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As we begin a New Year, we reflect on the year's past and how we want to define the future.  Setting goals is a great way to take control of your life's direction!  It also provides a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.  If you want to succeed, you need to set goals.  Without goals you lack focus and direction.  You cannot expect to want things to happen, but then do not have action steps to achieve them.  We compiled a list of the FIVE golden rules for goal setting.  HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

1.  SET GOALS THAT MOTIVATE YOU - Make sure your goals motivate you, meaning, making sure they are important to you and there is value in achieving them.  Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life.  Without this focus, you can end up with far too many goals and end up achieving none (which can be disappointing, frustrating and de-motivating).  Create a sense of urgency and a 'must do' attitude - this will maximize the likelihood of success.
TIP: When creating goals, write down WHY it is valuable and important.  If you were to share your goal with others, what would you tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?
2.  SET S.M.A.R.T. GOALS - For goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be S.M.A.R.T.  Each goal should be:
Specific - Your goal should be clear and well-defined.  You need goals to show you the way, so if they are vague or generalized, they do not provide direction.  
Measurable - Include precise amounts, dates, etc. for your goals so you can measure your degree of success.  If your goal is to reduce expenses, for example, how will you know when you have been successful?  Reduce expenses by 1%?  10%?  Measure to celebrate success.
Attainable - Make sure your goals can be achieved, but also not too easy.  If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only disappoint yourself and your confidence will decrease.  If you set a goal that is too easy, it will feel anticlimactic and hinder future goal setting.
Relevant - Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take.  When you keep goals aligned with this in mind, you will create focus to get ahead and do what you want.  If you set widely scattered and inconsistent goals, you will waste time and efficiency.
Time Bound - Your goals MUST have a deadline. This means that you will know when you can celebrate success!  When you are working on a deadline, your sense of urgency increases and achievement will come that much quicker.

3. SET GOALS IN WRITING - The physical act of writing down a goal makes it real and tangible; you have no excuse to forget about it.  Use language such as 'will' vs ' would like to' or 'might' to avoid getting sidetracked.  Post your goals in visible places to remind yourself of your intentions.
TIP: Shift your goal to a positive statement.  Example, 'I will stop drinking soda' vs 'I will drink more water'.  The first feels like a restriction, like soda is an enemy and can NEVER be enjoyed.  Shift the goal to something you want to add or that can contribute positively to your life.

4. MAKE AN ACTION PLAN -  This is often a missed step in the goal planning process; you get so focused on the outcome that you forget to plan the steps needed along the way.  By writing out individual steps and crossing them off once completed, you will notice you are making progress towards the end goal.  This is especially vital if your goal is big, demanding or long-term.

5. STICK WITH IT! - Goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end.  Create reminders to keep yourself on track and make standing appointments with yourself to review your goals and action plan.  The end goal may remain the same, but the action plan may undergo significant changes along the way.  Make sure the relevance, value and necessity remain high.

Goal setting is much more than saying you want something to happen.  You must clearly define exactly what you want and understand why you want it.  Your odds of success will reduce considerably if you do not follow these steps!  Happy Goal Setting!