It’ about to be the start of a new year, and with that comes a lot of thought and planning on what we want to do in the coming year.  It’s a time of self-reflection, looking back on what you accomplished the year prior, while deciding what you’d like to see yourself do in the upcoming one.  The process of New Years’ resolutions and/or goal-setting obviously differs for each individual, but I’m hoping that this post will help to guide you as you set out on this new year!  I even created a set of goal sheets that you can preview and download for yourself below!

Which Works Best?

I personally find goal-setting to be more successful than new years’ resolutions, and hope that after reading this post, you’ll be willing to try goal-setting this year instead of the traditional.  In the past, when I’ve set “resolutions” for myself to “eat better”, or “exercise more”, I find that the gusto for my new habit deflates fast, leaving me more unmotivated than ever before.  Think about years past – have you been able to upkeep your resolutions throughout the year?  Have you ever made it to the end of the year saying “Yes, I’m so happy I kept up my New Years Resolution and went to the gym EVERY day this year!”?  If you have, that’s freaking awesome, because I can honestly say that I haven’t been able to keep my fervor or perseverance up for a resolution, but goals, pshh, totally different story.

What Makes a Good Goal?

Goals help keep individual motivation higher than resolutions for several reasons.  All goals should be “SMART”, which means they should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.  Setting goals using these standards is important because it really helps to keep you on track.  For example, typical new years resolutions are similar to the ones I outlined above – they are very general statements such as “Work out more in 2015” or “Find a new job in 2015”.  Goals, on the other hand, if set using SMART standards, can keep you right on target for accomplishment throughout the year with statements like “Work out five days per week from January-June, and six days per week July-Dec of 2015” or “Apply to ten jobs per week, conducting two interviews per month, in order to secure a new position by July 1, 2015”.  Write those statements down on a goal-setting sheet and hang them on your fridge, and see how much easier it is to stick to them when they’re in your face, clearly and specifically outlined step-by-step.

Tips and Tricks

Breaking larger goals into smaller goals is important to remember.  You don’t want to set unachievable goals and then be overwhelmed all year about completing them.  It’s important to remember that all of our goals should be achievable!  For instance, one of my major goals is something I call the “five year plan”.  Right now, I’m one year into the five year plan, which is to travel the world as a nomad in the year 2020.  If I wrote down on a piece of paper “travel the world as a nomad in the year 2020” and hung it on my fridge, that would be as effective as sitting in my living room for the next five years summoning good vibes to take me traveling.  Obviously, a goal like that seems completely unachievable, but break it down into dozens of large goals, which break down into hundreds of easier, achievable goals, which ultimately become so granular that they turn into simple to-do’s on my weekly task list, and I’m confident that within five years, I’ll be a traveling nomad.  In just a few simple steps, I can mentally break down my entire five year plan into several major attainable goals.

Although we set goals to help keep ourselves on track, it’s important to always allow for flexibility.  One of my favorite quotes is “we must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us,” and it’s something I experienced first hand this past year.  One of my goals that I set for myself last January was to work out five days a week.  I started out my year exceptionally strong, not having missed a day by June, and man, was I proud!  Unfortunately, though, when personal health problems made me very weak, I struggled to continue my habit, and by September the habit had completely died away.  Initially, I was hard on myself, and wanted to keep up the habit, insisting that I could power through.  Then, when working out started to make me ill, I was disappointed in myself for not being able to keep at it.  In a moment of self-reflection in September, I realized that working out was doing me more harm than good, and realized that it would be more beneficial to stop working out altogether than try to upkeep my goal.  As you can see, I needed to allow for flexibility in my goals, as life changed my perceived course of action – after all, your whole life could change completely the day after you set your goals!

Goal-setting should ultimately be a year-long process.  Just because you wrote something down in January, doesn’t mean you can’t tweak it, change it, or completely revise it at any time during the year.  Remember, goals are meant to help you – always keep that in mind, and don’t be worried or concerned if throughout the year your priorities change.  You may have started out with the goal of working out 5 days a week, but after realizing how much you hated the gym you went to, changed your goal to taking a yoga class 3 times a week and joined a soccer league.  I say hell yes to changes like that!  Your life is your playing field – always be in a constant state of improvement.  As you change, your goals will change also!  Just make sure you aren’t changing your goals from “work out five days a week” to “work out two days a week” because you’re lazy.  If life is too busy, and you find that five days is simply unachievable, it’s fine to tweak that number, but make sure it’s for the right reasons and not simply because you’re tired of upkeeping your habits.  Believe me, you’ll be more disappointed in yourself than anyone else if that happens!

One last tip that I have is to find an “accountability” partner – someone who can ask you how your goals are going, meet with you throughout the year, and help to keep you on track for all you want to accomplish.  For John and I, one of our new goals this year is to meet once a month to have an “accountability meeting”.  During this meeting, we’re going to review our yearly goals, discuss the progress we’ve made in the prior month, and discuss what we’d like to accomplish in the upcoming month.

Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 2.10.17 PMScreen Shot 2014-12-28 at 2.09.58 PMIn addition to adding “accountability meetings” to this year’s goal-setting process, I also designed goal-setting sheets to help us stay on track throughout the year.  The first sheet is an overall, comprehensive, yearly goal-setting sheet.  It is broken down into nine major life categories – Resources/Money, Growth/Learning, Home/Family, Health/Wellness, Personal Appearance, Daily Routines, Service/Society, Love/Partnerships, Self-Expression, Career, Spirituality, and Friends/Community.  At our first goal-setting accountability meeting (happening this upcoming weekend ;), John and I will begin filling in these goal sheets with all that we want to accomplish in 2015.  The second sheet, is a more specific monthly and weekly breakdown for goal-setting.  We will be filling in one of these sheets each month that we meet, using the blank spaces to fill in tasks we’d like to accomplish during that specific month.  On the lower portion of the second page, is a to-do list of sorts, where granular, easily-achievable goals will be broken down into tasks to complete during weeks one, two, three, and four!

Although we have yet to use the goal sheets, I’m excited to give them a try this year, and hope you do the same!  Please feel free to enter your email below to be emailed a link to the free downloadable PDF.  I’d also love to know what you think of them if you do use them!  Let me know how your goal-setting process goes in the comments below!  Best of luck to you this year my friends, I know we are going to accomplish so much individually and together!

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