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Fresh starts and strong finishes

Article Date: 
11 January, 2013 (All day)

A new year begins. All of the holiday decorations have been taken down and put away, kids have gone back to school, and adults have returned to work. The start of each year is rich with ambition, hopes and dreams. The whole year is before us and anything is possible. What makes the difference between accomplishing the milestones we earnestly set out to achieve and letting our resolve slowly dissipate into inaction? Resolutions, goals, targets, objectives—however you refer to them—help you get to where you want to be.
To keep this year from slipping into obscurity as so many others may have in the past, a few simple principles can be followed to increase your likelihood of success. Start by starting. Take the time to identify where your passions and interests lie. Write them down. Make an inventory of your talents and strengths. Add to the list any challenges you are hoping to overcome. Determine areas of opportunity or traits you would like to develop. List your core values and character traits.
This brainstorm activity exercises your mind and helps you start prioritizing what matters most in your life. You may notice certain themes start to emerge as you review your list. An important success factor involves picking the right goals. Common goals often include healthy living (exercise, eating healthy, weight loss), better money management (getting out of debt, saving more), eliminating bad habits (smoking, drinking less, gossiping), finding happiness (work/life balance, time with family, church involvement), getting organized, and learning new things.
You know yourself the best. What is your level of commitment? How passionate are you? How much time and effort are you willing to invest? Consider these factors as you transform your list into tangible goals. Don’t try to accomplish everything. Focus your efforts on those items having the highest level of importance to you.
As you create your goals, remember to define them precisely. Avoid using vague or abstract language. The more specific the goal is, the better the goal. Be clear on what success looks like—know what you are trying to achieve. Be sure to hold yourself accountable throughout the year by creating deadlines and milestones. 
The next step is an important one.  Continue by continuing. Pace yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Quite often when goals are made it is because we want to change big things about our life. Some may want to lose 25 or more pounds, quit smoking, be more organized and on and on. Usually these are things we have struggled with for many years and instead of writing down smaller achievable , we go in with guns blazing.  After realizing how much effort it will take, we go back to our old ways.
Oftentimes it is beneficial to break up goals into small steps that are easily accounted for. When you break a goal up into pieces that can easily be accomplished in a day or less, the odds of completing it go significantly higher. Each time something is checked off your list and you feel a sense of accomplishment, you will be more likely to continue on. Celebrate your successes along the way.
In this high-tech world we live in, one of the greatest tools we can use is an app. There are tons of apps out there that do anything from helping you set goals to sending reminders, motivational photos or linking you up with others that may be working on similar goals.  For those who may need a little more motivation, different apps even offer the option of committing money to a specific goal. If you don’t achieve the goal, they will send your money to a friend, charity or even an organization you do not like as a further incentive for you to keep going.
Finish by finishing. Endure to the end. It is easy to start things and it is easy to work on things. Why do so many of us then fall short of our goals and fail to finish things? By utilizing some of the principles discussed, finishing becomes more automatic. You are engaged in a meaningful goal you are passionate about. You have confidence in your ability to achieve it because your milestones have been met all year. Now you are finding the success that can be yours. Keep your vision in mind when roadblocks try to derail you. Envision your accomplishments as headlines in a newspaper. Read these headlines to yourself throughout the year to keep you inspired and keep you motivated. Stay focused and finish strong!