It would be easy these days to become so preoccupied with what’s going on in Washington DC (or “not” going on, for that matter), your state capital, or your local business environment, that you start to lose sight of the task at hand: to live well, love well, work hard, and make a difference in the world.

Think back to New Year’s Day 2011. If you’re like most of your monkey brethren, you probably made some personal and professional resolutions.

  • “I will commit to a daily exercise program.”
  • “I will lose ## pounds and keep the weight off.”
  • “My business will exceed last year’s performance by ##%.”
  • “We will get ## new customers this year.”

Now that your memory has been jogged, what objectives did you set out to reach this year? How have you done? Have you achieved them all, some of them, or none at all?

It’s far too easy to blame others when things go awry. So you lost that new client you were pitching to a competitor. Are you tempted to say, “That’s ‘so-and-so’s fault; he’s always undercutting my pricing,” or do you take full responsibility for missing out? Did you fail to find the time for regular exercise and actually gain weight? Did you justify your results by saying, “That’s because membership at the local gym was just too expensive?” Last I knew, it didn’t cost too much to take up jogging, do basic exercises in your home, buy a 10-minute workout DVD, or simply commit to eating a better diet.

The fact is that many people are able to reach their goals—so why not you? Apparently, they were more committed and/or motivated. They were willing to make the tough choices, sacrifice, or simply grit it out to get what they wanted. Reaching a goal takes willpower, focus, and a can-do attitude.

  • To reach a goal, you have to know what the goal is. Articulate your goals. Write them down. Make a list you can look at every day.
  • Youand only youare responsible for achieving your goals. This doesn’t mean you can’t enlist the help of others in getting there. But the ultimate responsibility for achieving the desired result is yours. If it’s your goal, you must OWN it.
  • Stay motivated. Keep your head in the game. Sure, keep abreast of what’s going on in the world, but don’t get overwhelmed by the politicians and the media naysayers. Their job is to do what it takes to get your vote or get your attention. Your job is to reach your goals.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I talk a lot about “paying it forward”—doing good things because it’s the right thing and because when you do good things, good things tend to happen for you, too. It’s a win-win situation. Even when faced with an economic slump of historic proportions and staggeringly high unemployment, you can always find ways to do good things, to pay it forward. No excuses. Now that’s a goal everyone can apply to business and to life alike.

How have you been paying it forward? How has someone gone out of his or her way to help you? Share it here.