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New Year, New Goals, Same Behavior?

The start of the new year has brought with it the customary media stories on New Year’s resolutions accompanied by data on the bleak success rates for achieving all of those well intended goals. Articles about keys to successful goal setting for the new year are also abundant, with proven tips like using the SMART goal framework; identifying a couple of really important goals to focus on, rather than trying to change 10 things at once; having a buddy (electronic or human) to keep you on track and putting something you value on the line.

MirrorWhile new tactics coming out of behavioral science research seem to be increasing success rates for achieving both personal and business goals, failure rates are still high. All this got me thinking about what differentiates my small business clients who consistently succeed in pursuing their goals from those that don’t. I realized that most of the tips in the advice columns for achieving goals are good, but they miss two key points I observed in my small personal sample.

First, you’ve got to really want the goal you are pursuing. No half-hearted, incremental improvement over last year will get you fired up in the morning. It’s the people who land on something really compelling and personally meaningful that are most likely to succeed. I see this every year with business clients going through the motion of setting annual goals without much enthusiasm and then suddenly coming up with something that lights them up. Secondly, success comes with a willingness to examine your own habits and change them first. In other words, to achieve your resolution or goal you need to change your behavior and to change your behavior you need to change your attitude.

So before you start the list of goals for your business for 2014, step back and think about what you will find truly compelling by considering questions like:

What do you want to be remembered for? And are there steps you can take this year to help achieve that?

What business goal, if achieved, do you think would bring you the most satisfaction at year end?

When you picture where you want your business to be in three years, what steps should you take this year to position it, such as restructuring, making a strategic hire, pursuing an acquisition or strategic partnership?

Once you’ve landed on something that is truly worth your time and focus, then comes the hard part – – examining what behavior you personally need to change in order to make this happen. Does the goal require you to change the way you manage, the way roles in your company are structured or the way you hold people accountable? Are some of your personal habits getting in your way?

The turning of the calendar may be an artificial start to a new cycle, but if you’re willing to focus on some worthwhile goals and change your own behavior, you not only increase your chances of success, you may find you have more fun along the way.