GoalsOnTrack Blog

A systematic approach to achieving goals and getting results.

10 Apps to Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

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After you’ve finished working off your New Year’s Eve hangover, it’s time to get started on your resolutions. You let your goals slide in 2013 because you thought surviving the apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012 was accomplishment enough — that’s fair. But with thousands of self-help apps now available on the app stores for iOS and Android, you’ve got no excuse to be a lazy bum again this year. NASA is going to launch a spacecraft that will one day take astronauts to Mars, Google is going to sell you augmented-reality glasses straight out of science fiction, and Kanye will probably release Watch the Throne 2. If you are going to spend all your time squinting at a tiny cell-phone screen instead of interacting with other human beings, you might as well be doing something productive.

Here are some apps that will help transform you from a slacker into a renaissance man by Dec. 31:

Learn a New Language With Duolingo

Whether you want to brush up on the Spanish you picked up in high school or prepare for a vacation in Italy, Duolingo can help you quickly grasp the basics of a foreign language. The company’s addictive mobile app allows users to quickly fly through lessons that teach vocabulary, pronunciation and basic grammar. Learners earn points and level up by answering questions correctly, and there’s a social component that allows you to compete against friends for high scores. Currently Duolingo offers lessons in Spanish, English, French, Portuguese, German and Italian, with plans to expand to more languages this year.

Available for: iOS, Android

Learn How to Code With Codecademy

In our increasingly digital world, it’s useful to understand the nuts and bolts that make websites and apps tick. Codecademy has already launched a series of popular Web tutorials that teach Web languages like HTML, JavaScript and PHP. Now the company is offering bite-size lessons in coding on mobile devices. The iPhone app promises to teach users the basics of coding in an hour, offering simple lessons on how variables, functions and data sets operate generally across computer languages. The company plans to offer more mobile lessons in 2014.

Available for: iOS

Stop Smoking With MyQuit Coach

It might not seem like an app can help quell your cigarette cravings, but MyQuit Coach tries to use data to help people control their habit. The app allows users to input how often they smoke and when they have cravings, then set short- and long-term goals for reducing their daily cigarette count. The ability to blast updates to Facebook and Twitter can help smokers receive support from their friends too.

Available for: iOS

Exercise More With MapMyFitness

If you need more motivation to hit the gym, MapMyFitness may help get you off the couch. The app tracks 600 different types of fitness activities, including running, ballroom dancing and walking the dog. The program also helps you map out effective jogging routes and offers a strong social component so your friends can motivate you to exercise from within the app. The company behind the app was recently bought by Under Armour for $150 million, so expect additional features in the future.

Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry

Go on a Diet — and Stick to It — With MyFitnessPal

Though many people make resolutions to go on diets, following through can be a challenge due to a lack of willpower or accountability. MyFitnessPal gives you no excuse. The app has an exhaustive database of the calorie counts of over 3 million foods, so you know exactly what you’re putting into your body at each meal. The speed and simplicity of the app has helped it net 40 million users. And it’s yielded real results for people, like one man who said the app helped him lose 83 lb. (37.6 kg) in less than a year.

Available for: iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone

Keep a Journal With Day One

We all say we want to start keeping a journal, but few of us actually follow through. The app Day One makes the process easier by making journaling a multimedia experience. Users can attach photos to journal entries that can be as short as tweets or Facebook status updates. The app automatically logs weather data and even the number of steps a user takes in a given day. For those who don’t have the patience to write long missives in their Moleskine notebooks, Day One can help you keep track of the key moments in your life without having to broadcast every observation on a social network.

Available for: iOS

Run a Marathon With Nike+ Running

If you’re looking for a more specific fitness program, this Nike app is specifically tailored to helping runners prepare for long races. A coach feature offers specific training regimens for 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons. The app tracks your run times and distances to create a customized program tailored to your abilities. As with other fitness apps, it’s easy to blast your running data to social-media sites so you can humble-brag about what great shape you’re in.

