Set yourself up for success in 2009

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- With the holiday season upon us, I find myself wondering where the time has gone. 

It seems like only yesterday we were battling the cold during the 2007 holiday season and looking forward to the New Year and the many events that would have an impact on our lives. Many people set new goals and resolutions for 2008 and are now wondering what happened that threw those plans off track. 

Whether it was a short-notice deployment, an unexpected TDY, a change in jobs or just the normal day-to-day work routine that kept us from achieving our desired goal, we somehow saw our objectives fall by the wayside. 

However, there is good news, it's never too late to set goals and resolutions and strive for success, whether it's the same goals from 2008 you still wish to accomplish or new goals you plan to go after, the time is right. 

No one plans to fail, but failure to plan almost always ends in just that. That's why it's important to have a formal plan of action. Goals and resolutions written down in black and white are more likely accomplishable than those simply stated or tucked away in the back of our minds. Seeing something in tangible form makes it real and gives it credibility. 

For years, I set a goal of running a marathon. I don't know how many times I stated this would be the year I would do it. As each new year rolled around, I found myself disappointed because I hadn't done what I said I would do. This year however, I met my goal and completed a marathon. The number one reason for the achievement was that I wrote it down. Not just in generic terms, I picked a race I wanted to run and then wrote a specific training plan to help me achieve the goal. I tracked my progress weekly, ensuring I was on track by setting short-term goals that would lead to the big payoff. 

Sure, there were a few hiccups in the plan, but I adjusted accordingly and recorded my actions. I found myself making steady progress and could see the many short-term goals within my plan having a real impact on my attitude and my sense of accomplishment, ultimately ending in success. 

The point being, I don't think I would have accomplished the goal if I had not made it into something more than a thought or a statement. It was imperative I turned it into something more than an idea by writing it down. 

Now that you've written down your goal, you have to schedule time to achieve it. If your goal for 2009 is to get promoted, then schedule regular study sessions when you will least be interrupted. Next, put those dates and times on your calendar to serve as a daily reminder and to hold yourself accountable. Plan longer study sessions when you will have the most available time and shorter ones around your busy work week. 

There will always be circumstances or situations that pop up and appear to block us from our objectives. Minimizing their impact by proper planning and scheduling will help to relieve frustrations that can build when we're confronted with an obstacle and keep us on track for the ultimate objective. 

The key to achieving any goal or objective is persistence. Sticking with the promotion theme, missing one or two study sessions over a planned study schedule does not mean you have lost all chance of getting promoted. It just means you will have to adjust your schedule to make up the time you lost, whether it's adding 10 minutes to the next three study sessions or adding in an hour on an off day. The important thing to remember is to stay the course and be persistent. I can assure you, there is a direct correlation in the frequency and amount of time spent studying and whether or not an individual gets promoted. It's the persistent studier wearing the new stripe. 

In addition to holding yourself accountable, goals are more easily met when we know someone else is expecting the same thing from us. I equate it to completing an assigned task or meeting a suspense at work. Really, what is a suspense other than a goal to accomplish a specific task? 

In the military, we are given suspenses to complete a job or a task on a daily basis and we meet suspenses based on the fact someone is expecting us to accomplish them in a certain amount of time. Why then would we not share our personal and professional goals with someone that will hold us accountable to meet the goal (suspense)? Share your goal with your supervisor, spouse or co-workers. You're more likely to achieve them if you know someone else is watching you. If someone is sharing their goals with you, then make sure you ask him or her how they're doing and ask for regular updates to let them know you hold them accountable. 

As 2009 draws near, it does not matter what your goals are, all are within reach. Whether you want to run a marathon or get promoted, or whether you want to continue your education or improve your fitness level, all it takes is a plan, a schedule and some persistence. Remember to share your goals with someone who will hold you accountable. 

When the end of 2009 rolls around and you are reflecting on the year just passed, give yourself the gift of a sense of accomplishment and success from achieving your goals.