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Goals matter. So if you’re unsure of whether to make New Year’s resolutions, be bold. With all the busyness and digital distractions bombarding us daily, Calgary-based career coach Michelle Cederberg says focus and clarity matter more than ever.

Goals draw attention. Your brain grapples with how to accomplish the goal. As you focus on it and make some progress, momentum builds. You become more inspired. And the goal serves as a touchstone each day for what you should say yes to and what you should shun.

She believes good goals have five facets:

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  • Size matters: Jerry Porras and Jim Collins in their bestseller Built to Last introduced the notion of “big, hairy, and audacious goals.” Those can sometimes scare us off, however. You want the right balance – a goal that scares and challenges you in just the right amount. “If it doesn’t feel a bit edgy, the goal’s probably not big enough,” Ms. Cederberg writes in her book The Success-Energy Equation. “Every goal should pull you outside that comfort zone enough to help you grow.”
  • Be personal and professional: Don’t just focus on professional goals. It’s tempting, since who needs to add targets that feel like work to our non-work time? But personal goals can improve quality of life and offer balance.
  • Put it in writing: Most people don’t want to write their goals down because it makes the aspirations more real. That’s exactly why you should write them down. “Yes, you’ll have work to do, but if you set a worthwhile goal, don’t you want to achieve it?” she says.
  • Put it where you can see it: Now take the paper or sticky note you wrote the goal on and place it somewhere – or, with duplicates, in many places – where you can see them regularly and be reminded of your challenge to yourself. Change takes time and this encourages you to keep chipping away at the improvement you seek.
  • Consider key dependencies: People often fail to consider how much they need to rely on others to achieve their goals. “By identifying people who can help you reach your goals, you’ll increase your chances of success. Yes, you will have to share your goals with at least one more person, but if you communicate what you need from them, the accountability they will provide in return may be a goal-crushing game-changer,” she says.

The usual call these days is to adopt what are known as SMART goals – challenges that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based, with a specific time frame to achieve them in. She accepts specific and measurable but argues that the final three criteria aren’t risky or passion-filled enough.

So she offers replacements. Let the T in the acronym stand for thrilling goals – ones you can’t wait to begin, that electrify you. Yes, that may mean an element of trepidation surfaces. But if the goal inspires and delights you, that’s a big advantage.

Replace realistic with resonant. You don’t want to be totally impractical, but seeking to be realistic reins you in and limits growth. If your goals resonate at a deeper level within you – promise to make you more the person you want to be – it will be easier to remain motivated to achieve them.

We set goals to achieve them so it’s redundant to include achievable explicitly in the SMART acronym. Instead, make the goals accountable by having someone hold you to your promise and support your efforts. You may want to avoid accountability because it suggests having someone scold you. But it’s not about guilt and nagging; it’s about the right kind of support and focus.

She argues setting specific, measurable, accountable, resonant, thrilling goals is far more powerful than the traditional SMART approach. “When we connect our goals to our passions, we add a gripping presence to them and, as if by magic, the goals become achievable,” she concludes.

Quick hits

  • Every skill you have today was once unknown to you, points out author James Clear: “The human brain is a learning machine. Stick with it.”
  • Hamlet was wrong! Those three words are author Malcolm Gladwell’s reminder against overthinking and therefore not accomplishing much.
  • Innovation isn’t just about what you know but also about who you talk to. Consultant Greg Satell notes that groups like the Hungarian scientists known as “the Martians;” Albert Einstein and his two friends who dubbed their meetings “the Olympia Academy;” and the famed Bloomsbury Group of writers, artists and philosophers demonstrate that collaboration is a vital competitive advantage.
  • If you struggle to find apps quickly in your desktop Windows 10, software engineer Barry Dysert advises going to the start menu and clicking on one of the letters classifying the apps, such as “A.” That will then bring up a list of the alphabet. Click on the letter appropriate for the app you want and those corresponding to that letter will appear.

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