The web, magazines, even news and talk shows on TV tell you to make resolutions, but most resolutions fail so don't make resolutions, make goals. Then they proceed to tell you how to make goals. You could get whiplash just from reading the how-tos, not-tos, and must dos. Arg!
I'm not telling you to make or not make resolutions. Heck, if not setting goals works for you, go for it! But if you did set goals or resolutions last year and you did not get the results you wanted, do not make another goal or resolution. At least not until after you get some clarity. Get started with Tivi Jones of The Creativity Loft speaks blog post Seek Clarity. If you are feeling that you are not clear on who you are and what you want, clarity about those two things takes precedence over setting goals.
However, you can know who you are and where you want to go, but get lost on the trip. If your 2011 goals or resolutions didn't come to fulfillment it is imperative that you examine why those things didn't work before you make your list for 2012. If you had a long trip to make to a specific location, would you just take off and hope you'd get to your destination? No, you'd at least look at a map, choose a route, plan how long it would take, make certain the car had air in the tires, fill-up on gasoline, etc. So, think of your resolutions or goals as a road trip. Look at what you had planned for last year. What detours or rest stops did you take and why?
Were your goals dependent upon others? For example, if my goal had been for me to go to the gym with my husband or best friend three times a week, that's a goal that hinges on someone else cooperation. Or if my goal had been to have one of the big six publish my book by the end of 2010, those are goals that I cannot control. I can't make my best friend, nor even my husband, be ready to go to the gym with me, nor can I influence if a big six publisher will publish my book.
A better goal would have been that I would go to the gym three days a week. Or that I would send my manuscript to one of the big 6 publishers for consideration every three months. Or even I will read three books and the guidelines by each publisher under my consideration and evaluate if I think they would be a good match for me.
Perhaps you were more like Dean Wesley Smith in that a life change created a temporary roadblock. Then in your evaluation of how you did last year, you take that life change under consideration. For example, the year we tried to remodel my kitchen, a 90 foot tall tree landed on my house, my husband had a 5-way cardiac by-pass followed by a stroke, and my goals did not get accomplished. The kitchen remodeling stopped cold and I got zero, nada, zip writing done in the last 6 months of that year. That meant I had to reevaluate what my goals were and adjust. In Dean's post Goals and Dreams 2012 Series he encourages you to have a plan as to how and when to start back writing. Based on my experience, that's a fantastic idea. Small, specific, achievable goals would have helped me negotiate that roadblock more easily.
Sometimes, the goal is set but you can't ever seem to get to the finish line. Did you get stuck in a ‘must be perfect loop’ never finishing your project? Or were you too tired, or not in the mood and so accomplished less than you had planned. If perfectionism or feelings get in your way of accomplishing what you'd like, read Kristin Lamb's take on 2012 and Planning for Success in the New Year.
Perhaps you had goals that were 'too big.' For example, your resolution to lose 50 pounds in three months is not only huge, it may not be safe to accomplish in that time period. Or if your goal had been to write the first draft of two novels and revise another novel AND you work a full-time job outside of writing, you have a family, or had a family need such as moving, new baby, etc., those goals may have been demanding too much of yourself. That's like trying to drive from Key West, Florida to Point Barrow, Alaska (approximately 5,500 miles or 8,800 km) without a pit stop. Take a look at this marathon runner's post on the danger of setting big goals and learn about his motto: Think Big, Act Small, Start Today.
Perhaps last year's goals or resolutions had an indefinite future. In this case, your road map may have taken you on multiple detours. See Coleen Patrick's post about indefinite future goals.
Vague goals like: I'll start blogging; I'll lose weight; I'll control my diabetes; or I'll take a trip to Australia when I have the money can set you up for roadblocks or long rest stops. These goals have the potential to be great goals, but you need to have a plan that is specific. For the blogging you could say I will read three books on blogging and follow 4 good blogs for three months to see how I can fit blogging into my life. Or for your diet you could say that for the next three months you will eat a salad at lunch and dinner 4 out of 7 days a week. Or I'll save X number of dollars per week for X weeks and take my trip to Australia in January of 2013. See more about how to make SMART goals in Marcy Kennedy's blog here.
If you need more help setting goals that are baby steps. Read about ROW80. This kind of goal setting allows for future needs. If in the next 12 months you have unplanned life events that turn everything sideways, or you learn something new, or you change your mind and want to pursue a different goal, you can adjust your goals in a positive way.
I don't know about you, but after reading all these wonderful posts, I'm going to spend the month of January looking at the goals I want to accomplish for 2012. I will clarify that each of those goals will carry me forward toward my dreams and I will take the long term goals and break them down into 80-90 day increments. This will give me a way to be prepared to reevaluate my goals throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.
Remember, the road to Success is NOT straight
Did 2011 go the way you planned? What roads will you be following to Success in 2012?