It’s that time of the year and my email inbox is filled with messages from folks in the self-improvement field telling me how to keep to my resolutions or choose another word like “commit” or a word other than resolutions. They are hitting a nerve. We want to do whatever we can to avoid what we believe is the inevitable sense of failure when we do not keep our resolutions.

If you’ve been following my posts throughout December, I think you’ll agree that I’ve been suggesting something similar all month: Pre-pave the New Year by determining your goals before the holiday rush.

With the holiday weekend here, now is a great time to settle down in front of the TV with movies or sports on the tube as background noise. No, that’s not my recommendation because it’s distracting, however, what I’m about to describe could take a while and I want you to enjoy it.

I want you to take those notes you made about your dreams and goals for 2015, put them in front of you and start to make a plan for how you are going to achieve them. Most of us are really good at making the first list of resolutions. We may even add extra language – I intend to lose 40 pounds; I intend to work out every day. However, we fail to provide some really critical information.

Why do you want to lose weight? Why do you want to work out? Do you have a result like a promotion you want to receive? Do you have a targeted event to attend? Goals are easier to achieve when you have a date in mind to achieve your goal – such as losing weight before your high school reunion or your big family wedding. It is also easier to evaluate if your goals are realistic when you attach a date to it. If you feel overwhelmed when you add a target time frame to your resolution, chances are that you need to break your resolution into smaller steps.

Are you being specific enough? Can I measure signs of my success? I may say that I want to make 2015 the best year ever, but what would have to happen for me to recognize that I have reached that goal by December 31st?

Are you overwhelmed just looking at your list? Which of your goals/resolutions are really important? There may be a few on your master list of goals that would be nice, but you don’t have a great deal of passion about them. So go ahead, take your list and reorder it according to your priorities.

Are you ready? Go make, edit and prioritize your list now before you get distracted.

Clue to potential failure number 1: If you find your head filling with negative self-talk, write down what you are telling yourself on a separate piece of paper. Mark Waldman calls it your C.R.A.P. sheet. You are acknowledging the negative while honoring your brain’s concern for your well-being. That seems to satisfy the sense of self-preservation, allowing you to explore possibilities instead of stopping you.

When we continue, we’ll identify the next steps to take your goals to the next level.

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