Available for: iOS, Android

Save More Money With DailyCost

If you’re trying to save up for a big purchase this year or just improve your overall fiscal responsibility, DailyCost is a solid tool to get a grip on your finances. While popular money manager Mint is great for monitoring incoming and outgoing money in all your banking accounts, DailyCost aims for the much simpler task of logging your daily expenses. Users can easily input costs and categorize them in a variety of fields in as little as three seconds. Weekly and monthly spending charts let you evaluate where your cash went after the fact.

Available for: iOS

Meet That Special Someone With Hinge

There are already dating apps for hooking up and bribing women into going on dates with you, among other delights. Hinge attempts to strike a balance between the physically minded Tinder and the personality-driven old-school dating sites like eHarmony and Match.com. Hinge users still judge potential mates based on looks, but the app pulls in friends of your Facebook friends to establish a mutual connection, and offers suggested date spots based on shared interests. The app is currently available in Washington, Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, with plans to expand to the West Coast in 2014.

Available for: iOS, Android

Force Yourself to Keep Any Resolution With Lift

No matter what you’re pledging to accomplish in 2014, Lift will probably help you reach your goal. The incredibly simple app tracks how often you complete tasks that you assign yourself and rewards you with virtual check marks for being consistent. The task can be anything — drinking more water, praying, brushing your teeth at night. The goal is to turn aspirations into hard-to-break habits. Users pursuing the same goals support each other through discussion groups.

Available for: iOS, Android

5 Ways to Get and Keep Motivated

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I’ve posted about motivation many times, but I recently ran across this short and sweet recipe from Omar Periu, one of the world’s top motivational speakers.  The toplines are adapted from my conversation with Omar, but the commentary is my own:

1. Always act with a purpose.

If you don’t know why you’re doing something, you’re making that part of your life utterly meaningless. String together enough meaningless acts in your life and your entire life will be literally pointless–without a point.

Starting every action with a review of your purpose, however, puts everything you do into context. Having a purpose for every act keeps you aimed at your life goals rather than cooling your heels.

2. Take responsibility for your own results.

Most people misinterpret this concept.  They think it means taking the credit when things go well and taking the blame when things go wrong. But taking responsibility is not about blame or credit; it’s about what you do next.

If you’re responsible for your own results, you take ownership of whatever future that emerges from those results. You continue to move forward towards your goals, even when you encounter setbacks.

3. Don’t wait for perfection, just do it now!

Perfectionists are the hugest losers in life because they either expect things to be perfect before they take action or, if they do take action, they can’t enjoy whatever happens because it’s not the perfect outcome.

The real joy of achievement doesn’t come from what you achieve but from your efforts in trying to achieve it. The only thing that’s perfect in this world is that you’re perfectly free to take action.  Now, as in right now.

4. Eat wisely because success takes energy.

Our civilization currently suffers from a self-induced plague of obesity, caused by the mass consumption of addictive food products that give people life-shortening diseases after first making them listless and drained.

I’m not saying you don’t eat the occasional donut. However, if you want the energy to act, the energy to achieve your goals, you need to give your body the kind of fuel that can create that energy. And it’s not refined sugar.

5. Surround yourself with motivated people.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that the people around you influence your behavior. They define what you consider “normal” and thereby either bring you up (or down) to their level.

If you hang around people who are energized, purposeful and committed to making a difference in the world, that’s what you’ll consider “normal.”  Being motivated will stop being something that you do and instead become who you are.

Use the Power of Momentum to Achieve Your Goals

“The most important thing you can do to achieve your goals is to make sure that as soon as you set them, you immediately begin to create momentum.”  -Tony Robbins

Have you ever hesitated to take action and ended up stuck in a rut not knowing what to do? There are some common reasons why this happens.  Sometimes we are waiting for some kind of sign to indicate that it’s okay to move forward. We might be waiting until we feel more confident because we don’t really feel up to the challenge. Or, we could be thinking that if we just wait awhile those obstacles will disappear and ourgoals will be easier to achieve.

