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if only I’d known: successful people set goals

We often hear stories of people who have found success in various forms who’ll tell you they happened upon it somewhat serendipitously. The lazy within us hopes this might one day happen to us. But like all joyful brushes with fate, only a handful of us can lay claim to serendipitous success; the rest of us have to make our own success through hard work because, as Alex loves to remind Gigi, you’re the rule not the freaking exception.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. In fact I usually consider New Year’s resolutions a one-way ticket to Failureville, precisely because everybody fails within the first 30 days and spends the next 11 months resolving to try harder next year. However lots of people use the coming of a new year to set new goals and I understand why. A new year can be a fresh start and an often-welcome one at that. What better time to resolve a new you than on the day we part with old calendars and suspend new ones above our pristinely cleaned desks.

Despite my dismissal of New Year’s resolutions I am an avid believer in the long established tradition of goal setting. A couple of years ago when I met Australia’s theatrical sweetheart Lucy Durack,  after a performance of the world famous Wicked, she in passing mentioned that the part of Ga-Linda or Glinda, the Good Witch for the uninitiated, was something she had long ‘put out there’. If you were fortunate enough to catch the show while in Australia, it’s hard to imagine another playing the part of the Good Witch – she just seems so perfect for the role. The same can be said for many other women who fill their current professional, personal and spiritual roles with what appears to be a natural ease. Success comes in many forms and not all of it is professional. Regardless of the kinds of goals you’re setting, below are some golden nuggets of wisdom I’ve forcefully stolen or kindly been offered over the years that have proven valuable.

1. Make sure the goal is something you actually want: This advice was given to me by my aunt in reference to relationships but makes sense for all pursuits. Checking in with yourself each step of the way is a great way to ensure you don’t end up in the rigorous pursuit of something “just because”.

2. Name the dream and write it down: I was once a little awkward about my own dreams and instead of writing them and sticking them above my workspace I used to write them very clearly in a book in either calligraphy or pastels/charcoal. I kept the book hidden under my bed and would pull it out any time I was in need of inspiration. Articulating the goal is an important step in achieving it.

3. Find a mentor: There’s little more terrifying than embarking on a journey and having no damn clue where you’re going. Identifying others who have been successful in a similar field of endeavor and surrounding yourself with those people will not only make you feel as if you belong but also gives you a network of people who’ve been there, done that to go to for advice and inspiration.

4. Break the ultimate goal into smaller goals: I’m a check-list addict and there’s nothing more rewarding and motivating than ticking off a bunch of small tasks that bring you closer to the end goal. The momentum gained by completing the littler tasks will see you bulldoze through to the end.

5. Set realistic deadlines: Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by trying to do too much too soon. This I learnt from a dear friend of mine who also happens to be treading the path to Doctorate Hell. Set achievable goals and you’ll avoid spending Sundays in the black abyss of failure, by hanging at the beach instead.

6. Keep it in perspective: There’s nothing more inspiring than someone who can remain focused despite painstaking setbacks but there’s nothing more annoying than someone who becomes so consumed by their goals they lose sight of the important things. Professional success for example is great but what’s the point of being successful and maybe even wealthy if you have nobody to share it with or poor health? Reaching an important milestone is made all that much sweeter by the presence of loved ones – there’s little point in neglecting these relationships to deterioration to build your small empire.

7. Do it: Once you’ve set the goals, found a mentor and planned your way to success there’s the minor task of no longer talking about it but actually doing the hard work. It’s tough but the other stuff is pretty much useless without this.

8. Be flexible: No matter how meticulous the planning, sometimes things will go wrong. Take it in your stride and reassess your goals, tweaking things as necessary.

9. Enjoy the journey: I did the module “Journeys” for the HSC and the whole ‘it’s the journey not the destination that matters’ mantra still hasn’t left me. It’s rarely where you end up that makes the difference, but what you did to get yourself there that counts.

Here’s to 2013, may it be better than the last year, spent in the presence of good company and in the indulgence of good food. May we all find joy and peace in the little things and find it in ourselves to love regardless of what comes our way.

Happy New Year!

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