If you are like the 44% of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions in January, you might want to rethink how you develop your goals so that you are more likely to achieve them. I use a structured goal-setting process (licensed from Money Quotient) with my financial planning clients to help them live a more meaningful life. Some of the tenets might be useful to you as you set New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Your goals must be meaningful to YOU. Think about your values and what gives meaning to your life. Resist the urge to set goals based on what others have indicated you should accomplish. Otherwise, you’ll have little motivation to stick with them through the inevitable ups and downs. For example, don’t set a goal to go to the gym each day if you don’t like gyms and being indoors.
  2. Build an image of the end result. Visualize what it will look and feel like if you achieve your goal. Maybe even make a poster board or some other tangible representation of it and put it somewhere visible. If one of your goals is to buy your dream house, where will it be, what will each room look like, what color will the paint be? Will you host big family dinners or entertain friends and colleagues? Be as specific as possible to make it real.
  3. Are you ready for change? What will your life look like if you achieve your goals? Are you really prepared for this new person and new life? Sometimes we have self-limiting narratives running through our heads that prevent us from achieving our goals. Just acknowledging these voices can sometimes diminish their impact. For example, if you have a goal to get fit but have a self-limiting voice saying you are a fat person, achieving your fitness goal might be challenging.
  4. Set a timeframe (maybe). For some goals, setting a deadline can be motivating and appropriate, but for other goals, deadlines can stifle creativity and possibility thinking. And if you set a deadline, be kind to yourself if you don’t achieve it precisely. As long as you feel like you made an honest effort and good progress, pushing a deadline is warranted. If the goal you are setting is complex and multi-faceted and requires big change, then setting a specific deadline might not be helpful. Instead, set an intention for approximate progress by a rough deadline. For example, you might set an intention to gain more clarity on your career direction by the end of the year. 

Setting goals and resolutions is a powerful way to envision the life you want to lead and plot a course to get you there. Following the advice above can help you be more successful at bringing about the change you wish to see.