Okay, I admit that in some cases it’s entirely possible that one of these strategies is legitimate, or at least it feels like it is. But how often do we use those reasons as excuses to avoid leaving our comfort zone? Let’s face it, if we are looking to justify procrastination there is no shortage of reasonable sounding excuses. If the ones I’ve mentioned don’t resonate with you check out 7 Common Procrastination Excuses by Sid Savara.

Procrastination is the equivalent of going nowhere!

The longer we wait to take action, the harder it is to get started. Circumstances will never be perfect and waiting until they are is the same as going nowhere. The truth is, it will probably never get any easier to move forward and every moment that we hold back will just make things worse.

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”   -Wayne Gretzky

When we avoid taking action it’s often because we have created resistance in our own mind. We have convinced ourselves that what we want to do is exceedingly difficult. But is that really true or is it just an avoidance technique?

Create momentum, create confidence

Momentum is one of those rare, self-perpetuation phenomenon. That’s what makes it so powerful. The perfect example of momentum is a snowball rolling down a snow covered bank. What happens? It grows and picks up speed along the way, right? But how can your use this power to achieve your goals and start living the life of your dreams?

Instead of getting bogged down by excuses, we need to create some momentum as soon as possible. And really, this is not something that is all that difficult to do. That giant, fast moving snowball started out small and slow. The reason it grew was because it kept moving. We don’t always need to launch into action like a rocket, but we do need to start moving and to keep moving so we can build some momentum.

Taking consistent action toward your goals is the best way to build momentum. That means that taking action will get easier and easier as you go along. Eventually the actions you take will require much less effort.  You’ll begin to enjoy your activities because you’ll feel more empowered and confident and you’ll have momentum on your side.

3 Ways to build momentum

1) Commit to taking the necessary action steps first. That’s what you really need to focus on. One of the things that can prevent us from reaching our goals is making only a very limited commitment to taking the actions that will get us there. Early on, action needs to be our main concern. Obviously, we want to keep our goal in sight, but the majority of our attention should go toward taking consistent and purposeful action. That’s how we build momentum!

2) Break the process down into baby steps. Taking small, consistent steps toward a goal is generally much more effective than large, sporadic actions. Plus, it’s easier to get ourselves to act on smaller tasks. Even tiny actions will eventually begin to build momentum and produce results, as long as we are consistent.  Making it your primary mission to move forward consistently will make it much easier to overcome obstacles because with each step your confidence will grow.

3) Don’t shift your focus toward results too early. Many a goal has been abandoned because people take an action, wait to see what the results are, and quit when they don’t see the results they expected.  Don’t get so obsessed with results that you allow yourself to get discouraged.  In other words, focus only on keeping the ball rolling, even if you’re not yet seeing the results you want just yet. If you get discouraged and quit, you’re guaranteed not to see results. Focus on building momentum.

How to Achieve Your Goals with Healthy Habits

By Mohammed Ali Vakil

I’m the kind of person who loves making Goals. Goals motivate me to aim for something great, to be in a better place then where I am now.

But I’ve also noticed that goals can become a source of unhappiness.

Let me explain.

A person with a Goal mindset often thinks in this way “If I get [goal here] then I’ll be happy”.  As a result our happiness gets pegged with achieving the Goal.

And once you reach your Goal, you plan for the next Goal starting a new cycle of wanting something to be happy.

Here are some more problems with having a Goal mindset:

  • There’s a lot of excitement in the beginning when we make Goals, but the excitement fades with time, making it difficult to reach the Goal
  • Outcome is not in our control. Therefore even if we do our best, we still may not end up reaching out Goal. But instead we end up carrying the burden of failure
  • All the focus is on the result, and not on the journey. When infact it’s the journey that is more important than the result
  • Goals are often conceived without account for unexpected changes in life. Sometimes our plans change along the way that don’t allow us to reach our Goals

Focus on Habits

Here’s something I found better than goals.

Habits.

