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Golden rules for successful goal setting in the new year

by Maria Onzain
Posted: February 02, 2021

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**This is an updated post**

Have you been able to accomplish the new year's resolutions you made at the beginning of last year?  Or are you having a little trouble remembering what they were? The truth is, many of us struggle to complete the goals that we’re so determined to accomplish every January 1st. So if you’re feeling a little guilty about not reaching last year’s goals, then you’re not alone. 
In a way, there’s an art to setting realistic goals instead of ambiguous or unobtainable resolutions. 
Read our blog to find out how to set practical goals and how to work towards them to become your best self.

How to set a goal and achieve it 

Whether you're planning to set spiritual, health, finance, career or lifestyle goals, like enjoying more free time, the principles are the same. First, you need to understand the importance of goal setting, so then you can design a plan to achieve your objectives accordingly.

If your resolution is simply a thought or a good intention, it’s unlikely to be fulfilled. Instead, be honest with yourself and consider what is within your power to achieve. And by following a few steps that go beyond New Year’s Day, you can achieve your goals and have fun doing it. 

Goal setting

What are the 5 golden rules for successfully setting goals?

1. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals

You've probably heard of the importance of setting S.M.A.R.T. goals before. S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-sensitive. If your resolution follows the S.M.A.R.T. method, it will have a higher chance of being accomplished. 

So, for every goal you set, always make sure it meets the following criteria:

  • Specific - Your goal must be clear and not a vague idea.
  • Measurable - Along with your goal, you should define a qualitative or quantitative way to measure your results.
  • Attainable - Your goal needs to be realistic and achievable.
  • Relevant - Make it relevant to your purpose to help you stay focused.
  • Time-sensitive - Set up a time frame, milestones, and a deadline to avoid procrastination.

This sounds like a lot of work, right? But it’s actually pretty straightforward. 
For example, let’s say your goal is to start exercising. To be more specific, your goal might me to “go to the gym at least twice a week and keep it up all year”. You could measure this goal by checking your weight loss, muscle gain and improvements to your cardio. Then, by setting yourself a minimum of twice weekly, you’re giving yourself an achievable benchmark to start from. This goal may be relevant to your purpose in that you want to become more fit and healthy and lose weight. And finally, your timeframe is the next twelve months.
When we break it all down, you can see how easy it can be setting S.M.A.R.T. goals and how this can help you achieve results. 

2.  Write it down

To be able to remember your goal (or goals) , you should write it down and have it always visible. You may want to stick it to your fridge or use it as your smartphone wallpaper. Visualising your goal is a great way to remember it and stay focused. It will also help you review it periodically to make sure you're on track.
Don't forget to write down your milestones to be able to monitor your progress. And if you trail behind, you'll need to decide if you consider yourself capable of catching up or if it is a better idea to adjust the objectives to be able to accomplish them on time.

SMART goal

3. Team up with a partner

When you’re being held accountable by another person, it’s much more difficult to throw in the towel and give up on your goals. So this year, try to team up with a friend or partner to accomplish your goals together. This trick helps in two ways: firstly, because you’re doing it together, it becomes more fun. And secondly, you'll be able to motivate each other during the weak moments, helping you to keep going.
Remember that you don't need to set the same goal. Resolutions are very personal, and so are the steps to take in order to achieve them. So, each one of you can make an individual resolution, and you can share the objectives, milestones and achievements. You may also want to design a rewards system and celebrate together the big accomplishments.

4. Enjoy the journey

While achieving goals is important, you shouldn't stop living your life while you pursue them. You'll be much more likely to achieve your goals if you're enjoying the journey. 

For some people, it’s all about the outcome and not the journey. If this sounds like you, then that’s fine. So long as you stay motivated and learn to appreciate the journey for what it is, you’ll be on track to accomplishing your goals in no time. 

5. Reward yourself and don’t be afraid of failure

When you reach a milestone, reward yourself! This will help to keep you motivated.
And when you don’t quite hit the mark, don’t take it too hard. While you can’t let yourself slack off, falling short doesn’t mean you have to beat yourself up. Remember our last point: the journey can be its own reward sometimes. And every time you fail, just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on track. Learning about what worked and what didn’t work and using that to improve is an important part of having a growth mindset. 


Maria Onzain

Maria is a Journalist and Content Marketing Specialist writing for Open Colleges about education, career, wellbeing, and innovation. With a degree in journalism and a master in international marketing, she covers stories on online publications about ed-tech, business, and women.

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