December is a month for celebration and reflection. As you near the end of the calendar year, it is important to review your personal and business year to assess your success or failure. Did you stick to those New Year’s Resolutions? Did your business perform this year as expected? If you look back at your goals for 2010 and you don’t find reason for celebration, the likely reason is that you did not properly plan for success in 2011.

It has been my habit for the past 25+ years to set goals for the coming year and I have seen great success and suffered horrible failure during those years. Over the years, I have learned a few tricks that have dramatically improved my chances for success.

Create a list of achievable goals

Start the process by writing down as many things as you can think of that you would like to accomplish during the coming year. I find it helpful to separate personal and business goals on different sheets of paper because the resources you have available for achieving personal and business goals are generally not the same.

Next, decide which goals are truly feasible. Ask yourself if you can afford it? Do you have the business resources necessary? Are the efforts worth the results? For example, it might be nice to have a goal to cure cancer, but most of us don’t have the skills or knowledge to achieve that goal. If it doesn’t make sense, draw a line through it and move on!

Make a Plan for Success

Now comes the hard part. You will never achieve your goals unless you create an action plan for each goal. What steps will you need to take to achieve the goal? What resources do you need? How much time will it take? If you cannot answer these questions, you probably are not ready to successfully achieve the goal(s).

Make a Public Declaration

Once you have set your goals and developed a plan for completion, announce your goals. Tell your family, friends, employees and co-workers what you want to achieve and ask them to hold you accountable. This is often uncomfortable and may lead to some light hearted ribbing from friends and co-workers, but I cannot stress strongly enough how important this is! Not only do you need the support system, but you may need some help from your co-workers and they are more likely to help if they understand what you are trying to accomplish.

Check your progress

It is important to review your written goals document periodically to make sure you are on pace to complete your goals. If necessary, make adjustments to your action plan. If you do not take the time to review progress, you will almost certainly lose sight of the plan and at the end of the year.

You need a BHAG

This is a fairly new addition to my annual goal setting exercise. A BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. To qualify as a BHAG, a goal must be completely outside your zone of comfort. This can be business or personal.

I have reserved my BHAG for my personal goals. In 2011 my BHAG was to run a full marathon (26.2 miles). Talk about outside my comfort zone — Before setting this goal I had never run more than 1 mile in my life and I think that was only when someone was chasing me! I researched and decided on a specific training plan, bought some running gear, told my friends, co-workers, and family, and went to work. I wanted to quit almost every day, but because I had made a public declaration about my goal, my friends and family kept me moving when I didn’t think I could do it. On November 13 I completed the San Antonio Rock & Roll Marathon (and a bunch of other goals that I’d set at the beginning of the year!).

What are your goals for 2012? Drop me an email if you need someone to hold you accountable to complete your goals!