals with your personal values. When your goals reflect what’s most important to you, you’re more likely to stick with the work and actually achieve what you want. For example, if having more time with family is a personal value, a goal to move into a more demanding professional role is inconsistent, unless you’re able to modify conditions that will accommodate both more work and more time with your family. Your likelihood of success diminishes if there’s conflict between your stated goal and the values that drive your behavior and choices.
  6. Make it fun. Enjoyment is like the wind in your sails—you’re much more likely to work toward something you enjoy than to actually go through with something you dread. If your goal is something you find onerous, modify the means and the methods to make it more enjoyable. I’ve recently returned to an exercise program I’ve enjoyed in the past, even though I have to go to a class and accommodate their schedule to get my workout. While I had tried to workout with equipment in my home, it was simply no fun for me to exercise alone. The social aspect of the class, along with the energizing music and an instructor that will push me harder than I’ll push myself, have made exercise a great deal more fun for me and I’m developing a habit of regular exercise.
  7. Be accountable. Tell someone what you are committing to achieving and ask him or her to check on your progress periodically. Knowing that you’ll be asked about your efforts is often motivation to stick to it when the going gets tough.

Happy 2014 and good luck with your goals!

Marti Benjamin inspires great work-lives in her business and career coaching practice. She describes professional coaching as, “The best possible job in the world for me.” Since she began coaching in 2004, her systems have led fed-up professionals from frustration to fulfillment in their work-life. www.CareerFromHere.com


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