By Jan Hittelman

The fresh start of a new year brings the promise of things to come. Too often our feelings of optimism soon give way to disappointment, as we are often unable to realize our new resolutions. Another year when we don’t lose weight, exercise more, do better in school, become more prosperous, etc. Should we give-up on resolutions to avoid feeling like failures? Perhaps if we approached our resolutions differently, we could experience success.

Consider these guidelines when trying to set personal goals:

• Give it serious thought: Goals that are impulsively set are rarely reached. Put some time and thought into what you want to accomplish and the necessary steps to get there.
• Be realistic: Make sure that you have the motivation, skills, time and resources necessary to accomplish your goal. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
• Clearly define your goals: Instead of a vague resolution like losing weight, set a specific target of a small number of pounds lost over a reasonable time period. Setting achievable goals will also increase confidence.
• Start small: Breaking down major goals (e.g. exercise more) into more achievable smaller goals (e.g. go for a 10 minute walk each day) increases the likelihood of success.
• Reward yourself: As you make small accomplishments towards your goal, reinforce your effort by doing something enjoyable to celebrate.
• Keep a record: Journaling or noting your day-to-day accomplishments and challenges will help you monitor your progress and stay focused.
• Get support: Share your goals with others and enlist their assistance. Simple praise and encouragement from others can help sustain our motivation to succeed.
• Be prepared for steps backwards: With any significant endeavor, we tend to have successes as well as failures. Have a game plan to recover from set backs and get back on track.
• Teach your children: Help them to develop effective goal setting skills by using the above strategies.

While we tend to focus on New Years for our resolutions, learning to be an effective and realistic goal setter is an invaluable skill that will benefit you all year long.