Instead of focusing on reaching your Goals, focus on creating the right Habits. In doing so:

  • You are free to enjoy the present moment by focusing on the habit your want to create
  • Your Happiness doesn’t depend on reaching something in the future, but instead of building something in the present – a Habit
  • You’re aiming for long term change, not short term gratification.

How to turn your goals into habits?

For example, if your Goal is to lose 5 Kg in the next 3 months. Focus on creating a Habit like “Workout at the gym 5 days a week”.

Now inspite of your best efforts if you’ve not lost those 5 kg, that’s ok. You’ve done something better… you’ve formed the habit of exercise that will keep you health for the rest of your life.

Isn’t that better than just losing 5 kg and putting that weight back on after 3 months?

Here are some more examples of forming Habits from your Goals:

  • Write a 300 page Book in the coming year. Focus on creating a Habit of writing 30 mins a day
  • Learn to speak a new language. Schedule language speaking sessions a friend
  • Learn a new programming language:  Commit to spend 5 hours a week on an online class with Lynda.com.

You get the point :-)

But how can you achieve anything if you don’t have Goals?

Ok, let me clarify something. I’m not saying “Don’t make Goals”, what I’m saying is don’t have a Goal mindset where you’ve set all your hopes and dreams on achieving that one Goal.

Instead put your attention in forming habits that will take you towards your Goal.

5 Ways to Meet Your Financial Goals in 2014

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Welcome to 2014. How are we doing with our resolutions? Are some of those yearly proclamations starting to sound unusually familiar? I know mine are: Eat healthier, exercise more and spend less time at the office.

A lot of resolutions have to do with improving physical health and mental well-being, but how many of us make realistic resolutions to improve our financial health? Did you resolve to save more, plan that big vacation, visit your children or grandchildren or contribute more to your retirement accounts? No matter what your financial goals for 2014 are, there are five financial considerations that you will get on track to achieve your resolutions.

You need to create a financial plan because it’s the only way to know if you’re on track to meeting your 2014 goals. Creating a plan can also keep you on track with your other resolutions, such as your well-being. By creating a plan, you’re limiting the stress of unknowns that so often occur with personal finances because you’ve started taking control, you’ve set goals and you’re are prepared to meet them.

Here are the essential things you can’t forget to include in your financial planning:

1. Clarify your financial position by creating a financial plan. Before you can create an effective plan, you need to know your current financial status. Start by gathering information on balances on your 401(k), individual retirement accounts, savings accounts and any other resources held in taxable accounts. You also want to look at any debt that is owed, whether it is a mortgage, auto/student loan, or credit card debt. Gauge the interest rate, repayment period and time horizon for payoff.

Make sure you factor in taxes, and any applicable increases to them, into your financial plan.

Next, you need to evaluate your investment portfolio. Estimate the amount of savings you have in stocks (mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, etc.), bonds (bond mutual funds, strategic bond funds, etc.) and cash comparable assets (certificates of deposit, money-market accounts.) Compare the performance of the past year to an index of similarly positioned assets. Morningstar has a good tool that will allow you to benchmark the performance relative to the appropriate index by inputting the mutual fund ticker. If your funds have underperformed the index by a small amount, it is likely due to the fee or load charged to the fund, but if it is more than a few percentage points, then you want to look for alternatives.

2. Establish/maintain an emergency fund. Having $5,000 tucked away in a “rainy day” fund is a good place to start. That sum should be enough to cover any upfront costs, but it may not be enough if a real catastrophe occurs. You should ideally aim to have $5,000 to $10,000 saved up, then work toward putting away enough to amount to three months of living expenses. For example, if you make $50,000 a year, then $12,500 would be three months of savings, and if you make $100,000 a year, then $25,000 would be three months of savings. It may seem like an overly generous sum, but it could be a valuable safety net should something disastrous occur.

3. Balance your portfolio. It’s hard to beat the joy of seeing your account value go up every time you receive a statement, which is why, according to a DALBAR study, “2013 Quantative Analysis of Investor Behavior,” the average investor hasn’t beaten the Standard & Poor’s 500 index from 1993 to 2012, mainly due to jumpy behavior. Too many people get emotionally attached to the investments in their portfolio and become overly reactionary to day-to-day market fluctuations. Try and tie your decision-making to data, rationale and research, not to speculation.

