Goal Setting and the New Year

I’ve never been one to have new year’s resolutions stick very well. I think in prior years, I have had goals about exercising more, eating more healthy, spending more wisely, etc. The general sayings are that goals should be specific and that  one should regularly monitor and measure progress towards goals. No arguments from me there.

Still I’ve managed to make progress over the years and keep things in balance. Making progress and actively thinking about what I would regret if I did not do something – these are two things that have worked for me.

On "making progress", I remember working in one startup and working very hard. But after a year had passed, we had wondered whether we were pressing too hard and running the business model in the right direction. Of course, we had had some tremendous wins and beat the odds that year, but we had to step back and think about whether we were making significant enough progress. In the end, we decided to change directions, and people generally felt better and resolved about new direction.

To illustrate the second point on regret, on a personal front, I had a decided a little more than a year ago to "trade down" on my near-term career potential. The guiding principle steering that decision was that I was thinking about how much I was going to regret other things going on in my personal life if I decided to forgo those things for a "richer" professional life. Careers can always take new turns. They can restart at any point. But some things in one’s personal life only come once. Actively thinking about regret made me make the right choices. As another story, although I’ve never asked my father, I like to think that one of the reasons he stopped smoking many years ago was because he thought about regret scenarios. It wasn’t a twelve-step program that got him to make significant self-improvement. It was one wake-up call.

I don’t pretend to know what works for other people in terms of new year’s resolutions and setting personal goals, but feel free to share your stories. As 2005 closes out, I wish everyone a safe holidays and best wishes for the new year. Best!

3 Replies to “Goal Setting and the New Year”

  1. Hi Steve,
    Just read your post and thought I’d drop you a note. It’s been a while – the big news on my end is that I gave up gainful employment to be a first year at Chicago GSB, your alma mater. Just (as in barely) survived the first quarter and now ready to take on the winter. My very best wishes to you and family for the New Year.
    P.S. Your s4management.com address seems to be bouncing.

  2. Paul, 2006 you say? Where have I been? 🙂
    It’s going to take me a few weeks to start dating things 2007 …
    Deepak, congrats on the new adventures at Chicago! Best of luck!
    Happy new year to both of you. Best!

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