The clues exist all around us. Small reminders sit waiting to be recognized and acted upon. Will we ignore them? Will we decide to carry out this important part of success? The time is now.

In the coming days, we'll inevitably hear the word spoken. If you find yourself watching football, you'll hear this word each time a team gets within 10 yards of a touchdown. Even ice hockey, field hockey, team handball, lacrosse, and polo use this word to describe scoring big. Other sports use the same word. You should too.

The word is Goal. This 4-letter word gets spoken more often than written down. Apparently, only 3 percent of Americans actually write down their goals on paper. Maybe they're texting them.

Elbert Hubbard once said, "A goal without a plan is a dream." I like to say that "If you don't have a dream with a date attached to it, you're only dreaming!" What's interesting is that we make lists for Christmas gifts and mark off the names once we buy the gift. We plan weeks ahead for holiday vacations, parties, and get-togethers in specific detail. We do this to have fun and to avoid nightmares. What about setting goals for your individual success in 2012?

Each year, I spend some time setting goals. This habit came to be from other Friends who found success from staying focused on the important things in their lives. I know a Manager who has Employees write down goals on a post card and mails them back to them on a future, pre-determined date. Open the mailbox, look inside, and now the moment of truth! Did you meet your goals?

One time, a good Friend sat me down and helped me chart out my goals for the upcoming year. He wrote it on the back of a business card. Before I knew it (on a specific date, mind you), I realized the goals! As a matter of fact, if I had not listened to this trusted Friend, I would not be writing this blog post today! The goals he helped me set ignited a series of events that produced more goal-setting that led up to becoming one of USAA's Community Managers for the Military Spouse Community. You just never know.

Goal-setting is a lot easier than you might think. Now I'd like to give you an easy, proven method of setting goals. A few years ago, I learned about something called S.M.A.R.T. Goals. According to Answers Expert Wlrddiva, and Editorial Team's cnapper, the first known uses of the term occur in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George Doran, Arthur Miller, and James Cunningham.

Since you're somehow associated with the military, you'll appreciate the acronym. I like any "mind-trigger" that can help me remember things.

Specific - What exactly do you plan to accomplish. Include the details.

Measurable - What does the "before" and "after" look like? How will you measure it?

Attainable - Is you goal something you have the possibility to reach and complete?

Relevant - Is the goal worth the effort? Does it make sense?

Time-bound - What's the date to reaching this goal?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Author Lewis Carroll said it best, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there."

My hope is that you decide to start 2012 off right! Set some goals. Get re-energized. Get focused. Get what you want out of life in 2012!

And finally, for a little bit of inspiration and an easy way to remember to set some goals, please take 24 seconds and listen to what Andres Cantor has to say.

Have a Happy 2012!

Sources and links:

Author Lewis Caroll:
More S.M.A.R.T. Goals info: