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How to set New Year’s goals that work

I hope you are feeling energized! New Year is like a new beginning, and this always brings a lot of possibilities. We might have closed doors on the past year and are ready to open new doors where opportunities await us.

It is a time of dreaming and that is always good for our mental health. When the going gets tough we often don’t allow ourselves to dream, but the vibrancy of starting anew can give us that needed boost. And that is great because your motivation is high and you are ready to set goals for the upcoming year.

Now, if you are sceptical about setting goals, in today’s blog I will explain why you should set goals, and how to do it so they actually work.

Why you should set goals

Almost everyone on the planet attended to set goals at least once in their lifetime. If setting goals is part of your life, that is fantastic. I am sure you can see results in your life and that is a good motivation to keep setting those goals time after time.

However, if you are like many, who sets New Year goals, but either drop the ball on them or get discouraged because we didn’t achieve the goals we set, I want you to know that it is not your fault.

When it comes to setting goals, we are always in a high mood, think of mastering the impossible and we let our imagination take over. This is a very fertile ground to plant a seed. But then the daily stress, commitments, responsibilities, and reality creep in and our goals are being put on the back burner. We say life happens and revisit the subject the next December.

However, I want to bring your attention to the reason why you wanted to set goals in the first place. Yes, setting goals can be fun, but there needs to be a compelling reason why we want to set goals at all. Just setting goals for the sake of setting them, but not acting on them is not going to yield the results we want.

Goals give us a clear direction in life. To achieve something, to become the best version of ourselves, to conquer the obstacles, and to get what we truly want, we need to know which way to travel.

Otherwise, outside factors will dictate the road we will travel, and it may not be the direction we have envisioned for ourselves.

If you ever had moments when you got into a cul-de-sac and were wondering how you got there or how to go back, lack of clear goals can have something to do with it. You simply travelled in any direction life pushed you, hoping that it will get you where you wanted to go. And now you are in the cul-de-sac. To keep moving towards the life we imagined and dreamt of, we need to set goals to get there.

Leave the outcome at the door

I hope that by now, you see how important setting goals is. Goals are not just a list of wishes, those are clear signposts that tell us which way to go.

When we set goals, we always think about the outcome. Either we want to get married, lose weight, earn more money, improve our health, live in a house in the mountains, travel the world, or land that dream job.

Our default way of thinking is to go for the outcome, so we set the outcome as our goal. After all, you want to get something out of it. But you won’t get moving, just thinking about moving. You actually need to move.

And that is why I would like to invite you to set a specific behaviour as your goal, not the outcome itself. If you want more money, you need to create a behavior that will get you money. If you want to eat better, you need to include healthy eating habits. If you want to lose weight, you need to look for ways to exercise your body.

So, what specific action will move you towards the outcome you want to get?

Small is good

We often think that we need to go for the biggest cake on the shelf, the biggest room in the house. Our assumption is that bigger will give us the outcome faster. But you see, goals don’t work that way.

Taking small steps, but consistently keeps us moving forward. Remember, it is not the speed that we are travelling, but the fact that we are travelling at all.

If your life is already busy, if you are juggling many balls in the air, setting small action steps will not feel like another chore. It will not mean that you have to accommodate yet another thing into your, already overcrowded, day.

Small actions not only will take less time and require fewer resources to complete, but they will help with motivation too. After all, it is easier to get ourselves motivated to go for a 10-minute run than a 30-minute run when all you want is to sit on a couch.

So, are your action steps small?

Are they SMART?

Your goals need to be SMART. The acronym stands for specific, measurable, attractive, realistic, and timeframe. All those words are self-explanatory, and they all need to be ticked when it comes to a good goal. If you say that you want to be successful, the goal is not very specific. What does it mean to you ‘successful’? Is it the money, the freedom, the position you hold?

When setting goals make sure you can answer yes to all of the components. Although you need all of them to set an achievable goal, I want to stress the importance of timeframe. A realistic timeframe that is. Things always take longer than we expected. There will always be some bumps on the road and you may need to be a bit more generous with time.

Deadlines can give us healthy pressure, but they should not make us feel like we have no room to breathe. If you want to lose weight, and you give yourself a short deadline, you will be constantly counting calories, hopping on the scale, and beating yourself up that you are not making quick enough progress. Where is the fun in this?

So, are your goals SMART?


Starting something new can be exciting and can let our imagination wander. Setting goals should be something that is part of how you live your life. They are like signposts on our road and can get us to the destination we planned for ourselves.

Having goals are certainly fun, but they are not here to punish us for what we want to achieve. For goals to work, they need to focus on the behaviour that will get you the outcome you want, not the outcome itself. Setting small, but achievable action steps will keep your motivation high and won’t feel like another chore on your to-do list. And don’t forget to check them against SMART. Are they SMART, with a manageable timeframe?

So, what are your goals for the new beginnings?

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