Global economies are still very fragile and there are a lot of fundamental issues that governments will need to address in 2014. This will make for a volatile ride at the least.

One way to ensure that you’re set for steady growth in 2014 is to choose a wide swath of investments. The reason: You don’t want all of your investments to move in the same direction (up or down) at the same time. Done properly, your diverse investment portfolio should insulate you from domestic market (S&P 500, NASDAQ, etc.) volatility and offer a steady rate of return.

4. Take advantage of tax benefits. Unlike December 2012, there were no major changes to the tax code. This means the Medicare surtaxes still exist on both earned wages and unearned income for individuals with earnings over $200,000, or couples making over $250,000 this year. Investors should maximize their traditional 401(k) and IRA contributions for tax deferral purposes by saving $17,500 (401(k)) and $5,500 (IRA) in these plans. Also, if you’re 50 or older, the catch-up provision allows you to contribute an additional $5,500 to your 401(k) and an extra $1,000 to IRA and Roth IRA accounts.

You may or may not be in a lower tax bracket today than when you retire, but if your wallet can withstand the tax hit, plan on making the maximum contributions to your Roth option, if available, so you won’t be taxed at the higher rate when you make withdrawals in future.

Don’t forget that contributions to a traditional IRA can be made until April 15, plus any filing extensions, and that the Internal Revenue Code still allows for conversions from a traditional IRA to Roth IRA without respect to earned income by filing a Form 8606 with your tax return.

5. Develop a what-if test: Work through a few simple emergency scenarios and see just how sustainable your savings are.

It never hurts to ask, “What if?” Some people may think this is just inviting bad luck, but I look at it as a valuable planning tool. What if your home was flooded by a freak storm? What if an emergency surgery was not fully covered by your new health plan or due to reductions in Medicare? What if your car was stolen and you had to pay that $5,000 deductible? What if a loved one or relative falls ill and you’re providing care and support? Go through the exercise of identifying these possible extra expenses from your carefully planned budget, and then project the effect on your savings. You might be surprised to see the impact a supposedly minor event can have on your savings.

Kelly Campbell, certified financial planner and accredited investment fiduciary, is the founder of Campbell Wealth Management and a registered investment advisor in Alexandria, Va. Campbell is also the author of “Fire Your Broker,” a controversial look at the broker industry written as an empathetic response to the trials and tribulations that many investors have faced as the stock market cratered and their advisors abandoned their responsibilities to help them weather the storm.

What’s New for 2014

I hope you all had a great time during the New Year holidays and you are all getting on track with your 2014 goals. In this post, I’d like to share with you some of the current developments with GoalsOnTrack and a few things we’d like to do in the new year.

The main thing we have been working on lately  is the new iOS app which will be a universal app supporting both iPhone and iPad, with optimized layout for each platform (new Android app will come later in the year). It’s been taking us a while and I am happy to say that it’s coming along well and we are almost there. If you are interested in being a beta tester, please let us know.

The app performance is one of things we are always trying to improve. We have had a little bit of trouble with our hosting providers at the beginning of the month. It must have caused you some inconvenience. I apologize for that and I just want you to know that we take this seriously and we’re doing everything we can to ensure maximum performance and availability of the service.

In addition to the new mobile apps, we’ll also improve on some of the existing features in the next few months, such as goal progress tracking, recurring tasks, more ways to track habits, vision board and reporting. We have received many valuable feedback and suggestions from you. We appreciate that very much and are always open to your ideas on how to make the program more useful in helping you achieve goals.

Also we will be looking at adding more goal templates and perhaps supporting languages other than English. So if you have any suggestions or comments in these two areas, please do let us know. Again thank you for your continuing interest and support and wish you all have a prosperous and successful 2014!

Why Some People Almost Always Reach Their New Year’s Resolutions

By Dr. Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D.

