Setting goals can be difficult. Include the added excitement of the holiday season, and you may end up as one of the 92% percent of people who end up failing at meeting their New Year’s resolutions.

The tradition of setting New Year’s resolutions dates back at least four millennia. The concept is simple—before the end of the preceding year, one challenges himself about ways to make the upcoming year their best year yet.

Common goals include health and wellness development, improved financial responsibility and stewardship, relationship management, career and professional goals, and overall self-improvement.

One would think that after 4,000 years, the process of achieving results should have been perfected. However, a recent study by the University of Scranton suggests that only 8% of people actually achieve their goals. As a personal development trainer, I have some theories about why that is.

Here is what you should be doing to make 2015 your best year yet.

1) SMART goals can make the difference between success and failure.

It’s not that people who set resolutions are unintelligent, but individuals often fail to set S.M.A.R.T. goals—goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. An effective goal is a well-thought-out goal. It takes into consideration the context of the goal, which includes resources, urgency and manageability.

Setting a goal to lose weight is a seemingly good goal because it’s genuine and practical. However, it lacks specificity. There is no built-in management system or urgency. How does one know if their goal is successful? Is it after they’ve lost a pound, or twenty pounds?

A much better goal would be, “I would like to lose twenty pounds in four months.” There is a sense of urgency, and it lends to creating a built-in incentive and accountability system, which leads to the next point.

2) Avoid Ineffective goals that lack an incentive and accountability system

I often tell my clients that the goal-setting process is cyclical. I recommend the following step:

1. Analyze the context by identifying the need for the goal, and measuring resources for achievement.
2. Set the goal.
3. Monitor results.
4. Evaluate the process.
5. Repeat steps 1-4.

Many make the major mistake of ending the goal-setting process in step 3 or 4. However, whether or not the desired result was achieved, effective goal-setting uses steps 1-3 as a catalyst for incremental and consequentially big changes. When specific goals are achieved, that serves as a way to build motivation and momentum for future success with greater goals.

When goals are not met, step 4 provides an opportunity to evaluate where things went wrong, and how the process can be improved for future goals.

3) Reframing perspective is mandatory 

Every successful fitness coach will tell their client that improving their health requires a lifestyle change. Similarly, I tell my clients that consistently achieving their goals requires a deep and intrinsic change in perspective. Goal-setting should not just be reserved for December 31st each year.

Individuals that set the most effective goals are those that take on the challenge of living a life that requires the skills that it takes to set good goals—commitment, perseverance and resilience. In order to develop these qualities, our goal-setting muscles must be strengthened throughout the year, and not just once a year.

Whether you’re setting New Year’s resolution or not, effective goal-setting is vital part of creating a fulfilling life. Be sure to take these tips into consideration for future success.

Andrena Sawyer is a native Sierra Leonean. She is the President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, and the author of The Long Way Home. In addition to her work with nonprofits and start-ups, she leads workshops on personal and professional development for women across the country. Follow her on twitter @Andrena_Sawyer

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