How to set New Year goals you can actually achieve

This post is the second in our series of three focused on making 2021 your best year yet. If you haven't already, we recommend you read our post about end of year reflections. It will guide you to close out the past year and help you determine your most relevant and worthwhile goals moving forward, a perfect lead-in for this post!

Setting goals you can achieve Credit: Photo by Smart on Unsplash

Some people don't believe in setting New Year's resolutions because we are so often doomed to fail.

And ain't it the truth.

After a short holiday, a brief period for reflection, a small recharge and a lot of food we all seem ready to tackle the New Year and our long list of what will be different this year...

We're all guilty of setting ourselves unrealistic goals for what we want to achieve. Usually, it looks something like this;

  1. Drop 10 pounds
  2. Run every day
  3. Go to the gym three times a week
  4. Make an extra $20k
  5. Improve all my relationships
  6. Read all the books on my reading list
  7. Meditate every day
  8. Eat healthily
  9. Renovate the house myself
  10. Go on a 3-month overseas holiday

There is nothing wrong with dreaming big but seriously... the problems with this list are numerous.

  • There are too many goals, which detracts from achieving any of them.
  • Who has the time to fit running, a trip to the gym, meditation, healthy eating prep, reading and catching up with friends and family in every day (if you work or have kids, probably even if you don't!).
  • How do you make an additional $20k and renovate your house in the same year that you take a 3-month holiday?
  • Plus, several of these goals are actually related to each other (eat well + exercise more = lose weight). So what is this person really trying to achieve?

The purpose behind these goals is not evident.

What is the point of having a huge list of goals if you don't know why you are trying to achieve them? Have you selected them because they are things you actually want or more out of social pressure?

You get the picture, a lot more thought needs to go into goal planning if you wish to be successful, so let's examine what you can do to set realistic and attainable goals this year.


Other than setting unrealistic goals there is another reason that so many people fail when it comes to achieving goals...being completely underprepared.

Goal setting takes a considerable amount of thought, planning, and self-awareness. Without this, your goals won't be clear, measurable or likely achievable.

But don't fear, by the end of this post, you will have a set of well defined, cohesive goals, a plan for how to achieve them and a system for being accountable.

All you need to do is set aside an hour to work through the framework below. All resources are provided, you just need an inspired frame of mind and quiet space to put it all on paper.

Defining smart goals

You want this to be an amazing year right?

Whether you are coming off a great year and want to keep it going, or you are trying to pull yourself out of the trenches of the past year, the following techniques and resources will help you to set meaningful goals for six core areas of your life;

  • Personal
  • Professional
  • Romantic
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Financial

Feel free to add or remove areas but remember, six goals is a lot! These goals don't need to be huge, it is better to go for something within your grasp because success will keep you motivated. You can always write a new goal plan if you manage to achieve everything on this one before the end of the year!

As you define each goal you should ask yourself;

  • What is the purpose of this goal?
  • Why is it important?
  • What does the successful outcome of this goal look like?

Defining goals that are achievable

These questions help to ensure you are being realistic about your goals. You will be doomed to fail if you can't frame your goals using the above points but to make sure you do it properly we have created this great template for you, or if you wish to create your's digitally here is a google doc.

Setting out for success

Two things to keep in mind when you are setting your goals...

Start small. Be smart.

You want to be the best version of you but isn't a better version of you a good start. Certainly better than no change at all.

Plus consistency can pay more dividends than perfection and it makes a lot more sense in terms of how you achieve your goals.

Baby steps will still get you to the end point, it will just take you longer but the best part is the more you work at it, the faster you get.

So if your goal is to learn to cook like Jamie Oliver, perhaps your more attainable goal will be, 'add five new recipes to my repertoire'.

You want to be better at your job, don't set a goal to get your manager's position, rather `spend 40 mins doing job-related learning every day'.

Review your goals, make sure they are smart goals. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and possible to put a time-frame around. Yes, we created a template and a google doc for that too!

Defining goals that are achievable Credit: Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Do your goals fit you?

