Set yourself up for success in new year


Happy New Year! I hope you enjoyed time with family and friends over the holidays and were able to make it through the bitterly cold weather we experienced. What a difference a few days can make when it comes to Ohio’s weather — seems we go from one extreme to the next!


As you are aware, the start of a new year is a time when many people make resolutions to change or improve something. According to, the act of making resolutions dates back some 4,000 years to the ancient Babylonians. They are also the first to host recorded celebrations of the new year.

Limited studies, with relatively small sample numbers, have been conducted to measure how well resolvers stick to their resolutions. Not surprising, the number that is successful long-term is small.

Depending upon the study, the success rate varies widely. I’ve seen studies report a success rate as low as 8% to as much as 46%. Why is the failure rate so high? There is no specific reason that people don’t succeed. The resolution could be too vague, impossible or unrealistic, among other factors.

Instead of making resolutions, try goal setting. Any resolution you are considering can be turned into a goal. One key to effective goal setting is that your goals are smart. A study in the National Library of Medicine showed that people who have approach-oriented goals were significantly more successful than those who set avoidance-oriented goals.

SMART goals

The acronym SMART is often used to describe effective goal setting. Written goals must be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and timed in order to be useful management tools.

  Specific: The goal focuses on a specific problem or need.

  Measurable: There must be some mechanism in place to track progress.

  Action-oriented: The actions you take are the pathway to achieving goals.

  Rewarding: You are encouraged to aim high but keep goals within the realm of possibility.

  Timed: Goals are useful only when they are current. Be sure to include a start and completion date.

Management goals

Management goals can be divided into three types: personal, production and operational or business.

Personal goals involve the ambition and dedication of a single individual. More than one person may share the same goal, but it’s still an individual goal. Personal goals might relate to career advancement or to the allocation of scarce resources, particularly time.

Communicating personal goals to others is critical because these personal goals may have an impact on the people around them. Someone who manages a farm may have a personal goal to one-day own the farm. Another may have a personal goal to attend school activities of their children

Production goals involve improving a process within the business. These are much narrower in scope because they pertain to just one piece of a much larger puzzle. A dairy may have a goal to increase milk production by 10% over two years. This goal may never be realized if it is not communicated to the people who can have the greatest impact on successfully achieving this goal.

Operational or business goals are generally larger in scope than production goals and are necessary for long-term growth. An operational or business goal might be to expand to bring the next generation into the business.

Like the other types of goals, this requires good communication. If you have a goal to increase production in the next five years to accommodate the next generation, but the next generation has no intention of continuing the business, this may not be a goal to pursue. Again, communication among and between all parties is essential.

Wrapping up

Putting your SMART goals in writing is essential to increasing your likelihood of success. Want to increase the odds of success? Communicate your goals to someone else who will keep you accountable and motivated.

In a study by psychology professor Gail Matthews, results showed that 76% of participants who wrote down their goals and actions and provided weekly progress to a friend successfully achieved their goals. This result is 33% higher than those participants with unwritten goals who had a success rate of only 43% of goals achieved.

This study shows the value of taking the time to write down your goals, create an action plan and develop a system of support to hold yourself accountable for achieving your goals.

Need help getting started and staying motivated? Talk with a family member, friend or local extension professional. The references provided below can help get you started.

References. “Approach-Oriented Goals are More Successful than Avoidance-Oriented Goals,” National Library of Medicine,

“Achieving Your Goals: An Evidence-Based Approach,” Michigan State University Extension,

“Developing Goals for the Agricultural Business,” Ohio State University Extension,,a%20specific%20problem%20or%20need.


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