That doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? We all want a different new year, and one that's also better. But unless you do something different, why should it be? Remember the definition of insanity - doing the same thing and expecting different results.

So how do you ensure you won’t just do the same things and get the same results, at work or in your personal life? First, you need to start at the end. What results do you want to achieve? For many, this is year-end review time, New Year’s resolution time, and the perfect time to establish your goals for the next year. It’s critical to start at the end, because as the saying goes, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Once you establish your goals, the right “road” will become clearer.

You need to make your goals specific and measurable. I believe many people fail to do this out of fear. They know that by setting specific and measurable goals they are also opening themselves up for possible failure, as the achievement of these goals can actually be calculated or determined. Having goals that are positioned as “getting better” or “improving” are common, but what do they really mean? You can hardly fail with these types of goals, but I contend you also can’t really succeed.

Once your goals are clear, the next step is to make them visible. This part reminds me of our yellow lab, Luke. When it gets near feeding time, he finds me or my wife, walks up, and just stands and stares at us. He doesn’t wander off. He doesn’t lie down. I’m not even sure he blinks. He refuses to be ignored, and thus he is fed. Make your goals the same way – in your face and impossible to ignore. Screen savers, Post-it notes, Outlook reminders, public declarations … you get the idea.

Adding clarity and focus to your goals will not only drive your actions, it will drive your reactions. It’s fairly fundamental that when you establish your goals you will also define the basic activities you will engage in to move toward those goals – that’s the action.

The reaction part happens in a more indirect way, and it only happens if your goals are clear and “in your face.” An example of this came up when talking to my son about a major goal I accomplished last year. He asked what it took to make it happen. As I recalled the process, I noted that there were some things I explicitly planned and did, but there were also some things that “sort of” just happened. I say “sort of” because situations and opportunities arose and I invested time and effort in them because I realized they could possibly help in achieving one of my goals. There wasn’t an immediate direct connection to my goal, and if I hadn’t been filtering my environment looking for a pathway to my goal, I may have overlooked the opportunity. The keen awareness of the goal (I saw it on my desk every day) caused me to look at situations through a different prism and realize the potential opportunity that was being made available to me. That’s the reaction.

You’re probably saying, “Yeah, I already know this. You’re supposed to set goals. I have goals.” To that I say, “Okay, then point your finger at them right now.” If you can, then “Happy New Year!”