Goal-Setting Done Right

journal on table
New Year’s resolutions sometimes get a bad rap. Some people have made a resolution to never make resolutions. I can understand why they might. The way we do resolutions can sometimes feel like a pass or fail test, and it’s way too easy to fail.

It might help if we set goals instead of make resolutions.

Goals vs. resolutions

A resolution is typically something that someone decides to stop doing. It’s a line in the sand, a declaration that from this point forward I will break that habit of bingeing on Netflix or consuming caffeine at night. But the first time I watch two Netflix movies back to back or cave for a soft drink after dinner, I feel like I’ve marred my clean slate. I’m only a few days into my new self, and I’ve already flunked.

And that’s what it feels like: a failure.

Change doesn’t happen overnight. When we expect to be different after simply declaring our resolutions, our expectations are quickly introduced to reality and we lose motivation. We’ve already failed, so why keep trying?

On the other hand, a goal allows for time in the process of change. A goal is something we reach for with the understanding that we won’t achieve it right away. One goal I made last year was to be more organized. Goals like that one could take a year (or multiple years) to accomplish. If I fall off the bandwagon a few times and revert to complete disorganization, I get back up and keep going. No need to call it quits over a few tumbles.

Why set goals?

New Year’s is the perfect time to take stock of where we are and where we want to be. Personally, I want to change several areas in my life, but change requires focused effort. I need a way to measure growth and motivate myself as I continue to grow. That’s where goals come in. I may never reach all of the goals I would like to, but I certainly won’t if I never try.

So as you set a few goals for this year, keep these questions in mind:

Is this measurable? If your goal is too vague, you will not be able to determine if you have succeeded and you may end up abandoning that goal. Case in point: My goal to get organized from last year? I never got more specific than that. So twelve months later, it was no surprise that I had to repurchase a Christmas gift after losing the first one because I hadn’t put practical “legs” on my goal.

Is this important to me? Does this goal represent something you are passionate about? If getting in shape is something you really care about, then you will find time and make sacrifices to work toward your specific goal. If fitness is not a top priority right now, then carving out time and energy for exercise is not going to last long. Make sure your goal is important for you.

Is this possible? We have to be careful that we’re not overestimating our abilities. “Read a book a week” may be a lofty goal, but if you only read 10 or so last year, then 50 books is too high of a jump. If your goal is too high, it will be hard to stay motivated. Find a goal that is actually doable.

Does this challenge me? On the flipside, don’t aim too low. Make sure your goal pushes you to do more than you have in the past. Consider setting a goal in an area that isn’t your strength — introverts like me might plan activities with friends twice a month. Branch out to try something new.

Setting goals is not about failing or succeeding, but stretching ourselves to do more and be more than we have in the past. It’s about growing, and next year we will look back to see how far we’ve come.

Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is a writer and toddler teacher, and she blogs at These Traveling Days. She loves to read books that are so good they make her want to crawl into their stories, and she can never have enough of her favorite Pixar movies or chocolate chip cookie dough.