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Ditch Your New Year's Resolution for a Vision

01/05/2015 10:28pm ET | Updated March 7, 2015
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We are just a few hours into the new year and this is traditionally the time when resolutions are made and executed. Some people are pressured into resolving to do better because it is what is expected. Others sincerely pledge to make some positive change in their lives.

The sad reality is, however, that most resolutions fail, however fervently made. It doesn't take long either: Many New Year's resolutions go the way of the wooly mammoth within the first few weeks of the new year.

A study conducted a couple years ago showed that a full 50 percent of folks abandon their firm resolve, before even making an effort to start!

A goal can be made at any time, of course, not just at the start of a new year. Generally I recommend that every serious goal should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited). So a goal to further your education and get a higher paying job might initially write a simple SMART goal like this: "I will complete my first year in the MHA program at XYZ college by June 2016."

SMART goals give specific yardsticks by which success can be measured. In order to achieve a SMART goal, specific actions have to be taken to ensure the goal is achieved within the time frame. There are maps, goalposts and deadlines. It's easy to see if you are on the right track and if you have arrived at your destination on time.

Making goals in the SMART format is a very sound strategy. But they might not be realistic for your New Year's resolution. If you have been unsuccessful in keeping New Year's resolutions in the past, and if you have only a general idea of what you want to achieve, you may use a modified version of a resolution by writing down a vision. A vision is essentially what you want to be or do or have. It sets direction for where you want to go, or end up.

Organizations use vision statements as lofty ideas of how they would like to be perceived, maybe in a few years' time. "To be the preeminent provider of healthcare in the TriState region" is an example of a healthcare provider's vision statement. See, although a lofty goal, that statement is almost a wish or hope and it does not have the specific and measurable features of a SMART goal.

The good thing about a vision, other than the facts it is less specific, less pressure-laden and less prone to failure is that by its very existence it tends to move an individual or organization in that direction. If an organization or individual uses their vision as a framework or measuring stick for every action they take, they are more likely to move in that direction.

Another interesting thing about a vision is its psychological effect. Human beings are teleological or goal driven. Even subconsciously they tend to move towards a goal, once the goal has been set. Ever notice how once you become interested in a smartphone, car or appliance, you start seeing it everywhere? You start seeing articles and commercials featuring what you want. Your friends on Facebook start talking about it. That's how goal-seeking works.

So this new year I suggest that instead of yet another doomed resolution you might want to articulate a vision. Where do you want to be in one year's time? In five years? What do you want to be, to do, to have? Write it down. Read it often. Be open and receptive to nontraditional options. Take actions that move you in the direction of your dream whenever opportunities present themselves -- and they will!

I would love to hear your experiences of visioning throughout the year. I wish you much health, happiness and success in your personal and professional lives for 2015.