“Life can be pulled by goals just as surely as it can be pushed by drives.” — Viktor E. Frankl

I was at a gathering a while back and overheard someone say, “Oh, I never set New Year’s resolutions anymore. I usually don’t hit them so what’s the point?” Ouch! That’s a little bit like saying, “I stopped trying to be healthy because I got sick a few times.”

Furthermore, a 1989 study from the University of Scranton reports that only 19 percent of people who make New Year’s Resolutions actually stick to them two years later. That means 81 percent of people who set New Year’s Resolutions fail to reach their goals. Double ouch!

I doubt that the 19 percent who are successful with their resolutions are smarter, more hard-working, or more worthy than the rest of humanity. But I’m guessing they know these secrets:

New Year’s resolutions have to be important to you, more important than what seems to be in the way. Achieving a goal requires some kind of sacrifice always. If you want to finish writing that novel, you might have to sacrifice a bit of sleep or time in front of the TV. If your goal is to lose weight, your sacrifice might be the thrill of pie à la mode or snacking before bedtime.

People who achieve their New Year’s resolutions are aware that they’ll be sacrificing, are willing to sacrifice, and even plan their sacrifices in advance! Those who ditch their resolutions before Valentine’s Day seem surprised that there is any sacrifice involved. “What? You mean if I want to spend more time with my kids I have to give up playing golf every weekend?!”

New Year’s resolutions require taking action. That 19 percent who achieve their resolutions don’t just jot them down and forget about them. They figure out a plan of attack and take the first steps. They may not know fully and exactly how to get where they want to be but they take whatever steps they know to take. And when they have taken all the steps they know to take, they look around for the next steps.

The 19 percent do not stay frozen in indecision or unknowing! They don’t wait for the absolute perfect opportunity or circumstance before getting started. They know that even a few wrong steps are better than no action at all. They try to stay consistent with their action and if they slip up, they don’t give up. They start again.

New Year’s resolutions must get buy-in from both the conscious and unconscious mind. People who are consistently successful at achieving their goals know that all parties must be rowing in the same direction! They know that emotional health is important. They realize that underlying beliefs and attitudes must all be aligned to the goal or it will be an uphill struggle — and typically unsuccessful even if you do all the “right” things. If you consciously want to find the love of your life but are unconsciously terrified of being that close to someone, there’s no dating site in the world that can help you!

I’ve talked about this a lot in my other articles. Your conscious mind is the “goal setter” but your unconscious mind is the “goal getter.” So the first step to reaching a goal is to get the unconscious mind on board by releasing any unconscious negative beliefs or decisions that could sabotage your efforts.

New Year’s resolutions are goals and have to be designed like real goals to be effective. The 19 percent know that if you’re serious about your New Year’s resolution, it needs to be written and have all the basic ingredients of a good goal. The simplest way to remember these ingredients is to follow the acronym of SMART:

S: Specific and Simple. It’s as if you’re explaining it to a 7-year-old child. A child wouldn’t understand, “I want to be slim and full of zest.” But “I am now a size 8 and have all the energy I need to accomplish my work during the day and play with my children at night” is clear.

M: Measurable and Meaningful. “Slim” is not measurable but “size 8″ is. “Plenty of money” is not measurable but “$4,000 per month” is measurable.

Your goal must also be meaningful for you. It isn’t what other people want, what we think we should want, or what others want for us.

A: Achievable, All Areas of Your Life, and As If Now. By achievable, you have to believe that your goal is possible. If your goal is to speak in front of an audience of 5,000 people but you’ve never actually spoken in front of any audience before, do you really think that’s going to happen? Set up an interim goal that makes more sense.

Your goal also needs to fit into “all areas of your life.” Where will the time and energy to achieve this goal come from?

“As if now” is present tense, such as “I have a new house.” If you place your goal in the future (i.e., “I will have a new house next year”), your unconscious will always keep it in the future.

R: Realistic and Responsible. Your goal may be technically possible, but given where you are and what’s on your plate, is it realistic? If you don’t really think so, neither will your unconscious.

