Promise yourself

DETROIT — Letitia Patterson-Muhammed doesn't like the idea of making New Year's resolutions.

She prefers to set what she calls a "dream line" — a series of short-term goals that will lead her to accomplish something memorable, if not extraordinary, in the upcoming year.

"It's got to be something that is so compelling and so exciting that you wake up thinking about it," said Patterson-Muhammed, 38, who lives in Huntington Woods, Mich.

In the upcoming year, Patterson-Muhammed has set a dream line that will end with her going to Hawaii to attend a week-long surfing camp.

"A dream line is something that infuses some excitement in your life," she said. "I believe in setting goals. Even if it takes a year to get to it, by the time you get to the end of the year, you will have what you want instead of crapping out two weeks into it."

Karie Barczak also refuses to make New Year's resolutions because, she says, they are too easy to make and too easy to break.

Instead, she focuses on making specific, concrete goals.

And her goal in 2012 is to complete a triathlon. "I'm very psyched," said Barczak, 39, of Redford Township, Mich., who works as an engineer at DTE.

The key to reaching any goal is focusing all of your thoughts, beliefs, philosophies and attitudes on success, according to Steve Siebold, the author of the 2010 book "177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class" (London House Press, $16.99).

Siebold, a former professional tennis player, has written five self-help books, on topics ranging from how to make more money to how to lose weight.

"I write books on mental toughness training and critical thinking," said Siebold, 47, who lives in Palm Beach, Fla.

"I've found that people can become wealthy in America if they want to. It's not rocket science. They can become physically fit. They can build a business. It is doable. These successful people are no smarter than the rest of us. But they are more strategic, though."

So what's the best strategy to reach your goals?

Siebold said that successful people set a clear goal, have a specific plan to reach the goal and are totally committed to reaching their goals.

"You have to ask yourself if what you are writing down for a New Year's resolution is a preference or is it a goal that you are you committed to?" Siebold said. "I think most of us write down a preference."

And that's a big mistake.

Siebold said that another key to reaching a goal is to focus on what you want, not what you are afraid of.

"You have to starve your fear and feed your vision," Siebold said.

Finally, Siebold said, it is important to stop caring about what other people think of your goals.

"Psychologists say that a lot of our addiction is not to food or drugs or sex, it is the addiction to the approval of other people," Siebold said. "They say it's the greatest debilitating addiction."

And worrying about what other people might say stops many from setting goals and taking a risk.

"If I come up with an idea to take a chance," Siebold said, "or maybe push myself and start a business and all the people are saying, 'That's crazy. You don't have the money. You don't have the education.'

"And if I'm addicted to the approval of other people, well, there goes the dream right there. And I think that's what most people do."

Barczak smoked for 15 years. But she quit six years ago. She started running, and it became her passion. She says running has taught her patience and given her balance in her life.

In 2011, her goal was to run in the 34th Detroit Free Press/Talmer Bank Marathon. "My goal was to finish and not die," she said.

Thankfully, she accomplished both goals.

And now, she is getting ready for a new challenge, training for a triathlon on June 24 at the Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea, Mich.

"If you love what you do, if you have the passion, it's not work," she said.

Patterson-Muhammed shares the same level of passion. In June, she plans to attend a surfing camp in Oahu. "When I found out about the surf camp, I got high, just knowing there is something out there like that, something so exciting and different and unusual," Patterson-Muhammed said. "I was happy for the next day, just learning about something like that."

The camp costs $1,895, including accommodations. Patterson-Muhammed plans to save up for the trip over the next six months. That's her concrete plan. "It's not super expensive if you break it up over time," she said.

She says it is easier to accomplish a goal you are excited about. "It's got to be something you really absolutely want," said Patterson-Muhammed, who is a Realtor.

She applies the same strategy to other areas of her life.

Every month, Patterson-Muhammed sets specific goals, such as working out four days a week, or spending three hours a day generating leads for her business, or eating healthy food four times a week.

"I literally track it on my calendar so that I can see my progress," she said. "Goal setting and achieving them is a day-to-day thing, like hand-to-hand combat. I have a little calendar where I track myself on the major things that I want to accomplish in a month's time. If you can see the progress every day, it gives you a boost to move to the next level or try something new."

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