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Keep Your Resolutions: How to Set Goals That Get Accomplished

Last weekend, I had the delight of hosting a New Year’s goal setting brunch with a group of creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and grad students – an altogether inspirational and accomplished group.  We arrived with ideas of what we wanted for ourselves and our careers in the New Year, and left with well-defined, tangible goals.  Knowing what you want is half the battle – how do you get from where you are to where you want to be?

We all know the make-or-break work is ahead – actually keeping the promises we make to ourselves in the New Year.  But there are some definite steps you can take to give your professional and personal goals a much better chance of coming to fruition.  Here’s what I’ve seen work in real life, gleaned from my years of working with independent creatives, organizations, small businesses, and even career & life coaches that help people go from envisioning what they want to making it happen.

Write it down.
There’s a certain magic in writing what you want down in black and white.  It makes your goal real and often shrinks the bigness of it to simple words.  I’ve heard many testimonials from people who’ve written something down only to forget it, then discovered much later that they’d gotten exactly what they specified. If you’re not a words person, create a drawing, collage, or vision board that captures your goals – there’s something magical about putting what you want out there that locks it into your subconscious.

Define your goal very specifically.
If your goal is vague, how will you know if you’ve reached it?  Being unclear can also make your goal seem impossible to reach – which is true if you haven’t defined it!  Be very clear, set a deadline, make it positive in tone, and make sure it’s doable within the time you allot. For example…
Instead of… “Become more politically engaged.” (what does that mean to you?)
Try… “It’s November 6, 2012, and I just voted in the election; I’ve read the newspaper at least once a week, listened to NPR an average of twice a week, follow CNN on Twitter, and wrote a letter to my representative encouraging her to work for more arts funding.” (specific, measurable, actionable)

Ditch the goal and pick a theme.
Or a mantra, or a quote – what is this year about for you, who do you want to be?  When you’re at a crossroads, your theme will help you make the decision that supports the person you want to be.  Last year, mine was “Go Boldly Forward” – this helped me make bigger choices and jump off the proverbial deep end even when I wanted to wade in shallower waters.

Work toward what you sincerely desire.
Does it light you up? Does envisioning yourself at the end of the goal put a smile on your face, make you physically energized, give you a sense of peace?  Your intuition will lock on the goals that are truest to you.  Going for what you think you should want or what other people are doing is a dead-end.  Do yourself a massive favor and be honest with yourself from the start.

Believe it can happen.
This sounds sort of fluffy, I admit, but knowing you will get there, that it’s only a matter of doing the steps from here to there, has been the difference between what I’ve done and what I haven’t in life.  It wasn’t until I knew I could run a marathon, consult businesses, move to New York… that I actually went for it.  If there’s doubt you can have what or become who you want, deal with that first.  Make a list of your past accomplishments to prove to yourself you’re a doer, meditate, take a small related action, get encouragement from a friend – whatever it takes to turn doubt into confidence.

Take the first action step today.
Not tomorrow, not next week. This gets you in the habit of 1) breaking it down into smaller, digestible actions, and 2) taking action instead of letting your goal loom large over your head.

Tell people.
Accountability is almost always the missing link for people who know exactly what they need to do but have a hard time just doing it.  You can formalize it with an accountability partner, or I’ve found that just being brave and telling my scariest goals to people I respect makes me work harder to prove I stand behind my word.

Ask for help.
I guarantee you there is someone in your network who can help you move toward what you want.  Ask them to help you.  If you don’t know anyone, figure out who can help you with the next step and make an introduction.  People love to be asked for advice, opinions, even favors.  Trust that they will help you.

Need more help clarifying and setting your goal?  Here’s an excellent and FREE downloadable worksheet from creative collective MVMT.   Enjoy!