New Year’s resolutions rarely work, because good intentions don’t often survive a collision with reality.”

I read that quote by marketing expert, Seth Godin, on New Year’s Day in 2013. My immediate thought was that if he was correct in his assertion, then what would be the point of the age-old tradition of setting resolutions in the first place?

Talk about discouragement. After some more thought, I came to the conclusion that there must be some truth to his statement, because if that were not the case, weight watchers and many self-help services may soon be out of business.

It seems there are entire industries that thrive off individual’s attempts at reaching their goals. If the redundancy and ultimate failure is inevitable, then why bother setting goals? I believe the answer is in the old adage that without vision, people perish.

As a young entrepreneur, discipline and fortitude were the two skills I learned early on. As a result, goal-setting is no longer the discouraging and disappointing process that it used to be. Instead of agonizing over the what-ifs, I find myself celebrating more outcomes, and getting ready for the challenge of new goals.

The secret to the change was not in a magic potion or a drastic change in my circumstances, but rather three small habits that proved to make a big difference.

1. I wrote down my goals and I held myself accountable to them.

When I speak at workshops, I usually encourage attendees to write their vision and hang it up in plain sight. It is nearly impossible to consistently ignore a reminder on your refrigerator, or a note on the side of your work computer. Hold yourself accountable to your goals by never allowing them out of your sight.

2. I purposefully invested in relationships.

There are some who will support your ideas, and others who will not rest until their doubt becomes your doubt. Let those people go. If you allow those people to continue to influence you, the process of undoing the damage they cause will demand time that will take away from achieving your goals. Be purposeful about building (and maintaining) relationships with people who are constructive and will support your goals.

3. I took action.

Nike has one of the best slogans around: “Just do it.” These are three simple words that separate the successful from the unsuccessful. When I started my new consulting business, I spent months in silence planning and preparing. One day I emailed friends, associates and anyone that may be remotely interested in my new business idea.

I did that because I did not want to put off until tomorrow what I was able to do that day. Exposing my idea in that way held me accountable to do what I said I would do. My email generated questions, which allowed me to tweak and improve my idea.

By applying these three principles I saw a drastic change in how I approached goal-setting and how many goals I was able to achieve. However, that does not mean I met every single goal. As an entrepreneur, I appreciate that because I now understand that at times the process of learning is just as important as meeting the actual goal.

As you think about the personal and professional goals that you would like to achieve, I suggest you think with a dose of reality, but with an equal amount of optimism that what seems difficult is very much possible, as long as you are willing to put in the work.

Author: Andrena Sawyer is the Founder and President of P.E.R.K. Consulting, a Washington DC- based strategic planning firm for nonprofits and small businesses. In addition to her work with nonprofits and start-ups, she leads staff development trainings, and workshops on personal and professional development for youth and women across the country. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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