Personal Growth

7 Tips for Setting Realistic New Year’s Goals

Happy New Year!

The start of the new year is the perfect time to reflect on the past and clarify the path forward. These seven tips will help you set realistic New Year’s goals to make this your most productive, successful, and enjoyable year yet!

  1. Build on PAST SUCCESSES – A great way to start setting goals for the new year is to take the time to reflect. Consider what worked last year and think about the goals you are carrying over into the new one. Also, identify what didn’t work and the lessons you gained from those experiences. Integrating goals into the bigger picture of your life gives them meaning and makes them more likely to be accomplished.
  1. Consider having a THEME for the year – Ask yourself, “What is the foundation upon which my success this year will be built?” Is it improved health? Reaching a specific business target? Dedicating more time to family? Committing to a social cause? Perhaps you have a personal or professional trait or skill that will help elevate your life and work to the next level.  Think of things like intention, patience, decluttering, or presence. Those concepts can become your overarching theme, acting as the base upon which you can build a great year.
  1. Think QUALITY, not QUANTITY – Defining three or four high-quality goals offers you the chance to focus your energy, resources, and intention in more specific ways. Use your theme to launch a handful of carefully constructed goals – these can act as the fuel to move you forward. Having a few meaningful goals allows you to focus your attention rather than having too many, which only serves to dilute the time you have to dedicate to each one.
  1. Create BENCHMARKS – How will you know you are remaining on track? What are the crucial milestones for your goals? When and how will you check in with yourself? Like any work worth doing, you need to stay on top of the progress being made, and course-correct as necessary. Many goals are left by the side of the road due to inattention. Keep your goals alive and measure your progress against your defined criteria – it not only helps ensure you are staying true to the course, but also acts as a motivator to keep you on track.
  1. Remind yourself that this is a MARATHON, NOT A SPRINT! – Be patient. The journey towards achieving your goals is rich with learnings, and the benefits don’t only show up once the goal is reached. Make note of the lessons you learn and incorporate them into your goals. If your goals include breaking an old habit or developing a new pattern of behaving, remember it takes time. Developing a new habit requires consistent practice over many weeks (some say 21 days, others 30. Still, others argue for 45!). If your goal is worth your time and attention, it is most certainly worth investing the time to see it come to fruition.
  1. Be willing to be FLEXIBLE – Do your goals need tweaking as you progress? Have circumstances changed? Is new information available that suggests a different course of action?  Nothing is more frustrating than spending your time and energy doing something well that never should have been done in the first place.  Stay intentional and purposeful as the weeks and months pass.
  1. Be SMART – The concept of setting “SMART” goals was first introduced in 1981. Though many authors have modified some of the letters, the original concept remains relevant today.   Ensuring your goals are specific, measureableachievable, realistic, and timely has been shown to increase the likelihood of their success.     

I read a great quote about goal setting some time ago that resonated with me, and always helps me stay on track:

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal.
A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan.
A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.”  

There is little magic involved in goal setting and goal achievement.  Following the tips outlined above and then doing the work will provide you with the opportunity to move through the new year with a purpose, and allow you to make significant growth in your life and work in a short time.

For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.


Lana Dunn

MEd, RPsych – Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute

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