The beginning of a new year marks the perfect time to set new goals for yourself, both personally and professionally. After all, a fresh year represents a clean slate.
But despite the best of intentions, your momentum will likely fizzle out pretty quickly if you don’t have a concrete plan for actually achieving your goals in place. In fact, research shows that 30 percent of us give up on our resolutions after just two weeks.
If that describes you, there’s no need to despair. It’s never too late to reconnect with your resolutions and craft a practical strategy for fulfilling them. Whether you’re looking to grow in your current role, transition to a new company, or change your career path altogether, here are some expert-backed tips on setting goals that stick:
Clarify What Your Goals Really Are
Nothing sets you up for failure like setting vague goals. The clearer your career resolutions are, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve them.
For example, instead of just saying you want to build wealth, get specific: “I want to identify financial choices that will help me build wealth throughout my life, and I want to create an action plan to help me make and stick to those choices.”
But where do you even start when it comes to determining what your goals should be? Career coach Phyllis Mufson recommends conducting a year-end self-review wherein you ask yourself the following questions:
- What were my finer moments over the past year? What did I accomplish, and what am I most proud of doing?
- On the flip side, what were my biggest disappointments? What do I regret?
- What did I learn? What would I like to do differently going forward?
- How am I getting in my own way? How am I holding myself accountable for the things that didn’t work out?
“It really pays to take the time to sit and write this all down,” Mufson says. “After you’re done, now look into the future.”
She suggests looking a few years ahead and thinking about where you’d like to see yourself thriving. The idea here is to bring your authentic self to light and to create unique goals that are in line with your highest vision for your life.
Make an Action Plan
Once you know what your career resolutions look like, it’s time to set yourself up for success by creating an action plan to reach those resolutions. According to Mufson, your action plan should be built around SMART goals, meaning goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. From there, break your larger resolutions into smaller, easier-to-digest microactions.
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“Let’s say your career resolution is to be better about networking,” Mufson says. “This involves identifying what currently keeps you from networking, then compiling a list of your professional contacts, working on your elevator pitch, scheduling informational interviews, joining professional organizations, and regularly attending networking events.”
One other thing: Tying your career resolutions to your emotions will boost your odds of success. Mufson recommends asking yourself two important questions: How will my life change if I’m totally successful? If I don’t take action on this, what will the negative results be?
“This tends to give you a fuller picture that has some emotion to it,” Mufson says. “When the emotion and the why are included, people will be much more motivated.”
Build a Way to Hold Yourself Accountable
“You’re going to run into obstacles and setbacks,” Mufson says. “It’s going to happen.”
Indeed, the best-laid career resolutions won’t get far if you don’t hold yourself accountable. To do that, Mufson says, you need take a two-pronged approach: Don’t give up when you inevitably get derailed, and pinpoint exactly what caused your derailment so you can avoid it in the future.
For example, let’s say your goal is to find a solution to your student loan debt. If you find yourself repeatedly struggling to get a handle on this debt, ask yourself: Do you have the resources you need to be successful? Have you been afraid to ask for help along the way?
Zero in on why you’re stalling in achieving your goal, whatever it might be, and then figure out how you could clear the obstacle in your way. This may require course-correcting and possibly tweaking your original resolution, but it’s all part of the journey.
“Having someone else you can check in with can really help,” Mufson adds.
Accountability partners can be powerful tools for keeping yourself on the path to resolution success. One 2015 study found that 70 percent of people who sent weekly goal updates to a friend were successful in achieving their goals, whereas only 35 percent of folks who kept their goals private could say the same.
Sharing your goals with a mentor or friend can build in an additional level of motivation and support. Make a plan to regularly connect with your accountability partner to celebrate your progress and troubleshoot challenges as they arise.
Whatever they might be, your career resolutions are attainable as long as you have the right strategy in place. Get clear on what you want, make a realistic action plan, and hold yourself accountable. Once you get out of your own way, sticking to your resolutions can be easier than you ever expected.
Marianne Hayes is a longtime freelance writer and content marketing specialist.