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This New Year, Forget Resolutions, Set Goals!

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If you are linking a change in behavior or change in your life's direction, it does not need to have an external trigger like a new day in a calendar. It is precisely that external dependency to change that is bound to fail. True and lasting change comes when the desire stems from inescapable pain or delectable pleasure. This year, forget resolutions, set goals.

Over the past 17 years each year I have not only set goals for myself but worked with teams that thrived on goal setting. Its common knowledge that behavior modifications will not be permanent if the underlying motivation is not rooted in a strong desire. The word motivation is also the same as emotion and that explains the fact that what grips our imagination moves our emotions and whether you want to make New Year changes in your work or personal sphere, it is important you gain a handle on the difference between resolutions and goals. 
 
Resolutions are often amorphous, like "I will spend more time with my family" or "I will keep in touch with my customers more regularly" or "I will invest more time in developing myself" The interesting aspect of resolutions is that they are vague and generic without any measurable metric attached to it. If they are translated into Goals they would read as I will sit down with my family for dinner each  night, or I would help my kid with homework at 8.00pm each day, or "I will acquire PMP certification, this year".  
 
A goal needs to have a specific timeline or a deadline. Someone defined a "Goal as a dream with a deadline". Have you been stuck in a dead end job, but were scared to make a move because it would cause an upheaval in your professional life? Perhaps the time has come to set a goal to make a job change next year. Have you been postponing your growth or learning goals because you are too busy with your current job?  In fact a Harvard study that tracked its business school graduates over a period of time demonstrated that only 3 per cent of its graduating class set written goals. However the 3 per cent had combined networth more than the 97 per cent that did not set written goals.
 
Perhaps the time has come to reacquire your cutting edge by consciously cutting yourself away with a specific goal of a new degree or a certificate this year. Have you been going through bouts of guilt of not having spent with your folks? It's time to get rid of that guilt and set a specific goal of time spent each day. 
 
I argue in "Bound to Rise" that we are multi-dimensional human beings. In that if we do not take time to grow physically, intellectually, socially and spiritually, our growth is warped and our lives end up terribly out of shape and out of balance. Whether it is hitting the gym with metronomic regularity or keeping our minds in the sharpest of forms, growth cannot happen by chance. One needs specific goals to accomplish the same. So here are some pointers to get started and I promise you that if you follow through this exercise you'll not wonder where did the darn months go by?  On a blank sheet of paper or word document, make four or five quadrants. I use an excel sheet because each year it allows me to just add a tab each year and it gives me a historical perspective. The next step is to name the quadrants, it may seem simplistic but the beauty lies in its unbelievable simplicity. My quadrants are called personal, family, social and spiritual/financial/future quadrants. You won't offend my religious convictions if you choose your own quadrants but list down all the key commitments you have within those quadrants. You career is your primary focus, so you would list it in your personal quadrant and you'd probably put all your family related commitments in the second one. Depending on how much you love to spend time with your friends or if you have a passion to change the world, the social quadrant acquires significance. We spend an awful lot of time caring about our future and mostly relating to growth, so that the  last quadrant can be termed the self-actualization quadrant. For some, money is nirvana and to some, saving someone's soul is ultimate self -actualization, so keep that quadrant open to personal interpretation. 
 
Some would argue that Goal setting presupposes that you have complete control on circumstances. Stuff happens!, How do you handle that unpredictability? My response is that because you have spent so much time setting goals, even when life throws you that odd curveball, it sets you up from spiraling downward after a staggering setback. In fact, I can quote several examples where the goals I set for myself or my family member did not realize in one specific year but it came true after a few months delay. But because I was tracking the goal, periodically, it stayed on top of my consciousness. The joy of accomplishing a goal is more fulfilling than accidental success.
 
Financial goal setting is nothing but budgeting. Having a financial plan helps you resist Impulse buys and unplanned decisions. Let's say if you are a control freak and your spouse is a free spirit or vice-versa, financial goals help you avoid those hot button moments where the family discussions temperature boils over. No matter what the "spend item" if each major financial decision is not based on a goal or a plan that was set and agreed together, families are bound to have storms along the way. The family that plans together stays together. OK I tweaked the original line" "the family that prays together stays together". So if your family does not plan together, We can only manage our budgets on a prayer and hope for a miracle.  As far as I am concerned, among other things,  I want to learn Ice-skating before March 31st. Here's to a milestone filled 2015!


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