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The end of a year always gets us thinking about the next, just as the end of one chapter leads to the beginning of another. I love this time of year as it presents the opportunity to look forward, plan for the future, and eagerly anticipate what’s to come. But achieving your goals takes work and the success you hope to see next year in your business is largely dependent on the plans you make now. And yes, you DO have to plan. If you don’t know where you are headed you will end up going in the wrong direction. The following series of questions will teach you how to set achievable goals and map out a plan and timeline to reach them.

What Do You Want?

You cannot possibly achieve your goals if you haven’t first identified what they are. I talk to business owners regularly who have been exhausting far too much effort on all the wrong activities simply because they haven’t identified what they want to achieve. So take some time to think about what you want to accomplish in the upcoming year and beyond. This should be a fun exercise in which you get to dream without limits. What do you want? Do you want to increase your earnings? Write a book? Launch a new product or program? Use the worksheet from chapter 6 of The Results Map for Women in Biz to help you identify all the goals you want to accomplish professionally. Don’t worry about the timeline yet, just let yourself dream and you can work through the how later.

If you don't know where you're headed, you will end up going in the wrong direction.Why Do You Want it?

With your dreams and goals outlined, take some time to consider why you want to accomplish them. This is so important because it is your purpose, your driver, and your inspiration that will lead you to action. Dig deep on this one as your first thought may not be your primary reason. For example, you might list that you want to build a million dollar company. If this is your goal, do you want to accomplish it to gain respect, be able to contribute largely to charitable organizations you are passionate about, or give you the freedom to retire early so you can have more time with your kids/grandkids? Your why is at the core of your goals and coming to the root reason for each goal will help you stay focused and driven to achieve them when things get tough.

When Will You Get It?

Up to this point, you were free to simply dream about what you ultimately want, without the confines of what it will take to get there and when. In this step, start thinking about your timeline and put some hard dates to each of your goals. Some you may be able to accomplish within the next few weeks, while others may take 10 years. Be as realistic and specific as you can. This will give you the greatest chance of achieving them. Knowing yourself helps a lot with the accuracy on this one. Think about previous commitments you have made both personally and professionally. Do you regularly find yourself missing deadlines because you don’t have the time to honor your commitments within the time frame set by you or others? If so, you are likely overly-ambitious and have a tendency to set unrealistic goals for yourself. In this case, consider giving yourself more time to accomplish your goals than you initially believe you need. Setting the correct timelines will go a long way toward helping you reach your ultimate goals.

Who Will Get You There?

We all need the help of others at some point to get to where we want to go. The people you need largely depend on the stage of life you are in and what your next steps are going to be. You will need both both personal and professional support, and the people on your crew will change over time. For example, if you are not comfortable with writing but you want to write a book to give yourself greater credibility, you will need to identify the person who can help you accomplish this goal. If you haven’t already done so, take some time to identify your crew, the people you currently have and those you need in order to get to where you want to go. Use the worksheet from chapter 3 of The Results Map to help you with this process. Ultimately, who you have in your circle will largely impact whether or not you succeed. Take your time and really think about who you can turn to in order to reach the next milestone.

Your dreams, whatever they are, can be reached but you have to be strategic about attaining them. Remember that if you don’t have a plan you will fall into someone else’s. Put in the work to map out your dreams and how to get there and you will dramatically increase your chances of achieving them.

Personal 4 W's Start planning for 2017 now by identifying what you want to accomplish personally in 2017. Then download this free worksheet to start identifying how you will accomplish them.