Responsible refers to what we in NLP call “ecology.” Your goal must be good not only for you but also for others involved, your family, your community and even the planet. Goals that don’t meet this criteria will meet resistance.

T: Timed and Toward What You Want. To work on a goal, your unconscious needs a timeframe. It needs a date to shoot for, to plan for. With a specific timeframe, we feel more focused and energized.

“Toward what you want” gives you a more sustainable focus than moving “away from what you don’t want.” Those who are constant “yo-yo dieters” are often moving away from the pain of being overweight. When they drop a few pounds, their pain lessens — and so does their focus and motivation.

Follow these tips and join the 19 percent this year!

The First Step to Reaching Your Goals in New Year

By Craig Hill

I tend to get a little carried away when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.

Calling me goal-oriented would be a polite description, but it’s probably more accurate to call me a goal-setting geek.

I have spreadsheets, color-coded lists and automated reminders ready to go for 2014. And I’d probably have pie charts and bar graphs hanging in the living room, but I don’t want to give my wife another reason to wonder why she sticks around.

But for all the effort I put into reaching goals, I’m probably about as successful as everybody else. I reach some goals. Sometimes I get derailed by unforeseen circumstances. And I abandon some goals before February.

Most often the difference between success and failure is planning.

For 2014, I’ve set a goal of learning how to swim well enough to finish a Half Ironman. This is the third time I’ve set this goal, but this is the first time I’ve been serious enough to draft a plan. In the past, I’ve just splashed around in the pool long enough to realize swimming is hard and then jumped ship (figuratively, of course, because I can’t swim) when adult swim classes were canceled due to lack of interest.

But this time I have a plan. I enlisted a friend to take lessons with me. I didn’t wait around for the first of the year to get started. I’ve consulted several experienced swimmers for advice. And I’m keeping local lifeguards on their toes with regular trips to the pool to work on specific techniques.

So far, I’m still remarkably terrible. But the good news is, I’m already less terrible than I was last month.

While my training partner, Thad Richardson, is picking up the sport considerably faster than I am, our instructor assures me that if we stick to the plan, we’ll be successful.

How do you draft a good plan to achieve your 2014 fitness resolution? Here are few things to keep in mind.

AIM HIGH: Don’t be afraid to set challenging goals. Most personal trainers I talk to about goal-setting stress the importance of staying realistic. That doesn’t mean the goal should be easy. Better yet, set a series of small goals that will lead you down the path to the big goal you want to accomplish.

GO SLOW: One of the biggest reasons so many people ditch their fitness resolutions just a few weeks into the new year is because of injuries. Doing too much too soon is a pretty typical mistake. A good plan gives you time to build slowly toward your goal and allows you to back off a bit along the way when needed.

STAY INSPIRED: Few things help you fight through motivational obstacles like a little inspiration. And it’s all around you – whether it’s hiring a trainer to help get you to the next level or just hearing somebody else’s success story.

Each Tuesday night at 6 between now and Jan. 28, Puyallup’s Vision Quest Sports and Fitness will host free meetings in which participants in its Biggest Loser weight-loss competitions will share testimonials about their journey to lose 100 pounds or more.

“We’ve done this for about five years and it’s been a big success,” said Ben Wolbert, who lost more than 80 pounds and now works as a trainer. “It’s a good way to motivate people and I think it helps save lives.”

CHOOSE WISELY: If you’ve turned on a TV after 11 p.m. anytime in the last decade, you’ve heard of P90X, Insanity and any number of other pre-packaged workout programs. And you’ve probably met people who swear Zumba, CrossFit or other popular exercise routines are the greatest things since two-ply toilet paper.

But are they right for you, your abilities and what you hope to accomplish? If you’re doing one of these routines because that’s what your friends are doing, you probably haven’t put enough thought into it. Take an honest look at what you want and find an exercise program that fits.

