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New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Work. Try This Instead.

I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. Most of us enthusiastically commit to making the same changes each year, only to see that enthusiasm wane as the weeks and months progress. Before we know it, we’re back to our old routines and those resolutions fall by the wayside until this time next year.

New Year’s resolutions are simply not specific or actionable enough to yield positive results. The nice thing about them, however, is that they get us thinking about what changes are possible in the year ahead. The excitement of the new year offers us hope that things can be different this time. If only we could channel that excitement and hope more productively…

Rather than fall victim to another year of failed resolutions, consider the following approach.

1. Choose one specific focus area.

When you’re actively thinking about making changes and feeling excited about the process, it’s tempting to want to focus on multiple areas simultaneously. This strategy will only set you up to fail. Rather than dilute your focus, choose one area to prioritize.

2. Clarify your vision.

Once you’ve selected your focus area, spend some time visualizing what you really want. Imagine, for example, that you woke up tomorrow and your goal had become a reality. What, specifically, would be different? What would your life look like? What changes would you notice?

3. Identify current gaps/challenges/roadblocks.

Now that you’re clear about what you want, what stands in the way? For instance, if your goal is to get promoted, why hasn’t that happened? Do you lack critical experience? Do you need a stronger network of alliances? Be clear about what is holding you back. Focus on the challenges you can personally address.

4. Choose one challenge and tackle it aggressively.

Again, you may be tempted to pursue multiple paths in parallel but you’ll burn out quickly if you do so. Identify one important challenge and face it head on. Need a stronger network? Make that your immediate focus and start building key relationships now. Need more training in a certain area? Sign up for a course today. Once you’ve made sufficient progress on that front, begin to focus on the next challenge.

5. Make it a priority.

If it’s important to you, don’t let everyday life stand in the way. Trust me, there will never be a “good” time. You’ll simply shift your attention to new things and be no closer to achieving your goal. Treat it like your most important business commitments. Add it to your calendar and don’t cancel it unless there’s an emergency.

And, finally, don’t try to make important changes alone. Not only do you need the support of others to achieve your goals, it’s impossible to make changes in a vacuum. Those around you will need to change in some way for you to be successful. Enlist their help and be clear about how it will benefit them as well. Consider engaging a coach or mentor to serve as an objective support system in the process.

If you’ve already made your New Year’s resolutions, use them as a starting point for this process. Choose the most important goal and follow these steps to maximize your success.

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