How To Set Goals for the New Year
Who’s ready for a fresh start after this past year? With the end of the holiday season and a new year upon us, we look forward with anticipation and expectation to all that awaits us in 2023.
Whether your hopes for the new year are big or little, it can help to take time to think through some goals.
Goal setting is different than generating a typical list of New Year’s resolutions or wishes.
I tend to take on too many tasks and set my sights on the “big “things I want to accomplish.” Goal setting keeps me on track to accomplish those things.
For example, a few years ago, we helped our oldest son and his wife build a house. Before we began, we made a list of all the jobs that needed to be done. Then we divided the responsibilities and assigned time limits. We called these “next steps.” Every week, my husband sent out an email with goals for that week, so we all had clear expectations to help us make progress toward the bigger goal we were trying to achieve.
I learned to apply that idea to every aspect of my life. I realized that setting good goals could help keep me focused and intentional in the new year. Other benefits of goal-setting have been well-researched and documented.
The SMART Method
There are multiple methods that can help us set goals. My favorite method is the SMART method. Each letter of the acronym “SMART” stands for a key description of a good goal:
Set a goal that defines exactly what you want to achieve. Most goals are not reached because they are too vague. For example, saying I want to get in shape is great, but without specifics, how can it be reached? What does “getting in shape” really mean—am I thinking of physical, emotional, and spiritual fitness? Or just one category?
The goal must be measurable in order to succeed. How do we know if we reach our goal if there is not a way to measure it? Make a plan that will let you know when you have met your goal. If my goal is to be in better physical shape, will I measure that by the distance I can run after 12 months of training? The numbers at my next physical exam with the doctor? Five days a week of healthful eating over the next three months?
The goal must be attainable; otherwise, it is a dream. When we set something so far out of our reach that it becomes unattainable, we tend to give up and return to our everyday routines without pursuing our goals. How fair are we being to ourselves if we set goals beyond our reach? For the majority of us, getting in shape will not be realized with an invitation to compete for our country at the next Olympic Games. But it might mean being able to walk a mile comfortably for the first time ever or running your first 5K.
The goal needs to be relevant not only to your life and long-term plan but to the daily activities in your life now. For instance, wanting to get in shape is more difficult when life is stressful due to an illness, an upcoming event such as the holidays, or an out-of-town business trip. When setting goals, keep your calendar in mind to ensure your goals fit your lifestyle.
Most goals need a time limit in order to succeed, so determine the time needed to achieve the goal and give it a deadline. Again, goals without time constraints tend to simply fall away as time moves on throughout the year. Some of your goals may be incremental, with smaller deadlines that lead to a much bigger time frame. Perhaps aiming to walk that first mile comfortably over the next three months can lead to two miles by June, or jogging a half mile by August.
Involve Others in the Process
By using this method to set my personal, spiritual, and professional goals, I have been able to see the results and adjust as needed or completely re-evaluate my goals to possibly set new ones.
We actually make goal setting a family affair. Together, we talk about and create a list of what is important to us as individuals and as a family. Then, we devise a plan to meet those goals. Younger children and students may need some additional guidance on goal setting, but the benefits are just a real for their age group.
For my family, talking about goals keeps us connected and provides conversation starters and opportunities to reconnect throughout the year. Find a community that will help you reach your goals. For example, if your overall goal is to get in better shape by running in your first 5K within the year, join a training program or invite a friend or family member to join you in a None to Run training schedule.
There are many goal-setting methods available. I challenge you to find one or two methods, put them into practice, and set a few goals to help make the coming year one that is intentional and rewarding.
Do your goals include better connections with God and with other people?