New Year’s resolutions. They’ve got a bad reputation. Most years, before the ball in Times Square has even dropped, you can find dozens and dozens of articles claiming that New Year’s resolutions don’t work and that you shouldn’t bother making any. In the same way, the first week of January is often filled with regret and guilt as people break their New Year’s resolutions only days into the new year.

But the problem is not resolutions themselves. The problem is that most people don’t know how to set an obtainable goal. If you take the time to make resolutions that are difficult but attainable it can be an ideal opportunity to give yourself something to strive for the next 365 days. Sometimes that can be the kick in the pants your life or your business needs to move to the next level.

Let’s take a minute to look at the three big reasons why New Year’s resolutions usually fail and see how we can correct them into more attainable goals.

  • Your goal is too broad. Lose weight. Get organized. Read more books. Write more. These are the kind of resolutions that people usually make and all of them are doomed to failure from the start. The problem with these kind of goals, is that they’re too general for you ever to have a chance at succeeding at them. Instead of simply saying “lose weight,” you need to focus on something more specific, such as, go to the gym at least three times a week or cut out between meal snacking. Instead of saying “get organized” set yourself an Outlook reminder to sort everything on your desk once every two weeks or get a filing cabinet. When you focus on the specifics of how that you’re going to achieve that goal you make it that much more possible to achieve it.
  • Your goal is too hard. A good goal should be a challenge but not impossible. If you realize immediately you aren’t going to be able to hit the goals you originally set, don’t abandon them, just adjust them to a more realistic level. By the same token, if your meeting your goal too easily, make it a little harder to give yourself more of a challenge.
  • Not enough midpoint checkpoints. So many times, we set a resolution and only realize in December that we never actually achieved it. It isn’t that we forgot, its more that dates tend to sneak up on us and “meaning to” can become “meant to” before you know it. Give yourself checkups throughout the year (monthly, weekly, whatever works for you) so that you’ll know in advance if you’re on pace or if you need to work a little harder to meet your goals.

On a personal note, I am a big believer in setting yearly goals. I know it pushes me to do more and improve each year and, especially in business, it’s a very good thing to keep changing and improving so you don’t get stagnant.

Have you had success or failures with goals and resolutions in the past? What advice or warnings would you give?