Admittedly, the start of a new year is as good a time as any to take inventory and set goals, but the start of a fresh calendar tends to give us a feeling of a clean slate - a reset of the score in our heads. Only a small percentage of people take the time to actually jot down their goals, although the process itself is extremely powerful. Humans have a natural desire for growth and development, and just writing down your goals moves you a quantum leap closer to reaching them.
"What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals." - Zig Ziglar
In addition, getting clear on your priorities helps you organize your time. Sometimes we know what we want, but are unable to make the first step because we just do not know where to start. Therefore it is important to assess all of your goals and prioritize them. Here are our top tips for setting goals for the new year.
When it comes to your short term goals, set realistic and reachable goals. Don't make it too hard for yourself by setting unrealistic goals you wouldn't be able to reach. They should stretch you a little, but still be within the frame of what's possible, considering the amount of energy and time you have at your disposal.
Set only goals you really want to achieve. Do not put down „learn to speak Spanish fluently“ if you will not put in the effort to study on a regular basis. You have to be able to put in the work. Don't set goals you think you should want or others want you to reach. Think about what YOU want. If you put down goals you are not really ambitious about, there is a high chance you will not reach them.
Set only goals that you can influence. The achievement of your goals should not be dependent on outside circumstances, like the weather or the mood of other people. The achievement of a goal should always be in your control and be dependent on your personal performance.
Break down big goals into smaller steps. For instance, you can break down a 1-year-goal into monthly steps and accomplish one step every month. When you have a goal that seems far away or requires a lot of effort, break it down into smaller milestones, which you can reach one at a time.
Prioritize your goals. Do not set too many goals at once, and set clear priorities. If you have too many goals and are not able to accomplish all of them, it is easy to get frustrated. You should be clear about which goals are most important to you and devote the amount of time and effort to them according to their priority.
Know your values. Imagine your ideal life and the person you would be if you achieved everything you wanted. Feel how you would feel if you were living the life of your dreams. If you notice that getting money, for instance, is really important to you, ask yourself what it would mean to you if you had a lot of money. Maybe it gives you a sense of security, freedom or confidence. These are the values you are striving for. Determine three to five values, which are most important to you and which you would live by if you lived your ideal life. It can help to tie your goals to your values, so that through accomplishing your goals you would strengthen one value that is important to you.
Set goals as specific as possible. Wherever possible, set measurable goals, so that you can determine whether a goal was met or not. If you cannot define a numeric measure, try to set actions, which you need to complete to bring you closer to your goal. For instance, if you want to improve or deepen the relationship with your best friend, you might write “I have dinner with my best friend once a week”.
Define goals as „be“-goals, instead of „do“-goals. For example „I am a good chef“, instead of „learn to cook“. Then define actions of how to get there.
Have a clear picture in mind, of how your life will look when you have achieved your goal and visualize it frequently. You need to be able to imagine yourself achieving your goal, or you will not be able to reach it. Try to find a vivid picture, representing the achievement of your goal.
Believe in yourself. If you constantly engage in self-doubt or think that you cannot or will not reach your goal, you are making it hard for yourself. Believing in yourself opens the doors on your way to your goals. And in turn, tracking the progress on your goals will reinforce the belief in yourself.
Review your progress on the goals you have set. If you achieved a goal, write that down and celebrate your success. You can even reward yourself if that helps you achieve your goals. Don't be disappointed if you did not reach any of your goals. Assess the end result rationally and find out why you did not reach a certain goal. Sometimes our desires change over time and we do not want to reach a goal we have set in the past anymore. Sometimes we just did not put in the necessary work because we did not dedicate enough time or commitment to it. Tracking your progress weekly makes it easier for you to make adjustments whenever you notice that you are not moving towards your goals. If you feel that a certain goal has become irrelevant to you, just cross it out, instead of neglecting it and feeling bad about not having accomplished it in the end. Be honest with yourself and allow your perspective and priorities to change. If you have learned something along the way, even if you did not reach your goal, this is still a positive effect. Write down valuable things you have learned during the process.
