How to Set Realistic Goals for the New Year

Uncategorized Jan 02, 2021

I love the start of a new year!  There’s a certain hope and optimism to it, and I spend the time between Christmas and New Year reflecting on the past year and laying out the bones of the new year as well. 

But, I have to admit, it can get overwhelming quickly! Years ago, I defined six key roles for my life, and I set at least two goals per key role.  That’s a lot of goals to keep track of and habits to change.

An overwhelmed brain is not a happy brain, so it tends to just go back to doing what it already knows how to do. That's why New Year’s Resolutions typically don’t last past the first two weeks.

This year, you and I together are going to change all that.

This year, we are going to be realistic, so we can be successful.

Heaven knows, I like feeling successful over feeling like  I failed at a resolution again!

Let’s start fresh.

If there's any aspect of your life that you'd like to improve, let’s set some clear and attainable goals for yourself that will help you get there.

Take It Slow

Work towards your goal one piece at a time. It's important to take it slow and not take on too much at once. The main reason that some people fail when it comes to their New Year's goals is because they don't plan a realistic path.

One of my key roles is as the Family Historian, and one of my goals this year is to capture the oral histories on many of my aging family members.  Rather than let my current hope and enthusiasm for this goal rule, I decided that I would interview just one family member a month this year.  Think of the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady will win the race.

Follow Through with a Plan

It's easy to say: "I want to lose 50 pounds” orI want to leave a family history legacy." Keep in mind that big goals like these will take some time and effort. Diets are hard to start because you may feel unmotivated or hungry. Family history legacies, by definition, encompass generations and that means that there are thousands of artifacts to unearth 

Remember that the beginning is tough. Muster up the courage and enthusiasm to continue with your efforts. Most people give up, but you're not most people, are you?

You're different because, unlike most people, you're going to create a clear and realistic plan to take you right to success. If you're going to lose 50 pounds, define how you're going to lose those pounds. Are you starting an exercise routine? Are you going to join Weight Watchers or count calories?

You know that you won't lose the weight quickly; it's a steady loss that brings success. Even if you're short a couple of pounds on one of your short-term goals, you can revise your plan and kick up the pace, or just continue on your path because you'll reach your 50-pound goal before the year is out. That's what you'll be able to accomplish with a solid plan in place.

For my goal to capture the oral histories on many of my aging family members, I created a plan that includes who I’m going to interview, in what order, and even a step to create the questions to ask them. Not to mention, how I’m going to capture the interviews and where I’m going to store the files.  It can sound overwhelming, but thinking it through and laying out steps can calm the emotional part of your brain so that the cognitive part can rule the day.

Be Real

I love to plan, so that step is sooooo easy for me. In fact, it’s one of my super powers. But with great power comes great responsibility.  I have to be careful not to STAY in planning and never get to executing.

As a former boss of mine used to say “eventually all good ideas break down into work”.

And that’s where we have to be realistic and practical and all those other not-fun things.

You have to stay realistic when it comes to your New Year's goals. The holidays are a joyful time, and often times you'll feel motivated to achieve something big. Know that you can achieve big things, but there are also only 24 hours in a day.

Avoid making goals that would take more than a year to complete. If you want to make a long-term goal like this, break it up into parts and give yourself a realistic plan for your first-year goal.

This goal of mine to leave a family history legacy has been on my list since 1999.  It’s a journey for me, not a destination. 2021 is the year of oral histories.  After all, being a Family Historian is only one of six key roles in my life, so I can’t let it consume me and my time. Even if I’d love to spend more time hunting down pesky ancestors and stories…

Visualize the Outcome

When you run into snags in the road, as you're bound to in life from time to time (think most of 2020), it will help to visualize yourself reaching your end goal. Visualizing it makes it feel real and motivates you to continue to work hard to make it happen.

Some people even create vision boards to remind them.  I first read about this idea in the book The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and here is an article he wrote laying out the steps to create one of your own 

I admit, I did not do this until about 2015 when I took a leadership course and it was part of the curriculum.  I have carried that picture in my planner every year since.  Just yesterday, as I was moving it into my 2021 planner, I realized that I have achieved or surpassed every single thing on that vision board.  It was enlightening to me that just planting those seeds in my head has made them happen, so I encourage you to do this exercise as well. 

The Right Attitude

If you're practicing the right attitude, you can go far. It's true that all you need to do is believe in yourself. You've probably realized that if you don't believe that you can accomplish something, you simply won't. How can you expect to achieve great things if you don't believe in yourself?

An optimistic attitude is critical to your success. Think about how you felt when you first set your New Year's goal. Chances are that you had an excellent attitude, so try to maintain that mindset throughout your journey to success with your goal.

That vision board I mentioned above?  It has a quote in the middle that says: She believed she could, so she did.  It inspires me to believe in myself. 

My other motto? I am a badass and I do hard things.  That’s the one that gets me moving again when I hit an obstacle.


Once you've determined a realistic goal and divided it up into short, achievable tasks, you're bound for success as long as you take action to complete each step. Go ahead and make that New Year's resolution, knowing that this year is going to be your most successful yet!

Leaving you with this from the lighter side: What is a New Year’s Resolution? A goal that goes in one year and out the other.


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