A Guide to Goal Setting

January is known as being the perfect time for a fresh start and clean slate. Many people set New Year’s resolutions with hopes of breaking a bad habit or conquering something new, while others look at January as just another month on the calendar. Those who choose to stay away from resolutions at the beginning of the year often tell themselves they won’t stick with them, or believe setting personal goals would impose too much self-inflicted pressure.

Whether you choose to set New Year’s resolutions or not, setting goals in your personal and professional life remains important year-round – January just happens to be a good month to reset! There are many benefits and advantages to goal setting. Goals can provide tangible ways to turn your vision of the future into reality. Setting them allows you to measure your achievements and can give you a clear picture of your growth and progress throughout time. A goal gives you something to work towards and can help motivate you to persevere when things do not go according to plan.

One method for goal setting is using the SMART acronym. A SMART goal means that your goal is:


Specific: If your goals are too broad, you won’t be as motivated to work toward them because a broad goal can often feel insurmountable and unachievable. A specific goal will allow you to focus your efforts. For example, simply losing weight is not a great goal. Set one that specifically lists how many pounds you’d like to lose.

Measurable: Being able to track your progress during your journey toward your goals will help keep you motivated along the way. Assessing your progress from your measurable goal will not only help you meet deadlines but will keep you excited. Sometimes goals are big and cannot be reached overnight! Feel empowered to set milestones (or mini progress markers) towards your goals, especially the larger ones.

Achievable: Though you can be bold with your goals, don’t set a goal that is unrealistic or unattainable. When setting an attainable goal, ask yourself, “do I have the skills/tools needed to accomplish this goal?”

Relevant: Make sure your goals matter to you and that they are relevant to other goals and plans you have for yourself personally or professionally. Does your goal have a purpose? Does it align with your other larger goals and dreams?

Timely: Lastly, every goal needs a time frame. A deadline gives you something to work toward and pushes you to focus each day on what you can do to meet your deadline. How long will it take you to meet your goal? What can you do today to ensure you are on the road to meeting your SMART goal?

The SMART acronym is just one method to setting and achieving your goals. With any goal, whether personal or professional, identify specific strategies you can take that will set you up for success.

If using a formal framework like this is too structured for you, try giving something new a whirl. Why not try to make a list of 21 things you would like to accomplish in 2021? Try selecting different areas of your life and find at least one way to instill joy in that area. If you are more visual, create a vision board for how you want your year to look. You can include pictures, phrases and graphics that will inspire you and motivate you to be your highest self. Do you want to form a new habit but don’t know where to start? Dedicate 21 minutes each day to working on that habit. If one of your goals is to read more in the new year, read for 21 minutes each day. If one of your goals is to exercise more in the new year, set aside 21 minutes of your day for physical activity.

Whatever you do, goal setting is not designed to be something that causes you to beat yourself up. Goal setting is designed to push you to be your very best self.