4 Tips for Setting New Year’s Goals You Will Achieve

1. First, set goals you actually want to accomplish. Too many of us allow outside voices (the media, our third grade teacher, our family or friends) to dictate what our goals should be. While many of us are more likely to achieve goals if we feel accountable  to others (Obligers in author Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework), most of us still need to feel a passion for meeting our goals. One way to figure out what you really want in life is to write up a long list of goals — way more than you could ever truly accomplish. Keep writing every idea that comes to mind. Then, circle the ones that make you feel inspired.

2. Then, include big projects that you know you will want or will have to do. Creating a long list of goals that doesn’t take into account how much time you have is a recipe for disappointment. For example, one of the goals I put on my list this year was “Research and apply for middle schools.” I knew that was going to happen and needed to make mental space for it. If I’d planned another big project for the fall this year it wouldn’t have gotten done. Middle school was my big project. Your year is likely to have some number of immovable obligations. Put those on the list so you have a full picture of what you need to get done, and so you can take “credit” for doing them. You won’t know everything at this point, so leave yourself some wiggle room for the projects that inevitably pop up.

3. Third, make a plan for accomplishing your goals. One of my mentors will often ask the what question: “What needs to be true for {big goal} to become a reality?” If your big goal for next year is getting a new job, what needs to be true for that to happen? This is just another way of saying you need to map out the steps to reach the goal. One of my goals this year was restarting my exercise routine. I realized I needed to do some specific tasks that didn’t look like exercise — buy new sneakers, find my heart rate monitor, research the class schedules at my gym — in order to make the goal achievable. For each of your big goals start to sketch out a few next steps. You’ll also want to assign goals to specific time periods. Some will have fixed deadlines, while other goals could happen at any time. Pay special attention to those goals and assign a time period to them so you won’t procrastinate.

4. Finally, create a system to review and update your goals. As you move through the year you will need to adjust your plans. New projects may pop up or existing projects may require more time than you realized. Consider a quarterly review to be sure you are on track and to adapt your goals as you go along.

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