I don't mean the new you. I mean, do your goals fit into your life now? The life where you still carry the 10 pounds you are going to lose next year. I ask because starting a new goal of jogging every day when you are in the worst shape of your life and don't exercise...ever, is virtually impossible. Start smaller, with habits that are easier to build, like walking to work every day.

Slam dunk, make sure your goals fit into your life

To vet your goals, look at all of them and consider the following;

  • Do your goals complement each other?
  • How do your goals fit in with the big picture, in terms of where you think your life is going? Sticking to a goal that doesn’t compliment what you see for yourself in the future is tricky. For example, you might have a lifelong desire to learn a language but unless you have a trip to a country that speaks that language planned, staying on track can be very difficult.
  • How many brand new habits will you have to form? Hint: if you have too many life-altering goals you will likely fail at all of them but if you have your heart set on numerous habit changes, don't despair yet, we will help you formulate an approach for taking action next.
  • What will your mantra or word be? Choose something that will help remind you of what you are trying to achieve e.g. my year of wellness. Hopefully, your goals complement each other sufficiently to make this easier.

Action stations

You have established your goals, taken the time to understand why they are important to you and defined how to measure your success.

Now it is time to break your goals into my bite-sized pieces, plan for getting started and prepare for failure. Yes, this is the 'how to make it all happen' section. If you get this right, you can't fail!

A good plan will get you so much closer to your goals Credit: Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

1. Define the major milestones

Let's face it, you can't go from never running to doing 5km daily runs overnight. You need to work up to it. From beginner to a daily jogger, your milestones might look like this;

  1. Walk 4km every day - 2 weeks
  2. Walk/run intervals for 3km, 3 times per week (4km walk all other days) - 4 weeks
  3. Walk/run intervals for 3km, every day - 4 weeks
  4. Run for 3km, 3 times per week (Walk/run intervals for 4km all other days) - 4 weeks
  5. Run for 3km, every day - 4 weeks
  6. Run for 4km, every day - 4 weeks
  7. Run for 5km, every day - target reached

2. Plan for the task ahead

You wouldn't go diving without an oxygen tank, would you? Nor should you set off to achieve a major goal without planning properly. Prepare to put yourself in a position to succeed.

If you are going to start running you need the right gear. Make a list of what you need to do;

  • Buy running shoes
  • Find headphones
  • Draw up a running schedule, on which you can cross off your milestones

Now fulfill your list.

3. Prepare yourself for failure

Now is the time to catastrophize!

Think of all the ways in which you could fail, all the roadblocks you could come up against for each goal. This way you will be prepared when you get to them.

You could get really busy at work and make the excuse you don't have time.

You might get injured and lose momentum.

You could go traveling and forget to continue with your new habits.

If you think through all these scenarios and prepare for how to address them, if they do happen, they will be much less likely to put a spanner in the works if they come to fruition.

4. Accountability

How are you going to be accountable for each of your goals?

You could tell your friends or family.

You could construct a series of rewards for hitting each of your milestones or conversely a 'punishment' for not hitting them.

Be imaginative and bold. You don't have to be frivolous or evil just constructive enough that a punishment will be uncomfortable and a reward will be satisfying.

5. Keep that inspiration and excitement coming

At the time of goal creation, you will feel inspired but as you come closer to achieving your goals the excitement can wane. Ensure you do whatever you can to keep yourself motivated on the path to success. Here are some ideas to help with that;

  • A motivational playlist to lift you up
  • Enlisting a trainer, life coach, or mentor to keep you true to your goals
  • Pairing up with a friend to help each other reach their full potential
  • A meditation that can help focus you

These five steps are integral to you being successful in your goal setting. It looks like a lot but actually, it is broken down into a simple table for you in this template or this google doc.

Done quality control and thorough planning for your goals

Your best year yet

You have made it! Now you really are well prepared for your best year yet!

Keep your planning handy and make sure you keep yourself motivated using your inspirations and yearly mantra.

All the best for 2021!