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The New Year is a great time for making new goals that you want to focus on in 2018. But change is difficult. It’s the beginning of February, and many of us have already given up on our New Year’s Resolutions. To give us the best chance to succeed in our change effort, it’s important to consider the kinds of goals we make. Not all goals are created equal. Some goals are better than others. How can we make goals that will set us up for success?

Dead Man’s Goals

One problem is we often make “Dead Man’s Goals.” This is a goal that a dead man would be more successful than you would be. If you think about a lot of the common goals people make, you will see that many of them are dead man’s goals:

Turn the Dead Man’s Goal Around

It’s better to have a goal that is focused on something you are moving toward or trying to accomplish. Dead man’s goals are difficult to work toward, and they aren’t very motivating. If you find yourself with a dead man’s goal, one easy way to turn it around is to think about what the opposite of the dead man’s goal would be. Another way to think about it is this: If you weren’t [fill in the dead man’s goal], what would you be moving toward? What would you want your life to be about?

Let’s walk through a few examples of dead man’s goals that I talked about earlier.

  1. Argue less with my spouse. This is a dead man’s goal. If you were dead, you would argue less with your spouse. One example of turning the goal around is this: Plan a date night with your spouse and tell your spouse one thing you appreciate about them.
  2. Eat less junk food. This is also a dead man’s goal. Here’s an example of turning the goal around: Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  3. Be less depressed. Another dead man’s goal. Here is a possible turnaround: Do one thing active thing today that you would find enjoyable.
  4. Feel less anxious. Another dead man’s goal. Here is a possible turnaround: Do one thing today that you are afraid of.

Action Step: Think about your goals for 2018. Have you made any dead man’s goals? If so, try to turn them around and redefine your goal as something you are working toward.

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