We’ve been talking about organizational resolutions and how helpful they can be to implement small changes to large effect. By now, we have also all identified our personal New Year’s resolutions. Get healthy, be more connected with our friends, advance at work. We know what we want, but what are we doing to get there? Goals are a way to make our resolutions real. Good goals are tangible steps that push us out of our comfort zone in a way that enables us to make a real change and get real results. The best goals have the following characteristics, which apply equally to organizations and individuals:
- Concrete: A good goal is clear and specific. Getting healthy is great, but it can mean a lot of different things. Going to the gym once a week or walking for 15 minutes every day is concrete. You know what it is and how to do it. If a goal feels vague or you don’t know exactly what to do, you need to make it more concrete. Instead of saying you’ll go to the gym once a week, your goal could be to sign up for one dance-based fitness class a week. Know what you are doing so you know when you are done.
- Aspirational: A good goal pushes you to go beyond your current habits and patterns to make a change. It should feel a little hard and a little scary. Meeting it means progress and progress feels good! This sets up a positive feedback loop, whereby meeting the goal feels like an accomplishment. That feeling of accomplishment then drives you to work harder and accomplish more.
- Achievable: At the same time, a good goal has to be something you can actually do. Setting an unreasonable goal sets you up for failure. Going from no exercise to running a marathon in the same week won’t work. You will not be healthier as a result of your effort and you will feel even less motivated to try something else. Getting that right balance between aspirational and achievable is the key.
- Incremental: A good goal allows you to regularly track your progress. Remember that feedback loop? If you have to wait six months or even six weeks to feel successful, that delays that positive motivational outcome. By having a goal that you can track and perform on a regular basis, weekly or even daily, you increase your chances of seeing progress and staying on track.
- Enduring: Finally, a good goal is something that you can keep doing. This characteristic is important. If you go to the gym but discover you hate dance-based fitness classes, don’t keep doing dance-based fitness classes! As we said, the goal should be challenging but not impossible. The best goals become good habits and turn into part of our routines. If you don’t like a goal, it will never become your habit.
The final key to making any good goal great is acting on it. Don’t wait and don’t delay. You can always adjust your goals if they’re not working, but the only way to know is to try!
Good luck with those resolutions!
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