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With the end of the year (and the beginning of the new one), most of us reflect on the past year and plan what next year will look like. Unfortunately those wonderful plans - both professional and personal - tend to be forgotten by March. Worse, they may not be forgotten, but just don't seem to happen, creating guilt and resentment.

The good news is, it doesn't need to be this way. If you follow some simple rules, you can ensure that your goals happen, and that they happen in a timely manner:

• Make sure that your goals are aligned with who you are, your priorities and what you want to do. If you get excited just thinking about a goal you wrote down, you have a winner. Otherwise, your goal is unlikely to happen unless you have negative consequences for not making it happen - such as being let go, for instance.

• Make sure that your goals have a deadline. A goal without a time frame is not a goal, it's a dream.

• Make sure that your goals are realistic. For instance, make sure that they can be achieved in the time frame you gave yourself, otherwise you are setting yourself up for failure.

• Make sure that your goals depend on you, not someone else's actions. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, it's perfect. If your goal is to make your significant other lose weight, you might be in trouble, since the outcome really depends on your significant other, not you.

• Plan the steps to get to your goals, give deadlines to those steps and write them in your calendar for the year. The key factor to make a goal happen is to decompose it into steps and scheduling those steps. This way, you ensure that your goal will happen, almost in spite of yourself.

Early this year, a client of mine used the rules above to plan his goals for the year. We touched base a couple of weeks ago to take stock of the year, and he told me how "amazed" he was that all his goals had happened, and "without effort or anguish" on his part. It was the first time that it had happened to him as far as he could remember! You too can have this experience. Just apply those few rules when you sit down to plan next year and determine your goals.


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