We all start the New Year with big plans and dreams. For some, the goal is to start a business; others dream of changing careers, learning a new skill or climbing up the corporate ladder. While it’s easy to set goals, turning your plans into reality takes hard work. But what happens a month (or six) into the year? Do you stop setting goals and tracking them?

If you have big plans for 2013 and didn’t get around to setting goals January 1, here are five tips to help you get back on track:

1. Be realistic

One of the most important ingredients to finding success is to set attainable goals. After all, nothing can sap your momentum more than trying to reach an unrealistic dream. For example, your goal might be to start your own business and make a million dollars this year. As a small business advocate, I do believe that small businesses should aim high. However, you should focus on the first part of the goal: Starting your own business. Then, once you’ve achieved that, you can set your sights higher, and higher, and higher…

2. Get specific

Too often, and particularly around the New Year, people come up with vague resolutions like “I want to make more money” or “I want to lose weight” without providing any kind of framework on how to make it happen. However, we know that the more specific you make your goal, the greater your chance for success.

For example, a small business owner might say “I want to increase my sales this year.” Yet a more effective goal dives down into the details… something like “I will make 5 cold calls each week.” By doing that you put the focus on your own actions. That’s what you can control. After all, you can’t really control whether a client chooses you, but you can absolutely control the steps you take to earn their business.

3. Break a big goal into smaller steps

A lofty dream won’t be accomplished overnight. As a result, you’ll need to break down the larger goal into a series of smaller steps that let you keep your momentum going. Take some time and identify all the smaller steps involved. Assign deadlines to each of these sub-goals so you can track your progress. Feel free to reward yourself after completing each smaller goal. And don’t lose sight of how each of the smaller steps fits into the larger picture.

4. Share your goals

Humans are social animals and studies show that by sharing your goals or making them public, you increase your accountability and commitment level. Choose to share your goals in whatever way makes the most sense to you. You can share a goal with your friends on Facebook. Or, find a friend, colleague, or family member who can be your ‘goal partner.’  You can check in with your partner every week, discuss your progress, get and give support, and more.

5. Visualize your goals

Athletes use visualization techniques to improve their performance. Creative types use vision boards and business teams even use vision maps to visualize their goals. I take a slightly different approach to visualization. Each year I write myself a letter describing everything I want to accomplish. There’s one twist though. I write the letter as if it were the end of the year and all my goals have already been accomplished. This process helps me see my goals more clearly, bringing them to life.

If writing a letter isn’t for you, you can tap into the power of visualization just by taking a few deep breaths and visualizing your goal with as much detail as possible. The more clearly you picture your goal, the closer it will seem.

Final thoughts

Turning your goals into reality often boils down to creating the right kinds of goals. Follow these steps to design goals that are specific, attainable, and put you in control of the ultimate outcome. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve a goal right away. When things get hard, you may need to step back and break down the goal into even smaller steps. Most importantly, don’t lose sight of the fact that you set the goal because it’s important to you. Don’t wait another year to make it happen.


Editor’s Note: Original content written by Nellie Akalp and published on GalTime.