Setting achievable goals for 2013

This article will print on Friday, December 28, 2012 in the Press Democrat.

You know what I love about the new year? It’s a chance to start over, to create something huge, to make a difference in at least one life, even if that life is merely yours — especially if that life is yours.

It’s a fresh start, a clean slate, a time when we can say all those cupcakes we indulged in don’t count because it’s the first day of a new year and better eating habits start today!

The beginning of a new year can mean anything, because there is no baggage tied to it. OK, maybe there is, but for one day you can pretend that nothing stands in your way as you plan out the next 12 months and promise that this is the year to make something happen.

The world is your oyster, and you, my friend, are the pearl.

This might be the year that you write that book you’ve been holding inside you. It could mean that you save that huge sum of money meant for the down payment on a computer, or a car, or even a new house. Perhaps this is the year that you get your grown kids out of your house, or maybe the year that you conceive your first child. This is the year that you can do something so impactful that it changes your life forever. And you know what? I hope you do.

But it takes more than hope to make things happen. You can hope for the things you want as hard as you can, but nothing is going to happen unless you put the work in. Trust me, I’ve been hoping for rock hard abs and buns of steel for years, and well…  A popular saying puts it bluntly by defining insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

If you expect change, you are going to have to change your ways. But how?

First off, no one is perfect. Got that? Now memorize it. You’ve had a lifetime to engrave all your bad habits into your way of life. Erasing those engravings is not going to be an overnight process. It’s going to take a lot of time and dedication to exchange your bad habits for good ones. It may even be a struggle you have to deal with for the rest of your life. But it’s not impossible.

The first step is to become an expert in the goal you have set. Writing a book? Research everything you can about your subject through other books that fall in the same category and through people who have experienced what your characters are going through. Learning a new language? Watch movies, read books, and subscribe to a newspaper that is in the language you are studying. Preparing for your first marathon? Surround yourself with people who have the same goal and can give you tips on how to succeed. Whatever your dream, immerse yourself in it fully, allowing it to become your biggest interest so that failing is not an option.

Next, set reachable, incremental goals for yourself. Let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds in 2013. OK, that can definitely be achieved in 12 months’ time. But if you look at that weight as a whole 50 pounds, it becomes a daunting task. Instead, break that number up into steps, like 5 pounds a month, adjusting as time goes on, if necessary, and you’ll feel like “Yes, I can.”

The third step is to create a plan. You’ve set a goal, now how do you plan to achieve it? Most resolutions fail in the first month of a new year because there was never a plan that spelled out how to achieve it.

If you’re writing a book, set aside a specific time every day to sit down and write. If you’re trying to lose weight, start out slow with diet and exercise, increasing your efforts as your stamina and nutritional needs change. If you’re trying to save money, decide on a specific amount from each paycheck and set it aside as soon as you get paid.

When the going gets hard, remind yourself why you set this goal in the first place. Write it down so you can read your reasons whenever you feel it’s an impossible dream to accomplish. Create a cover for the book you’re writing, or set up a “dream board” that includes an image of the object you’re saving money for. Use these objects to visualize the end result of all your hard work so that you can feel what it’s like to actually achieve your goal.

Finally, believe in yourself. You can do this. You deserve this.

Let’s make 2013 the year to realize our dreams!


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