Ah January, that time of year when we can no longer ignore the calories we consumed over the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, and thoughts turn to goal setting and resolutions. The gyms will be busy for a few weeks, and the television will have weight loss and “New Year New You” commercials (until Super Bowl Sunday, of course, then we take a break!)
There’s a great honor in a failed attempt, but there’s no honor in no attempt. – Laird Hamilton
Despite the Hype, You Need to Set Goals
I know it’s stereotypical to write about goal setting in January, but setting goals is incredibly important. Simply allowing life to “happen” to us without thinking about where we want to be, what we want to achieve, and the kind of person we want to be is a recipe for an unhappy life. How many times have we’ve heard, “I’d have done such-and-such or gone to fill-in-the-blank place, but…” DON’T BE THAT GUY! You’ll never regret the scars of failed attempts or time spent with your family, but you will regret the times you sat on the couch and let life happen.
Three Steps to Goal Setting
Picking out what you want to achieve in the coming year should match your personality and skills, be measurable, and be realistic. For example, I can set myself a goal to play in the NFL next fall, but unless they have a shortage of slow 52-year-olds with bad knees that’s probably not a good goal for me. I can, however, set myself a goal to participate in the 21-mile Dam That Cancer standup paddle board event. That’s a realistic goal and right in line with my skills and personality.
Your goals should be something you actually want to achieve. You should be able to measure your progress toward your goal, and they should be actually achievable. By all means, stretch yourself and reach for something–that’s where you grow–but don’t set yourself up for failure by “shooting the moon” without a rocket. To be successful, here’s the Three Steps I use:
- Write your goals down and tell someone. Having your goals on paper and in public creates accountability for you to motivate you to stay committed.
- Measure your progress. It can be a massive motivator to see your progress grow (or shrink, depending on the goal!). There’s loads of tools out there, from apps to journals, but you don’t have to be fancy–just measure it.
- Reward yourself when you get there. Some goals are fun and rewarding, some are just necessary for your personal or professional growth. In any case, celebrate the win with a little reward when you achieve your goal. The promise of the reward is a motivator, and in those times when it’s hard you’re gonna need it.
So, Where Do You Want to Be in February?
In the Air Force, we used to talk about short-term goals or problems as “the 50 meter target” because on the shooting range, those are the closest ones. In combat, you always engage the closest target first. February is your 50 meter target! It’s easy to sit on the couch and make goals, heck most of us actually mean it when we make them. Then, February.
After we make our long-term goals that fit with our personality and skills, are measurable, and realistic, we need to steel ourselves to engage February. February is dark and cold in most places. After the post-holiday glow is gone and before the sun warms us up in spring, February will be the “goal killer.” Engage that target! Visualize the person you want to be a the end of February, and power through. Remind yourself in those dark February mornings why you set those goals to begin with, and resolve not to lose ground. All that said, if you do stumble, remember: you still have 10 months to go! Plenty of time to regain your footing and move forward again.
You Got This
No matter what, remember you are able to reach your goals. If you select realistic goals and work on them steadily throughout the year, you’ll get there by the time 2019 rolls around.
Mickey is a consultant, author, and keynote speaker. He believes everyone can reach high levels of performance if inspired and led. During his 30 year US Air Force career Mickey commanded thousands of Airmen, managed portfolios worth billions of dollars, and worked with military, civil, and industry officials around the world. He is a Distinguished Graduate from the Eisenhower School at National Defense University in Washington DC.
Mickey is the author of seven books, including Leading Leaders: Inspiring, Empowering, and Motivating Teams, Mickey’s Rules for Leaders, and The Five Be’s: A Straighforward Guide to Life.