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Take control to achieve success with your New Year's resolutions

It's that time of year again -- time to sit down and start developing our New Year's resolutions.

For many of us, New Year's resolutions have a bad rap. We start off overly ambitious, but then on Jan. 2, we experience a post-holiday letdown that gives us an excuse to throw in the towel. This year, I challenge you to think about New Year's resolutions in a different way, with different expectations, in order to start taking control of your life.

n Set goals, not resolutions.

In year's past, I adopted resolutions with a wonderful sense of positive intent, but most of them never made it across the finish line in December. So instead of resolutions such as "I will go to the gym more often," I began making annual goals, such as, "In the next 90 days I will go to the gym and work out for 30 minutes, three times per week." Resolutions are definitely a means to a goal, but goals imply not just intent, but a certain amount of effort or action to achieve it. Many people use the SMART method for setting goals, which I think is a great way to create achievable goals.

Specific: Goals should be specific and emphasize what you want to happen and are willing to do.

Measurable: Establish criteria that will help you measure your progress toward the attainment of each goal. You can also use online tools such as 43things, StickK or Joe's Goals to help you track your progress of your annual goals.

Accountable: Tell others about your goals or find a person who is working toward the same goal and partner up.

Realistic: The goal needs to be do-able and yet challenging enough for a satisfying achievement.

Timely: Set a time frame and put an end point on your goals to give you a clear target to work toward. You can also set mini-milestones to help you feel successful early on. Break your big goal into weekly or monthly goals.

Also make sure your goal is something you want to do, because then you are more likely to succeed at reaching it.

* Think of what you'd like to add to your life, rather than what you'd like to take away.

People who take something away from their lives rather than adding something good may subconsciously feel more deprived and therefore struggle to achieve their goals. Plus, it's usually easier to add a behavior than to stop one. For example, instead of making the goal to "eat less unhealthy food," why not focus on trying to "eat more healthy food." Here are some questions to use as a springboard to help get you thinking about what you might like to add to your life in 2012.

What healthy character trait would you like to see developed in your life this year, and what are some specific steps you can take to develop it?

What is something you would like to learn about this year?

What is one area of progress you'd like to see this year for maintaining or improving your physical health?

If married or in a relationship, what are some things you can do as a couple to strengthen your marriage or relationship?

What are some of your long-term financial goals and in what ways can you make progress on them this year?

What are some ways you can be of service to your community?

Who would you like to be and what steps can you take to become that person?

* Pursue one goal at a time.

Begin by writing down all the things you'd like to consider for your 2012 New Year's goals, and then prioritize them. Pick the most important goal and focus on it until you feel you have had some success. You don't have to pursue all of your goals at the very beginning of the year. Spread them out, so it's not so overwhelming and you can obtain greater focus.

* Keep going.

Let's be honest: Achieving goals can be challenging, and you need to be prepared for setbacks. The best way to deal with setbacks is to keep your focus and stay centered. Constantly remind yourself what your goals are and why you want to achieve them. Don't just look at your goals once in a great while -- keep them in mind every day, if possible.

Dawn Kaiser is an employee assistance trainer with The Village Business Institute in Fargo. She and her team blog about employment at