Setting Goals for the New Year

Now the old year has drawn to a close, we reflect on the things we’d like to achieve in the New Year. Many of us decide on New Year’s resolutions such as losing weight, quitting smoking or improving our education. However, a lot of New Year’s resolutions don’t get kept. Is there an effective way to set goals that will help us to achieve them?

Don’t Make too Many Resolutions

Chances are, you won’t fulfill any of your goals if you set too many of them – particularly if they involve substantial lifestyle changes. If there’s a list of things you’d like to do, choose the most important one – you can always focus on the next most important item once you’ve achieved success with your chosen objective.

Make Your Goals SMART

A good objective or goal should meet five criteria: remember the word ‘SMART’. It represents the five criteria a well-formulated goal should consist of: specificity, measurability, achievability, realism and time oriented.

  • It should be specific. Wishing for a ‘better life’ isn’t good enough. You need to be able to put your finger on the specific thing you’re hoping to achieve.
  • A goal should be measurable. Supposing your goal is to lose weight – decide exactly how much weight you’d like to lose.
  • It should be achievable. Setting goals you can’t possibly achieve will discourage you.
  • It should be Sometimes, there are things that could be achievable, but given your personal circumstances, what is achievable is possibly not realistic. Be conservative when deciding on a target
  • A goal should be time bound. Having a schedule helps you to measure your progress and can motivate you to achieve what you set out to do. Let’s use the example of losing weight. If you’d like to lose 20 pounds, divide your weight loss target into milestones and decide on a deadline for each milestone.

For more guidelines on writing SMART goals see this fact sheet by the University of Virginia human resources center.

Be Ready to Adjust Your Goals in the Light of Fact

If you see that there are specific reasons as to why you can’t achieve what you wanted in the time you allowed, be ready to move the goalposts a little. Don’t just give up. Re-make your resolution using the five criteria above and keep on trying. That’s why setting milestones is so important: it helps you to measure your progress towards a goal and see how you’re doing. Sometimes a change in strategy is all you need in order to achieve your goals.