Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes pioneered the first budget airline in Malaysia, which carried the tagline, “Now everyone can fly”. He turned AirAsia, a failing government-linked commercial airline, into a highly successful budget airline.

He mortgaged his home and used his savings to acquire two ageing Boeing jets and US$11 million (S$14.3 million) worth of debt for RM1 and transformed the company into an industry player. In doing so, Mr Fernandes realised one of his goals, which he had scribbled on the back of a used envelope.

If you do not set any goals, you will find yourself adrift with no set destination. You need to invest time to find out precisely what you want from 2012. Says American radio and TV personality Larry Elder: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Goal setting enables you to convert your vision into workable plans. It impels you to achieve what you have decided to do. It marshals your resources, organises your time and inspires you to focus on your strengths while avoiding your weaknesses.

As you achieve your goals, your confidence increases and you become motivated to achieve even more.

Big picture

Get a big picture of what you want to be, say for instance, in the next five years.

This picture should encompass all the major areas of your life — career, business, finance, self-development, family, friends, health, spirituality and community. Doing this — dividing your life into sectors — ensures that you have a balanced life.

Invest some time in refining the goals in each area to ensure that they are truly what you want to achieve. Discuss the goals with your family members and your close friends. Do not be overly ambitious in setting your goals. One goal well achieved is better than 10 unfinished ones.

Smaller goals

A Chinese riddle asks: “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is: “Cut it into small pieces and eat it piece by piece.”

Once you work out your big goals, break them down into smaller and more manageable chunks. Find out how you can reach these smaller goals effectively. Review them to ensure that they fit into the jigsaw puzzle of your life.

When you achieve these smaller goals, you will feel empowered to keep going until the last task is done. Reward yourself as you achieve each part to keep motivation levels high.

SMARTER goals

Your goals must bear the characteristics of the acronym, SMARTER: Specific; Meaningful; All areas of your life; Rewarding; Trackable; Emotional; and Realistic.

A goal such as “write a book” is very unspecific. A more impelling and meaningful goal would read: “To write a book on managing household finances for Asian women over 40 by Dec 31, 2012”. Author Diana Hunt defines goals as “dreams with deadlines”.

It is important that you write down your goals. Just thinking aloud will not work. Use an A4 notebook to make notes around your goals and highlight them in various colours to help them come alive.

Your goals must have value, meaning and a timeline. Only then will you be able to tell when you have achieved each one.

If you have a number of goals, decide which one you seek to accomplish first. Prioritising your goals prevents you from being overwhelmed, becoming discouraged and quitting. A priority list will direct your focus to the top goals.

Changes

Your goals can change too over the months or years. As you acquire more experience and knowledge, adjust your goals accordingly. Let go of goals that are irrelevant as you progress.

Lessons learnt

As you achieve your goals, draw lessons from your experience. How did you achieve them? What were the contributing factors? Could you have done them better and faster? How will this knowledge change how you achieve your other goals?

Begin planning and working on your goals today. Despite setbacks and challenges, stay faithful to your goals. As English man-of-letters Sydney Smith cautions: “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.”