How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions Whether making personal or business goals, the key to their success is making them meaningful and difficult.

By Lisa Evans

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

While goal-setting is an important factor in the success of our business and personal lives, most of us will see our New Year's resolutions fail before the calendar turns to February. "People set goals all the time, but 70% of [them] never end up getting carried out in any significant way," says Mark Murphy, author of Hard Goals: The Secret to Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (McGraw Hill, 2010).

While, conventional wisdom tells us that goal setting should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-limited), Murphy says the key factor in sticking with resolutions isn't that the goals aren't clear or measurable, it's that people don't care enough about them. Instead, Murphy says goals need to be HARD (heartfelt, animated, required and difficult) to be successful. Here, he explains each of the aspects that are key to making this year's resolutions stick.

Related: Nine New Year's Resolutions for Stressed-Out Entrepreneurs


1. Build an emotional attachment to your goal. Whether your goal is to quit smoking or double your company's sales, Murphy says an emotional connection to the goal is essential to make it a success. "Goals get abandoned easily because you don't really care about them," says Murphy. For example, resolving to quit smoking because you know you "should" isn't likely to be a powerful enough reason to make you stick with it. But, connecting non-smoking to a longer life and the opportunity to see you children grow up will give the goal an emotional tie, and make you more likely to be successful.

2. Create a visual representation of your resolutions. "Many business goals are numerical," says Murphy. The problem with this is that numbers are difficult to forge an emotional connection with. Animating your goals by creating an image or a vision board that represents them helps to create an emotional bond to them. If gaining 20% market share means your product will be on the shelves of a major retailer, drawing that image and putting it in a common area where you and your staff can view it is a daily reminder of where you want the company to go and helps to cement the goal in everyone's minds.

3. Set a shorter timeline. Goals can be given a set of urgency by breaking them down into six month, three month, monthly and daily goals to keep you on track. A yearly sales target of $5 million doesn't create the same sense of urgency as $15,000 a week or making five extra sales calls per day. "(This) forces the goal into the here and now," says Murphy.

4. Make your goals challenging. "One of the big failures that we found with the S.M.A.R.T. goal setting process is that the goals really have to be more difficult than we would typically be used to," says Murphy. While we often play it safe, fearing that if the goal is too difficult we won't be able to achieve it, Murphy says making goals challenging is the key to their success. "When the goal isn't difficult, we're about as mentally engaged with it as we are on our drive to work in the morning," says Murphy.

By demanding more of yourself and your team, it forces you to harness your energy, engage with the goal and in exchange, experience the same sort of adrenaline rush as you get when crossing the finish line of a marathon. "There's a dose of adrenaline-junkie-ism among the entrepreneurial crowd," says Murphy, making entrepreneurs the perfect candidates for setting challenging goals for 2013.

Related: How to Make the Most of Your Holiday Downtime

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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