When I think back on 2016, the word ‘divisive’ immediately comes to mind. It seems much of the year was consumed by the presidential election – which was, in my opinion, one of the most hotly contested in recent memory. The mud-slinging was constant and at some points, downright vicious. Many people were caught up in the turmoil and lost sight of the ultimate goal: a better nation in 2017 and beyond. On a smaller scale, personal goal achievement shares many of the same struggles as our presidential election. We start out the year with a goal or a list of goals in mind, but soon after they get lost in the turmoil as we get caked in our own ‘real life’ mud. With this is mind, I’d like to share a few of my thoughts on goal setting for 2017, in an effort to come out a little cleaner at the end of this year.

About a month ago, we (the Daniel Stark family) were fortunate enough to dedicate an afternoon to personal and professional improvement by setting some individual goals for 2017. The first step in this process was to take a hard look at your life, using a tool aptly named “The Wheel of Life” and figure out in which area you were most deficient, with the level of satisfaction in each as the gauge. The categories ranged across all areas of life and included health, work, social, family, and even spirituality. If you are honest with yourself, it will quickly become apparent which area(s) of your life need the most work.

Once we identified our most glaring deficiencies, it was then time to set some personal goals for improving those areas. However, each goal did not just involve the end result. For example, “I want to lose 25 pounds in 2017” alone doesn’t qualify. Your goal must also include a plan for achievement and include an accountability component. In other words, your goal must be SMART.


The SMART acronym is a concept many people are familiar with, but do not apply to their personal goal setting. It demands that your goal fulfill a specific set of criteria (as shown above). For example, a SMART 25-pound weight loss goal would look something like this:

I will lose 15 pounds by June 1, 2017 by exercising for at least 30 minutes, 4 days a week, and calendaring each day that I complete. I will lose an additional 10 pounds by December 30, 2017 by continuing this exercise regimen, and limiting fast food meals to twice per week. I will track my progress by weighing myself at the same time every week, and recording my progress. My co-worker will hold me accountable for this goal and check-in on my progress at the end of each month. 

You will also notice that, along with fulfilling the SMART criteria, this goal places emphasis on the word “will” throughout. This is important because it does not contemplate the chance of failure, which has a powerful psychological impact on performance. Now you are not trying to lose weight; it is a virtual certainty that you will lose the weight, and will have the privilege of buying yourself a slightly smaller wardrobe at the end of 2017.


As always, Yoda says it best

            A trick I have also found personally helpful in sticking to my goals – especially when the shine of the new year wears off – is just a slight paradigm shift. Every time life gets in the way and you say to yourself: “I don’t have time for X,” simply change your internal dialogue to “X is not a priority.” In doing so, you place the onus back on yourself and are unable to use outside factors as a crutch. What I have often found is that I have more time than I initially thought, or with a little more effort/planning, I could carve out some additional time to complete my daily goal.

Setting goals is not a difficult process, it is sticking to them throughout the year that becomes tough. However, with just a little more calculated effort each day, personal improvement is well within reach. Here at DS we start out each day with a “Top 1” or top priority task that will get done that day, which also contributes to our yearly goals. I would invite each of you work some variation of this act into your daily lives, and in doing so I am confident you will see an almost immediate impact. All that being said, let’s now raise our champagne glasses to a smarter 2017!