Dr. Lori LaCivita

Dr. Lori LaCivita

Change can be overwhelming. Some people look forward to it, while others fear or even resist it. Yet, change is inevitable, so why not prepare for it and turn it into a positive outcome?

For so many, the end of the year causes people to take stock of where they are and what they’ve accomplished. Items left on to-do lists are often turned into New Year’s resolutions: What didn’t I accomplish? What can I do differently? What can I do better?

“Resolutions give you a chance to start fresh, think about life after wiping the slate clean, and work on the things you’ve identified you want to change or improve,” says Dr. Lori LaCivita, program director for the master’s and doctoral Industrial and Organizational (I-O) Psychology programs at Walden University.

According to a study by The University of Scranton, nearly half of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8% report being successful in achieving their resolutions. In addition, those who make vague resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

However, writing a goal down doesn’t automatically lead to success. Your approach to goal-setting is just as important as the goal you’re trying to reach. Here, Dr. LaCivita shares tips on how to ensure positive outcomes:

Reflect before resolving. “Self-awareness is an important part of setting goals, which should be centered on your values, attitudes, and beliefs,” says Dr. LaCivita. “Understanding who you are as a person when you set a goal and how you can self-motivate despite what life throws at you can set you on a clear path to success.” Becoming self-aware means contemplating in an honest, transparent way. For some that is meditation, while others may take a long walk. Ultimately, it’s important to understand why you are setting a goal. “Once you understand the why, you’ll be able to keep going through challenges that may come your way as you try to attain those goals.”

Be SMART. “The more distinct we make our goals, the more chance of success we have,” says Dr. LaCivita. SMART goals, or specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals, are clearly defined and therefore more manageable. “You have to make short-term goals that lead to long-term goals.” Instead of making a grandiose resolution like losing 50 pounds or being vague by saying you want to get into shape, go for a small, achievable resolution, such as walking 30 minutes every day, to encourage you to attain your ultimate goal.

Have accountability. Whatever you do, don’t write down your goals and then seal them in an envelope until the end of the year. In fact, do the opposite. Share your resolutions with someone or a group and let them know what you hope to change about yourself or the world around you. “Not only will you be more likely to keep your goals in mind, but others will be able to hold you accountable for your efforts,” adds Dr. LaCivita. If you prefer, opt for technological support. A lot of wearable technologies have physical reminders to keep you on track, while apps for mobile devices can deliver motivators to keep going.

Treasure your time. There are so many reasons and excuses for failure, but don’t let time be one of them. “You can say you don’t have time, but it’s more than likely that you don’t want to do it. What we value, we make time for,” Dr. LaCivita explains. If you value your own growth and development and want to improve yourself, you will make time, so start scheduling. Don’t just add appointments; schedule buffers in your calendar, schedule time to respond to e-mails and to exercise. It’s just as essential to schedule time to spend with family and friends.

Remember, perfection isn’t a realistic goal when you’re striving for progress and improvement. Setbacks happen, but Dr. LaCivita maintains that, “it’s important to approach goals not from an all-or-nothing perspective but instead from a positive place of recommitment and resilience to keep on moving.”—Jen Raider

Dr. LaCivita, director of Industrial-Organizational Psychology programs at Walden University and IO psychologist, specializes in helping individuals and organizations unlock their potential, develop a clear vision, and establish a path to sustainability.

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