By Barb Ward from an excerpt by Laurie Cure, PhD

This time of year, there is always a lot of talk around setting your New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe you want to go after that promotion you’ve been eyeing, save money, work out regularly, eat healthier. Whatever the resolution, the internal motivation, and the goal behind it are what is ultimately the most important. New Year’s Day is really just an arbitrary day to decide to start something new—you may feel pressure to state an ambitious resolution for the sake of having one rather than diligently thinking through how the goal will truly benefit you or devising a plan for measuring or sustaining your progress. Perhaps that is why more than 50% of the time these resolutions are abandoned within the first several months of the year.

Perhaps this year, you can intentionally do things differently and achieve different results, because the truth is, establishing goals is an important way to provide focus for our efforts and it drives achievement towards them. It allows us to align our energy with the things that are most important to us.

Imagine for a moment you are planning for a trip. At one time, you would have used physical MAPS to guide you on your journey. Nowadays, your method would likely be more automated, but the concept is the same. So, bear with me.

When you use MAPS to guide your journey, you have a destination and route in mind. That destination is often driven from a place of desire. You want (or need) to go there for some reason that is important to you. It’s important to know, before you embark on your journey that you have effective transportation, financial resources, and the appropriate reservations. Next, you pack the right supplies and are confident in your ability to make the journey. That means, making sure you know the plan for the journey, while also understanding that often plans need to be fluid and changing and you must allow the flexibility to adjust as needed. For example, if the journey is hiking to the top of a peak, you will need to equip yourself with the right skills and experience to successfully complete the trek. And finally, you will set specific, realistic expectations and timelines for how long the journey will take.

Using the MAPS perspective, to be successful your goal must be:

Motivational: You have to feel compelled to strive for your goal. It must hold a level of importance that matches the effort required to achieve it. You will also benefit from finding a personal connection to it. This establishes an emotional link between you and what you seek to accomplish.

Attainable: You must believe your efforts will enable you to achieve your goals. This means, having the skills – or the ability to acquire them – to be successful. Your goals need to be attainable, but they should also pull you out of your comfort zone.

Permeable: Goals that are too rigid are often abandoned. This explains why New Year’s resolutions are often unsuccessful. Goals should be flexible enough to change if circumstances change or other opportunities arise.

Specific: Your path forward requires you to clearly define what needs to be accomplished (often in a measurable way with timeframes). Breaking goals into smaller pieces can also support your success and identifying milestones along the way can be critical.

So, if you create successful MAPS for your goals, you can ensure the focus is on what is important to you. Be sure to measure your progress along the way. While it still requires intentionality and commitment to stick to your goals, this method may just enable you to finish the year with a successful goal achievement.

What’s more, in addition to helping you personally achieve your goals, the MAPS method also works successfully in professional settings to help individuals and teams reach their goals.