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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 14, 2008 • Issue 08:01:01


Clean slate, new fate

It's that time again. We are at the beginning of a new year, another chance to start fresh, make resolutions and develop a workable plan. But what makes January 1 a better day for resolutions than, say, April 29?

Resolving to be a better employee, boss, parent, friend, spouse and human being are all admirable goals that can be set at any time. But excuses for not taking action lurk in every corner. Most of us have put off improving ourselves until the new year. And now that the last pine needle has been vacuumed, the jingle bells silenced and the noisemakers put away, it is time to face some cold, hard truths:

  • You will falter.

  • You will fail.

  • You will get frustrated.

No, this is not being ghostwritten by Ebenezer Scrooge. It's just that failure is a part of life for everyone, especially those not fully committed to improving their circumstances.

Just because something is difficult doesn't mean you shouldn't see it to the end; the harder the challenge, the greater the sense of accomplishment. Decide right now you're going to stick to your resolutions no matter what. Following are some ideas to help keep you motivated.

Ask for directions

If you need assistance, ask for it. Voicing that you need help is not a sign of defeat: It's good practice, whether business or professional. There is no reason to go it alone. Ask for presentation pointers, find a mentor and work your network. If you hit a roadblock, ask some colleagues what they would do in your position.

Draw a map

Many of us choose this time to make promises to ourselves, unaware that by jotting a few more items to our ever-expanding to do lists, we add a little more stress to our everyday lives. Some common New Year's resolutions are the worst offenders:

  • Lose weight.

  • Sign new clients.

  • Get out of debt.

  • Be punctual.

  • Get organized.

  • Eat healthier.

The alternative is to set specific goals with explicit timelines. This will enable you to gauge your progress, whereas vague goals afford you no such benefit because you cannot visualize or measure them.

For example, don't decide to lose a lot of weight; resolve to lose 30 pounds (or a different amount appropriate for you) in three months. Don't settle on signing more clients; resolve to sign a fixed number of clients by a definite date. Don't resolve to be happier; identify what makes you happy. If it's fishing or taking more vacation days, adapt your goals to incorporate those tasks.

Drive it home

Set realistic goals. If your size 16 slacks are strangling your hips instead of gently hugging, don't resolve to be a size four by spring. It is not going to happen. Go for a more practical size 10 or 12.

If you think bread is essential to every meal, don't aim to be carb free by May. Eat just one piece of bread for lunch or dinner, but not both. And when you do eat that bread, enjoy it as a treat.

Or, if you haven't touched free weights since freshman year in high school, don't tell yourself you're going to bench press your body weight within a month. Make a deal to up the weight amount every week by five pounds.

Steer the wheel

Set goals you can accomplish yourself. You can't control other people's behavior, so don't make your success contingent upon their actions. If you resolve to increase your merchants' sales, factors not within your control can impede you from reaching that goal.

For example, your merchants may receive bad press from a toy recall, or they may experience a dip in business due to road construction. Set goals that are dependent on your performance and commitment. Resolve to sign 25% more clients this month, get six referrals by February or sell add-on services to three merchants. Goals such as these enable you to control your success.

If you find yourself taking a detour, get back on track. There is no shame in stumbling or faltering as you head to your goal. Chances are there will be days that you can't get one prospect to meet with you. There will be times when you have an excuse not to head to the gym. There will be other instances when you hit the snooze button two, three or seven times, inevitably causing you to arrive late to an important appointment. Setbacks will happen, but success is in what you do next.

Get up and go

When you experience a defeat, should you throw in the towel? Should you skip the gym for an entire week, figuring you've already skipped one day, what's a few more going to hurt? No. Put the slip-up in the past where it belongs, and get back on track toward your goal.

Finally, give yourself a break. Recognize the goals you have achieved and the successes you have been able to realize. And remember, if you find yourself taking a detour along the way to becoming a better sales agent, boss, friend and just plain human being, steer yourself in the right direction and continue on a fruitful path. end of article

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