TODAY is the first day of the New Year and a new decade.

It is an opportune time for you to set new goals. Many people are sceptical about goal setting. They say resolutions are made only to be broken.

Look at the positive side instead of listening to naysayers. Confucius once said: “A man who aims at nothing is sure to hit it.”

In 1953, a group of students graduated from Yale University.

They met again 10 years later in a class reunion. On checking notes, they realised that the top 3 per cent of the class earned more than three times the salaries of the remaining 97 per cent.

The difference, they uncovered, was that the people in the 3 per cent group set goals in 1953 to be successful in their lives.

How’s that for inspiring you to set goals?

Another top businessman I coached had his goals written on a card kept in his wallet.

Every time he withdrew money or used his credit cards, he would look at his goals. The card was a useful reminder for him to reach his goals.

What is the best way to set goals? As a guide, goals should be:

1. Compelling

Set goals that are so important and inspirational that you yearn to achieve them by hook or by crook. If you are motivated, the probability of accomplishing your goals is much higher.

Listen to your inner voice. What are the things you must achieve next year or in the next decade?

2. Meaningful

Your goals should have a purpose.

If you want to aim for a certain level of income, what is the purpose of it? What do you want to do with the money? How does this money make you a better person?

Put your goals in a context.

3. Specific

The more specific your goals are, the easier it is for you to focus on them.

Your brain is like a heat-seeking missile. The unconscious part of your brain will automatically programme specific goals into your mind and seek to achieve them.

Along with specificity, simplicity is another virtue. Aim for simple and specific goals.

4. Tangible

Do you want to list happiness as a goal? It is intangible and not measurable. How do you measure happiness or contentment?

Make your goals tangible — something you can touch and measure. If it is tangible, you will notice the evidence as you progress towards it.

5. Responsible

Do not set any goals that are damaging to the environment or hurtful to others.

Success enablers

* Vakog. In the terminology of neurolinguistic programming, insert all the five senses — visual, auditory, kinaesthetic, olfactory (smell) and gustatory (taste) — into your goals.

Your goals will become more vivid. Be a spectator and see what your goals look like.

If you want to purchase a new apartment, for example, visualise what the living room will look like, what sounds you will hear when you open the window, the feel of the carpet, the cooking aroma from the kitchen and the taste of your favourite dish in the dining room.

If you incorporate the five senses into your goals, they become a part of you.

* Rewards. Along with your goals, list your rewards. The theory of motivation states that what gets rewarded gets repeated.

When you achieve part of your goals, reward yourself with small gifts like a DVD, a book or a set meal. Rewards, however small, serve as a motivational force to achieve the next stage of your goals.

* Secondary gains. Be careful that your goals are not loaded with secondary gains.

For example, if you want to quit smoking but its secondary gains convince you that smoking is macho, makes you look cool and gets you accepted among your friends, then your unconscious mind will deliberately avoid making you quit smoking.

Don’t give up

In the face of adversity, continue to pursue your goals. Persistence is the key to success. All successful people persevere. A Sicilian proverb hits the nail on the head: “When a door is closing in front of you, look for the main gate that is opening.”