Setting goals is like building a road map. It gives us a chance to consider where we’re at, what we want, and how to get there. Without a plan, we’re more likely to wander aimlessly or waste time on tactics that won’t work.
Goal setting requires structure, and using the start of a new year to reflect on progress and set new goals is great for this. It’s no wonder New Year’s resolutions are so common — and that we so commonly fail.
Don’t worry — we’ll discuss the importance of defining goals and outline examples you can use when setting goals for 2023 to help you stay on track all year long.
Reflecting on past years
A great way to set your goals is to think about what you achieved the following year. Consider what worked and didn’t so you can make any necessary adjustments.
The prize of goal setting is what you accomplish, so incentivize yourself for future goals by reviewing and celebrating what you achieved this past year.
Sometimes, life gets in the way of goals we were excited about. Note the things you didn’t accomplish and whether they’re goals you wish to take on again in the new year. This might be a great opportunity to adjust the goal to be more attainable to set yourself up for success this time around.
When considering which unattained goals to keep, consider the following:
- Was it too broad, and if so, how can I break it into smaller items?
- Did I build a plan to reach this goal?
- Was it attainable in the first place? If not, what do I need to do to make it attainable?
- Did an external factor make my goal too tricky to accomplish?
- Did I have the proper resources to achieve my goal?
- Do I still want this?
Building smarter goals
Setting SMART goals ensures you’re working smarter, not harder. SMART goals share five traits to give you a strong framework:
- Specific: Avoid broad, ill-defined goals. Turn long-term goals into several short-term ones, and note the resources necessary to achieve each one. They should be as specific as possible to keep you focused.
- Measurable: Define how you’ll measure progress and success. Include both short and long-term milestones. If you can’t tell how you’re progressing, it’ll be harder to stay motivated.
- Achievable: Think critically and honestly about what you’re capable of achieving, considering all obligations and resource constraints. Do you have the skills necessary to reach this milestone? Do you want to train for a marathon when you should start with a 10K race?
- Realistic: Consider whether you have the time, energy, and resources necessary to reach each goal. Remember to account for every goal you have when considering the bigger picture and be honest about how much progress you can make in one month.
- Time-bound: Ambiguous goals without start and end dates are difficult to measure. Having a due date also helps you stay motivated because it gives you a finish-line celebration to look toward — and adds accountability.
Setting goals for 2023
Before defining what you want to achieve in the new year, break your brainstorming session into time periods accounting for daily, weekly, monthly, and 12-month goals. Once you’ve decided on your goals for 2023 you can sort them into these sections.
Set yourself up for success by focusing on one goal at a time in each area of your life. Research from the Harvard Business School found that even if you set multiple goals, you’ll probably only focus on one. Scheduling your goals — which ones you’ll focus on in which months — will help you excel across the board.
This isn’t to say you can’t train to run 10K and work to wake up earlier at the same time. Those goals might even complement each other nicely. But training to run that race while aiming to increase your squat strength and start practicing yoga might be more fitness goals than you can manage at once. Keep running as your focus for part of the year, and once you’ve achieved that goal, turn to the next one.
To help inspire you, we’ve outlined goal examples for different areas of your life. Here are some goals to consider taking on in the new year.
These goals are all about what we think would make our lives happier and more fulfilling. They’re typically related to personal development so we feel we’re becoming the best version of ourselves.
Here are some personal goal examples:
- Read a certain number of books this year
- Develop a journaling practice
- Pick up a new hobby, such as cooking or gardening
- Travel to a foreign country
- Build a morning or bedtime routine
- Spend more time in nature
- Browse social media less
- Create the boundaries necessary to enjoy work-life balance
- Prioritize alone time
These focus on increasing our finances or paying off debt. They require looking at what we have now and crunching the numbers to figure out what we need to achieve our goals.
Financial goals typically require long-term planning, which many people find overwhelming. Studies show 70% of American households don’t have a long-term financial plan. While it’s scary, these are important goals to make to ensure you don’t feel even more overwhelmed about your financial wellness in the future.
Planning your finances also increases the likelihood you’ll have the money necessary to achieve other goals, such as trying out an expensive hobby or taking a vacation.
Here are some financial goal examples:
- Save X amount of money for a mortgage
- Pay off credit card debt
- Build an emergency fund
- Start a college fund
- Invest money
- Save X amount of money for retirement
When we prioritize our mental and physical health, every other area of our life improves. We’re better family members, partners, and employees when we feel great, think clearly, and have energy to give.
Here are a few health goal examples:
- Drink more water
- Quit smoking
- Implement a healthy sleep schedule
- Run a marathon
- Eat a more balanced diet
- Go to a public exercise class weekly
- Start individual or group therapy
- Learn mindfulness and meditation
- Practice gratitude
- Spend more time outside
- Develop an exercise hobby such as swimming, jogging, or cycling
Consider setting relationship goals with the other person when possible. It’s more likely you’ll develop increased intimacy with a partner or spend more quality time with a friend if they’re on the same page about deepening your relationship.
Your relationship goals might include:
- Call grandparents more often
- Check in with partner daily
- Develop healthy communication skills
- Practice active listening
- Make time for intimacy with partner
- Find friends with common interests
Your career goals might be to:
- Apply for an internship
- Become or find a mentor
- Learn a new skill
- Study for a certification
- Get a raise or promotion
- Find a new job
- Improve time-management skills
- Update your LinkedIn profile
- Define your small business goals
Setting goals and achieving them are two different things. The latter requires constant motivation, ambition, and resilience.
To figure out what motivates you, think about goals you’ve accomplished and why they were successful. Define your values and consider how these can inspire you to achieve your goals.
Here are four more things that’ll set you up for success:
- Understand your goal: Before working toward a goal, ask yourself why you set it. Write this initial motivator down and remind yourself of it whenever you’re feeling unmotivated. Remember: Your why can change — you just need to have one.
- Make a plan: Goals are less overwhelming when broken into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Having a plan and focusing on the smaller, more immediate steps will make your goal feel achievable.
- Ask for help: Most of us accomplish more when held accountable by someone else. We can talk ourselves out of doing something, but if we feel we owe it to someone we respect and admire we’re more likely to follow through. Tell a friend, family member, or coach about your goal and ask them to check in on your progress.
- Be flexible: Life is predictably unpredictable. There’s no sense in feeling discouraged if life throws you a curveball that messes with your plan. If circumstance makes one task or goal impossible, make adjustments and focus on what you can control. Remember to be kind to yourself for trying your best.
Reaching your 2023 goals
The most important part of striving to achieve your goals is staying positive. Beating yourself up won’t get you anywhere — it’ll only make you feel less capable and valuable.
If you set SMART goals and think critically when planning, you’ll likely succeed. (Unless life gives you lemons, and even then you know what to do.) And you’re worth investing time into, so don’t let your inner critic tell you otherwise when you’re setting goals for 2023.