“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals” -Henry David Thoreau

2014 has arrived! With the advent of a new year comes the opportunity to reflect on the events, experiences, and learning of the previous year. For many of us, the process of reflection includes identifying new ways in which we can continue to grow personally and professionally. Of course, at this time of year, this often comes in the form of New Year’s resolutions.

Setting goals is an excellent way to establish our priorities for the upcoming year. It enables us to visualize our desired future, and to take steps towards achieving our vision. However, as we know, it can be incredibly challenging for many individuals to maintain the momentum necessary to realize those goals. In The Fifth Discipline (2006), Peter Senge commented that in order to achieve our goals, “we must work at learning how to separate what we truly want, from what we think we need to do in order to achieve it”. Seems simply enough, but in reality, this can be a difficult practice.

The question then becomes, why do so many people struggle with this? Peter Senge goes on to remark that one step is to imagine the goal has been actualized, and to ask yourself the question, “if I actually had this, what would it get me?” Often, the answers to this question reveal our deeper desires and aspirations.

Having an awareness of our underlying desires when setting a goal is valuable information, as it attaches real meaning to the goal. It enables our ability to ensure that the goal itself is in alignment with our values and vision for life and work. If there is not alignment, then the goal needs to be reevaluated.

Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2009), comments that a key component of motivation is linking goals with purpose. However, this is just a first step. In order to fully realize our goals we need to constantly reflect on our progress towards the goal. As a method to keep yourself motivated Pink suggests that at the end of each day take some time to ask yourself if you were better today than yesterday. What steps, however small, did you take towards your goal? This practice highlights small measures of progress and a sense of achievement. This may give you a sense of momentum and incremental reward, especially for those goals that represent a long term investment of time and commitment. Celebrating your success at key milestones along the path of working toward your goal will help to keep you stay motivated and focused.

What professional goals or resolutions have you set for this coming year? Do those goals fit with your vision and values? If so, what will you do to ensure that you maintain your motivation in order to achieve your goals?