Setting Goals that Stick

I love setting goals for myself because they keep me focused in life both professionally and personally. I write New Year’s goals every year and surprise most people by saying that I actually achieve practically all the goals I set for myself for the year. I have come to believe that goal setting, writing and achieving is an art at this point. It takes work from understanding how you stay motivated, what is important to you, spending time to set very specific goals, and developing habits and routines that set you up for success.

According to, approximately 80% of people who make New Year’s goals have quit pursuing them by mid-February. If you’re one of those people, you are not alone, but let’s help you identify your opportunities to improve your goal setting because I bet you have some pretty awesome goals. You can and will achieve all the goals you have set out for yourself!

She stuck to her goals &thenShe flourished, &thenShe knew she could do anything she put her mind to, &thenShe …

How to set goals that stick

Common goal setting pitfalls

  • Goals are too lofty
    • Setting too large of goals can actually set you up for failure and disappointment. You should set your sights high, but be realistic for your 1 year time frame goals.
  • Goals are not specific enough
    • I am sure you heard of SMART goals… well, they are onto something! SMART goals were developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham in their 1981 article “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. way to write management goals and objectives”. Smart goals are a fantastic framework to set you up for goal setting success. Scroll down to the image below and make sure each of your goals are Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely (SMART).
  • Goals are not important enough
    • Why are you achieving these goals? Don’t just be a generic goal seeker, set out goals that are actually important to you!
  • No end dates to your goals
    • I fall victim to this all the time. A goal without an end date is either a dream or a nightmare. A dream in case you never start it and keep procrastinating it. A nightmare if you’re wondering, when can I stop this goal?! An example might be: “I will start a blog”… well what if I find out I hate writing after the first 2 weeks? When can I be done with it? People give up on goals like “start dieting” or “start gardening” because there’s no end goal. A better goal would be written like “write a blog post 1x a week for a year” or “diet until I lose 5 lbs., but no longer than 3 months”.
    • Goals with end dates help you persevere through setbacks and rough patches.
  • No vision to the goal
    • Where do you want to be in 5 years from now? What do you have to do today to get there? Set goals for this year that set you up for your future.
  • Too many goals
    • Too many is different for everyone, based on the size of the goal and the time available. There is no perfect number for goals, but if you find yourself burning out then you may have overdone it. You can re-write your goals whenever and maybe push some out to next year.
  • Get all my goals done now!
    • You are setting year long goals, not January goals. Take it one step at a time and don’t burn yourself out.
  • Setting lifestyle goals
    • “I want to be fit” or “I want to be trendy” is a lifestyle change, not a specific goal. If you write your goals well, then your goals could lead to a lifestyle change.

Goal setting 101

Step 1: Determine your 5 year goals
When starting your goal writing process I suggest to first try to write some generic long term goals. Knowing where you want to be in 5 to 10 years from now will help you determine what you need to do this year.

Step 2: Determine your overarching vision for the year
Then, I suggest finding an overarching vision for the year ahead. This could be a generic goal or even a quote that means something to you. This overarching vision should be motivating and keeps you focused throughout the year.

Step 3: Write out your categories for goals
Now, you need to determine categories for goals that are important to you. Example categories are in the image below, and could range from social and spiritual or financial and career. You do not have to use all the categories below, find the ones that make sense for you personally and where you want to be in 5 years from now.

Step 4: Write SMART goals for each category
Finally, it’s time to write specific SMART goals for each category. You can have as many or as little goals as possible, just don’t over do it. Also, assure that your specific goals are aligned with your 5 year goals and overarching vision for the year.

Goals/Resolutions to try out

Need some help knowing what goals to make? Here are some examples of great goals to achieve in a year, pick a few that stand out to you:

  • Complete a 5K/Half Marathon/Marathon. Check out my article How to Train for your First 5K
  • Complete a Sprint/Olympic/Iron Man Triathlon – Check out my article How to Train for my First Triathlon
  • Go for daily weekday walks for a full year during lunch break
  • Get a certification that will further my career
  • Save for an Emergency Fund of 3 months worth of expenses – Check out my article How to Set a Personal Budget
  • Read 50 books in a year
  • Host two family/friend gatherings before November
  • Pick up a new hobby – take a painting, sketching, or photography class for 3 months starting in May
  • Write a book in a year – Check out how in this article

Tips for sticking through with your goals

  • Break out your goals into smaller goals. Make quarterly, monthly, daily goals
    • Read 50 books in 1 year = about 4 books a month = about 1 book a week.
  • Set calendar reminders
    • If you need to read 1 book a week then every Monday set a calendar reminder to start a new book.
  • Reassess your goals in July
    • I am writing this blog in July because its now time to reassess your new year goals!
    • Are your goals still relevant? Have you accomplished what you thought? Adjust your goals as needed!
  • Look at your goals everyday
    • Write your goals on a white board, sticky note, or as your screensaver on your desktop. Whatever it is, make sure you can see them daily and be reminded of the goals and promises you made to yourself.
  • Make a habit of documenting achievements
    • Wherever you write your goals, add a line below each one and document each achievement that gets you closer to the goal. Did you read 4 books in January? Write down the 4 book titles you read. Try to document achievements monthly.
    • It is fun and rewarding to look back at the end of the year and see how much you accomplished and it will keep you encouraged throughout the year to see your progress.
  • Tell someone about your goals
    • The act of speaking out loud your goals to another person increases your commitment and accountability. You can even ask that person to hold you to your goals.
  • Give yourself some grace and maybe learn why you may be procrastinating on your goals

Now go have some fun goal writing, revising and achieving!

Photo by Polina Zimmerman on

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