Most of us have been there – the start of a new year brings about exciting feelings of change and fresh starts. Perhaps you are looking to jump-start a new eating plan to lose those holiday gains, or train for a local race. You also may be thinking of switching jobs, starting school or making a move to a new home or city. Maybe your goals are related to seeking peace with a certain family member, or to volunteer somewhere.

So, you write out your long list of major goals, make promises to yourself, and by the time March rolls around the list has been misplaced or tossed and the unmet goals are nagging reminders that you failed yourself. You give up and say to yourself, “Next year I’ll do better.”

What might help you to reach those seemingly-unattainable goals is a plan. Below are a few tools for your New Year’s Resolution Starter Kit that can help you get off on the right foot and keep up the success throughout the year:

1. Make a list of all the goals you’d like to meet for the year. Whether it’s travel more, spend time with family, participate in a local fitness event or lose weight, list them all. Don’t hold back – put down everything you want to accomplish, and leave the criticism to others.

2. Categorize the goals into areas of your life, and pick the top two or three that matter most to you. Some of your goals may fall under “self improvement”, others under “finances”, “career” or “happiness.” You may find that you have more in one area than another, which can be very telling! Deciding to focus on two or three specific areas will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed, and prevent you from setting yourself up for failure.

3. Now number those goals in your chosen areas in order of importance to you. Remember, these are YOUR goals, no one else’s, and only you can determine which matter most to you.

4. Rank your goals on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being highly unlikely to complete, 10 being absolutely within reach). Be honest with yourself, and be realistic – if you rank something a 10 knowing that due to whatever your circumstances it probably won’t happen, you’re already setting yourself up for heartache. However, if there is something you really want to accomplish but don’t know how, you may want to enlist someone who is knowledgeable about the goal and can help you understand what it will take.

5.  Now comes the really fun part – I call it the “Snack Attack”, and you’ll see why. Breaking those goals up into bite-sized pieces so they become more manageable and attainable can mean the difference between success and failure. When you accomplish the smaller goals, the good feelings will provide the motivation to keep on going.

For example, let’s say you want to complete a 5k race. In order to do this, you need to have the right gear, the proper training, and a race that fits your lifestyle. So your bite-sized pieces to help make this goal a reality would be to

  • purchase what you need to run (new shoes, a watch for timing your runs)
  • find a training regime or partner that works with your fitness level and schedule (online training plan or find a partner at your gym)
  • pay the entry fee for a race that takes place about the time you’ll be finished training.

Then, you can take even smaller pieces such as tracking your training for each mile you pass. As you check off each of these pieces, you’ll feel such satisfaction that quitting may never even enter your mind.

6.  Share! The more people you share your goals with, the more engaged and empowered you’ll feel in both your progress and your accomplishments. Als0, don’t forget to share the goals with yourself – daily. Once you have your list completed, transfer it to a large poster board or paper that you can place somewhere you’ll see it every day. Keeping your goals top-of-mind will help ingrain them into your everyday thinking.

7. Expect the unexpected and forgive. Life happens, and there will always be things that you can’t plan for that could throw you off schedule to reaching your goal. However, you can plan on how you tackle unforeseen obstacles when they make an appearance on your path. By remaining flexible, you can keep striving to reach your goals, even if you’re on a different path or timeline. Also, forgive yourself for missteps and snags. Perhaps you are having a bad day, and you don’t feel like training. Take that day off and attend to your feelings, and pick up the training the following day. Forgive yourself your personal setbacks, and keep with the plan. Don’t let a bad day throw you completely off course. It’s a bump – you’ll get over it and keep on keeping on.

I hope this post was as helpful for you as it was for me – I’m off to make my list right now! Good luck and here’s to a successful new year!


Kristin Hall is a Counselor in Training at Step By Step Counseling, LLC. She enjoys working with adults who struggle with relationships, substance abuse, grief or life transitions.