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How to achieve your goals for 2009

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Looking forward to 2009

Do you still have the list of new year's resolutions you made last year? How did you do on them? Did you achieve all of them? Some of them? None of them? If you didn't achieve your resolutions, perhaps they were too broad and far reaching? How about, this year, making some realistic resolutions that you can actually keep?
Woman with 2009 Calendar

After the indulgence of the holiday season, the new year is a fresh start in many ways, not just by the calendar. It's a time when people - me, included - think about ways to improve their lives. Sometimes, though, the resolutions people make are just too broad and vague to be realistic or achievable. For example, the resolution to "get in shape" is just a little to vague. What, really, does it mean? To make really achievable resolutions, they have to be concrete, realistic goals - and they may be made up of several smaller goals.

What type of resolution to make?

There are general types of resolutions, including:
  • Resolutions that make a wholesale change in your life.
  • Resolutions that change a single piece of your life.

The big changes really are made up of numerous smaller changes, and the single changes generally impact other parts of your life, too. Be realistic about these impacts as you make your choices for the new year.

Take stock of the year that is ending

Take a serious look at the past year. What was good, and what was not so good, and why? What are some goals that you can take away from that review?

Reviewing what has been good and less than good in the past can help you maintain a realistic focus moving forward - and help you understand your bugaboos. If, for example, one of your favorite things about the past year was trips to the park with your daughter, then perhaps a goal of such trips on a weekly or bi-weekly basis is realistic to meet a greater goal of spending more quality time with the kids. Likewise, understanding that late spring is a tough time for you with activities can help you set up a plan in advance to make sure you keep to your goals during that time.

Identify what makes up a goal

It's really okay to have broad, life-changing goals if you recognize the smaller goals that make up the bigger change. But even just rephrasing a goal and make it more concrete and achievable.

If "get in shape" is one of your goals for the new year, what exactly does it mean? What frequency and what type of exercise? Is it running? Then perhaps the goal should be, "Over six months, build up fitness level and endurance so I can run a 5k."

If "save more money" is your goal, how will you do it? Is it less eating our or greater coupon use at the grocery store? How will you make sure what you save goes into an appropriate account? Perhaps the goal should be, "Open new savings account and divert $15 dollars there every week I fore go two lattes and a lunch out."

Back up your goals with a plan

It's not enough to say you want to do something different in the new year, you have to make it happen. Actual calendars are great for this goal. Sit down with a calendar and mark out weekly goals for the next couple of months. If eating healthier is your goal, set aside time on Sunday afternoons to search out new healthy recipes for the week and create a grocery list to go with them. If reading more is your goal, mark time every evening to read for 30 minutes or an hour.

Whether you make resolutions at the new year or at some other time of the year, careful and thoughtful goal setting for yourself and your family make it more likely that your goals will be achieved. You can have the whole cake, just in smaller bites.

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