Ready, Set, Goal!

February 10, 2016

This post was updated on August 30, 2021.

“If I set a New Year’s resolution, I always achieve it.”
- said no one ever.

There are a million reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail, but change is at the heart of them all: changing priorities, changing circumstances, changing commitment levels and changing accountability.

We all know it’s the right thing to do – to give yourself lofty goals and work hard to achieve them. So why are resolutions the butts of countless jokes and often discredited as soon as they are declared?

And we don’t only do this in our personal lives. At work we set annual goals, but they too fall by the wayside after organizational priorities change or budgets are reallocated.

So how can you set goals personally and professionally that can withstand the inevitable changes ahead? By changing how you look at goals.

Anticipate change

When setting goals, expect changes. Does your life get extra busy in the summer? Does your manager always think of new projects when he gets back from his annual leadership meeting? Try to think ahead at what may shift and create goals that can adapt.

You can even find your company’s change manager and proactively ask what changes could be coming up in the next year. Their job is to inform you when the time is right in a way that minimizes disruption for you, but it can be a two-way conversation, so speak up.

Balance specificity and flexibility:

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound. However, being too specific with your goals can paint you into a rigid corner.

Instead, reflect on the purpose of your goal. Is it important that you attend that specific class? Or is it more important that you attend a class or do something extra to increase your knowledge? Getting flexible with how you achieve your goals can give you the freedom to stick with them.

Push back

Dig deeper when you hear about changes. When work changes are managed well, they come packaged with an explanation of how they will affect your daily priorities.

If you’re not provided with an explanation of how any given change lines up with your goals, push back on your change manager and demand more information. It can be true in your personal life too – ask for clarification when gym schedules change or when a healthy snack is no longer in stock. Things aren’t always as final as they seem.

As you set out to achieve your goals, remember change happens – at home and at work. Don’t let the inevitable speed bumps derail your quest to be better in the year to come.

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Sara Forner Howland

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