STUDY GOOD FORM: Good form is important to avoid derailing your fitness plan. A good personal trainer can help teach you good form that will help you avoid injuries. If you are participating in group exercise classes, don’t be afraid to ask the instructor for tips or alternative exercises, should a particular maneuver be painful or too difficult. And if you’re unsure about an exercise, it’s always OK to sit it out.

FIND A PARTNER: A good workout buddy is good for more than just a little motivation on days when you don’t want to work out. Your partner can also help catch and correct glitches in your form, help you overcome anxiety about trying something new, and help brainstorm creative ways to train. Plus it can be nice to have somebody to carpool with to the gym.

Can’t find a partner? Most gyms have group exercise classes, which are good places to meet new friends.

DON’T FEAR FAILURE: Finishing a particularly tough workout in the pool earlier this month, something dawned on me. Even if I fall short of my goal of being able to swim 1.2 miles by August, I’m at least going to be better at a sport that’s always baffled me.

That’s a pretty decent consolation prize. All I have to do is keep working and following the plan. No quitting because of a bad day or a bad week.

I mentioned this to Thad, who was standing in his lane waiting for me to finish.

“Even if we can’t finish the race, we’re going to get way better at this. That’s the worse-case scenario, right?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Unless we drown.”

Choose a Virtue in the New Year

By Virtues for Life

With the new year here, you may be thinking about how to create positive change by setting some goals. Although goal setting is good, it can start the year with a feeling of heaviness of how to accomplish these goals with such limited time and how the same goals weren’t accomplished last year and so on.

Instead of taking the traditional route of making resolutions, how about selecting one word, a virtue, that will support your vision for the year ahead, a steady guide and inspiration for what’s to come.

Selecting a virtue can set the tone of “being” instead of “having” and “doing” so “I want to have a slimmer body” and “I need to exercise to get there” is different from “I am a ‘disciplined’ (virtue) person,” therefore all my actions come out of that belief, which means that the “do” and “have” will come more easily.

Choosing a virtue also sets an intention, a declaration to the universe. Inspirational speaker and bestselling author Dr. Wayne Dyer in his book, The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way, has researched intention as “a force in the universe that allows the act of creation to take place.” He says that intention is not something we do, but an energy we are part of and that we can access to begin co-creating our lives, giving us purpose and guiding our infinite selves.

To select your virtue you can ask yourself what you most want to manifest this year. Take some time to contemplate various virtues and choose one that holds real meaning for you and that matches your desires. What virtue do you most want to express this year? Perhaps you want to be more forgiving to others and are thinking about a specific relationship that can potentially be mended through forgiveness. The virtue might even be calling out to you in the experiences you are having or not having. Or, if this is not the case, choose a virtue that you are drawn to from the list below. (view a full list of virtues here)

  • Acceptance
  • Commitment
  • Compassion
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Creativity
  • Discipline
  • Faith
  • Forgiveness
  • Generosity
  • Gratitude
  • Integrity
  • Joy
  • Kindness
  • Love
  • Patience
  • Peace
  • Trust

Once you have chosen your virtue (or even two virtues!), here are some suggestions to keep it at the forefront of your mind:

  • Write it down and place it around your home, office and even your car, wherever you will see it during your daily routine.
  • Journal about the virtue and how you envision it playing out this year. You can create ways that you will share the virtue with others and, most importantly, document the experiences that resulted this year and how they vibrated with the virtue you chose. This will provide great insight into the success of your intention.
  • Create affirmations around your virtue that you can read every day such as: ”I am a courageous person who radiates strength and determination”; “I am grateful for all that I have and all that is yet to come”; “I love and accept myself and appreciate the beauty that surrounds me”.
  • Take one daily or weekly action to honor your virtue. Perhaps if you choose the virtue of peace you can begin meditating daily.  See if you can find ways to incorporate the virtue into your life.

The new year holds a promise of hope, success, prosperity, abundance, awakenings, transformations, second chances, recovery, ridding of old habits, and countless possibilities. With a virtue as your guiding beacon of light, you can shape the world out of this one word intention as the world will shape you in all its glory.