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Set goals signOn New Year’s Eve, we went out for dinner with some friends. We started talking about New Year’s resolutions and they quickly told us they didn’t make resolutions—they made “to do lists.” To do lists, we were told, are based on things they want to accomplish over the next year and are action oriented. So how do you make a “to do list” actionable?

Get specific: Think of something you want to accomplish this year. What is it? Suppose as an example, you decided you wanted to get healthier. What would be signs that you were healthy? What would you be doing that would let you know you were living well? Will you be exercising 4-5 days a week? If so, what kind of exercise will you be doing? Will you be eating better? If so, what kinds of food would you eat at each meal that would tell you that you were taking good care of yourself? Would you drink less alcohol—or no alcohol? If you drank less alcohol, how much less would you drink each week or month? What would you be doing instead of drinking?

People in your life: Let’s stay with the living healthier example. Who in your life would notice you were living healthy? What would s/he or they notice you doing that would tell him/her/them that you were healthier? What else would they notice?

The benefits: Imagine you started living a healthy life. What would the benefits be? What difference would it make in your life? What difference would it make in your personal life? How about in your relationships? What would be some of the benefits in your work or in your professional development?

How serious are you? On a scale of 0-10, if 10 was you were totally committed to becoming healthy this year and 0 was the opposite, how committed are you? What puts you there? What something you could see yourself doing over the next week that would move you up a notch on the scale?

Where are you now? On a scale of 0-10, if 10 is you’re already living a healthy life, you’re exercising 5 days a week, you’re eating 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day, eating 2-3 servings of protein a day, and eating a variety of food, and 0 is the opposite, where do you think you are now? What are you doing that puts you there? Again, what can you see yourself doing over the next week that would move you up a notch?

Creating goals that you actually do means getting specific. Think of what you’ll be doing when you can cross off that item on your list that will tell you it’s a done deal. Think of people that know you and what they’ll notice you doing. Think about the benefits of doing this thing or things and what difference it will make in your life. Is it something that’s really important to you that come hell or high water you’re going to do, or is it one of those things that would be nice to do but really won’t make any difference? And finally, thinking about where you’re at and a small step you can take will help get you going. Have fun!!!

I’d love to hear from you!! Are resolutions or “to do lists” effective for you? If so, what makes them work? If not, what works better?

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