The new year is a great time to take inventory of our goals and aspirations to figure out what works, what no longer serves us, and what we want to work towards. What better way to start the approaching months than with intent and purpose? Goal setting is a valuable tool when it comes to personal and professional development, but if you don’t have a clear and realistic plan for how you are going to go about meeting those goals, you aren’t setting yourself up for success. 

With a bit of strategizing, you can craft a game plan that will have you well on your way to achieving your goals. Read through the tips below, and get ready for a productive and successful 2018! 

1. Set specific, measurable goals.

Get clear on what it is that you want to accomplish. “I want to be healthier this year,” or “I want to feel more successful in my job,” are great starting points, but broad statements such as these make it difficult to determine what behaviors you’ll need to change to meet your goals, and how you’ll know when you’ve achieved them. More specific goals, such as “I will increase my daily water intake,” or “I will regularly ask my employer for feedback so that I can improve my skills,” will make the necessary actions immediately apparent, and it will be much easier for you to tell when you are on the right track. 

2. Be realistic about your timeframe.

Few things are more discouraging than feeling as if you are trying to complete an impossible feat. It’s good to set big goals – they draw you out of your comfort zone, and ultimately help you grow – but if you expect immediate results from something that takes time, you will probably get discouraged and give up before you can even spot the finish line. After doing your research and thinking carefully about your individual strengths and weaknesses, you will be better positioned to establish a timeline that makes sense for your individual situation and what you hope to accomplish. This will dramatically improve the likelihood that you will stick with (and achieve) your goals.

3. Know what motivates you, and establish a reward system accordingly.

A particularly important aspect of goal setting is choosing a plan of action that you will be able to maintain for the long term, and understanding what will help motivate you when things get difficult. Some things to consider when making your plan include: your level of commitment, your work capacity after taking care of your other responsibilities and priorities, the time of day you plan to take action, and what motivators will truly help keep you going when goal-getting gets tough. Each time you follow through with your plans, reward yourself according to these motivators. No matter how small the victory feels, consistent and meaningful positive reinforcement will help drive consistent and meaningful action.

4. Be adaptable to change.

One of the only things we can be certain of is that things are always changing, and working towards your goals is no different. As you get started, you may find that certain approaches are just not effective, or that circumstances are different than you had initially anticipated. Don’t get too fixated on one way of doing things, or you may find yourself spinning your wheels. Focus on your goal, but be flexible about your methods – being ready for (and adaptable to) change will help you confidently overcome any barriers that may arise as you work towards achieving your goals.