Acknowledge that even small steps are successes. Also don't be disappointed if you are not reaching your goal fast enough. Just make sure that you are constantly making progress. Stagnation is the only failure. It is okay to contribute just a little to your goal every day or week. When you are moving in the right direction, even if you are moving slowly, you will ultimately reach your destination.
“A year from now you may wish you had started today.” - Karen Lamb
If you like being extra structured, print out the templates at the bottom of this article to keep all your goals in one place. This is how it works: take the templates and a pen, make sure you have a couple of hours of quiet time and sit down in a comfortable environment.
Take out sheet #1 and define your goals for the next year. Look at different areas of your life and ask yourself what your ideal life would look like. I suggested the categories “Career & Financial”, “Health & Appearance”, “Lifestyle”, “Relationships” and “Personal Development”, which will be explained further below. I would suggest to limit yourself to 1 - 3 goals per category. Take a look at your current situation and get clear on what you want to reach, change or improve in each of the categories within the near future. If you don't like the categories, you can use the unformatted sheet and come up with your own categories.
Career & Financial Look at your job and career path and put down your goals, including any career changes or improvements you are aiming for. Also put down financial goals, if you are looking to change your financial situation in any way, for instance your earnings or spending. Health & Appearance This category includes any goals related to your physical body. Put down goals, which will improve your health and fitness, including athletic achievements and changes in your eating habits or beauty routine. Lifestyle This category could also be called “hobbies” or “leisure time". It includes any activities you want to fill your private life with, like new hobbies or quality time with friends. You can even include materialistic things, for instance if you plan on getting a new pair of shoes, a new car or a house. Anything that influences the perceived quality of your life belongs in this category. Relationships This area includes all goals concerning your relationships to the people around you. These are your family, partner, friends, customers, colleagues and even people you encounter in your daily life, who you do not know. How do you want to treat these people, and how do you want to be treated by them? What can you do to improve these everyday contacts? What changes would you like to make in the way you connect with others? Personal Development Think of anything you want to learn or do to develop yourself. This could mean reading certain books, meditating or taking classes on a certain subject. It could also be a certain habit you want to acquire or get rid of. Also think of certain skills you want to develop and your personal attitude, if you want to change it. If you want, turn the empty box at the bottom into a “community/ world” category. Here you can put down any goals concerning the world around you and how you would like to see the world change. This includes community service or voluntary work. Alternatively, the last and empty box can be called “other”, and will hold space for all goals, which do not fit in any of the previous categories.
Below the category goals, where it reads “By the end of...”, fill in the year (for instance “By the end of 2021...”), and then finish the sentence by stating exactly what you want the outcome to look like. Write a short text, describing what your life looks like when you have achieved your goals. This exercise paints a vivid picture in your mind and puts you in the position of already being at the finish line. Creating a picture in your head is the first step to realizing your goals. Write it in the present tense, for example: “I am a healthy and active person, who goes outside for a run three times per week. I enjoy having dinner with my family every night, where we lead meaningful and interesting conversations. I have successfully completed my important project at work, for which I have received praise from my boss...”
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” - Jim Ryun
If you want to go a step further, you can use the monthly review template to break down your yearly goals into monthly milestones. At the end of each month, take about half an hour to sit down with the template and review the past month. It helps if you take a few minutes each week to note down what happened during the week, so you don't forget your progress and learnings. In the top right corner of every box, you can put down a score for how well you think the week went. It should be a rating of how you felt and how much progress you made. If it makes it easier for you, choose a specific time and date to fill out the template, for instance every Sunday night at 7pm.
The goal is to put together a list of small successes, which make you feel proud and motivate you to keep going. Recording your achievements every month not only raises your self-confidence. Whenever your motivation is at a low, you also have a list of previous accomplishments to look at, which will give you reassurance of your abilities.