Strategies that can help you achieve goals

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When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, many people are living it up and toasting the dawn of a new year. Come the afternoon of January 1, those same people might have shifted their focus to the year ahead.

January is a great time to set professional and personal goals. Setting goals can have a greater impact than people may know. Studies examining the importance of setting goals are few and far between, and some have even been revealed as fallacies after being accepted as authentic for years. But a 1979 study that asked newly minted Harvard MBA graduates about setting goals found that 13 percent had set goals. When interviewers followed up with survey participants a decade later, they found that the 13 percent who had set goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of participants who had set no specific goals at all.

While there's no universal formula for success, successful people often cite the importance of setting goals and how doing so was integral to their success. The following are some strategies that may help people achieve their goals in the years ahead.

1. Make it a group effort.

A 2013 study from a University of Connecticut researcher found that there is a high level of correlation between users' exercise activities and their participation in these digital health communities. Such communities served as motivating factors for people aiming to live healthier lives. Relying on others for support, insight and motivation can be a great way to achieve your goals, no matter what those goals are.

2. Set goals big and small.

No goal is too small, and no big goal should be considered beyond reach. In fact, achieving small goals can provide motivation and inspiration along the way to realizing your larger goals. Devise a one-month plan, a six-month plan and a 12-month plan for the year ahead. The one-year plan can serve as your big goal, while the one- and six-month plans can serve as small motivators and great ways to track your progress en route to achieving your larger goal.

3. Write down why you're setting goals.

People set goals for various reasons, and writing down the reasons they're pursuing their goals can serve as inspiration when challenges arise. For example, if you aspire to change careers to spend more time with your family, writing that down can provide motivation to keep looking for opportunities when a job search stalls or feels fruitless.

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