By Dr. Lauren Wulc

#resolutionfail. Most of us have given up on a personal or professional goal. Undoubtedly, when you first formed that goal you were ambitious and excited about it. Nonetheless, often our motivations dwindle and our aspirations are left unmet. The prime example is New Year’s Resolutions. I make them every year, swear to achieve them – and by mid-January, I cannot even remember what they were.

Maybe you can think of one too many staff meetings in your practice during which improvements were planned, but never made or were short-lived. So how do we maximize our success in meeting aims, both big and small, personally and professionally?

Michael Hyatt’s book, Your Best Year Ever: A Five-Step Plan for Achieving Your Most Important Goals, offers systems that he created that can easily be applied in our lives and practices to zero in on our priorities and achieve wins every day. The founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company and former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Hyatt performed an in-depth analysis of the factors that contribute to our success or failure in reaching our determined objectives.

It’s Complicated. Hyatt doesn’t want you to solve your goals by aiming low. In fact, he pushes readers to explore quality of life measurements across ten life domains.

Vocational goals (those relating to your profession) are just one tenth of the opportunity to improve your overall achievement and happiness. Hyatt recommends that you choose seven to 10 goals that are relevant to your own personal growth and values.

Although there is much more to learn from Hyatt’s work, below I will highlight the main steps and some key ideas to consider:

Step 1: Believe the Possibility. If your beliefs about what is achievable are not improved, then often goal setting is not motivating enough to withstand obstacles. Hyatt explains that just like an invisible fence containing a dog, once the dog knows the area of containment (the limitations are internally set), the presence or absence of the shock collar (real consequences) is irrelevant. He urges us to confront the limiting beliefs and reject or revise these beliefs to find liberating truths that will aid in goal setting.

The next time you think your office isn’t capable of improving in a certain area, recognize the power that negative perspective has on possible success, identify why you feel change is impossible, and revise your view so that it can be empowering rather than harmful.

Step 2: Complete the Past. Of course, there have been moments where you thought you planned for all possible obstacles and yet your improvements failed. Hyatt urges us to consider this progress. You have certainly learned a little more about what will not work!

Perform an After-Action Review to determine what you wanted to happen, what actually happened (you may have achieved some improvement that you can build on), learn from the experience, and adjust your behavior. Use regret as opportunity and practice gratitude to mindfully appreciate the growth that is achieved, no matter how small.

Step 3: Design Your Future. You are the engineer of your goals; don’t be sloppy. Write them down so you are accountable and can see and celebrate your successes. However, these goals need to embody certain characteristics to increase the likelihood of your success. That is why they are called SMARTER goals – because they are:

1. Specific: Focus your thoughts and make your goals detailed.
2. Measurable: How will you measure your success? Be specific.
3. Actionable: Goals are about doing. What is the verb driving your goal?
4. Risky: More risk, often leads to greater drive. Make your goals tough.
5. Time-keyed: Set a deadline for your goal or a frequency of the action.
6. Exciting: Make sure your goals are inspiring for you.
7. Relevant: Your goals should align with your personal values.

The major point is that there is a gigantic difference between:
● “Be more successful,” and
● “Start 10 percent more cases per quarter than last year because I want my practice to continue to be successful, and I will reward myself and my employees with an office dinner each successful quarter to celebrate.”

Step 4: Find Your WHY. As in the above example, it is easy to lose motivation if you forget the reasons why you want to achieve your goal. Write them down as well. You may need to see them again when the going gets tough.

Step 5: Make It Happen. Although advice is commonly the opposite, Hyatt recommends that when working on a larger goal you complete the easiest task first. You made your goal risky, so it is likely to be outside your comfort zone. Use the easier tasks to build momentum and confidence by achieving early wins. Then try to anticipate obstacles and trigger your success.

For example, have an office team member schedule social visits or lunches with local practitioners to increase patient referrals. Once these are scheduled, the activation trigger is out of your control. Experiment in this way until you determine by daily, quarterly, and yearly review what works for you. With each review you learn to decide for any given goal if you can rejoice because that goal was completed or if you need to recommit, revise, remove, or replace it.

I hope that Hyatt’s work will persuade you to determine areas of your life that you want to improve, plan carefully for those improvements, and make major steps towards your goals in the future. Wishing you all many resolution wins!

Dr. Wulc is in orthodontic practice in suburban Philadelphia. She is a past member of the AAO Council on New and Younger Members.