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How Do You Set Goals For the New Year?

A woman is standing at the start line of a race. She is stretching her leg. On the ground it is written "2024 START"

How Do You Set Goals For the New Year?

A woman is standing at the start line of a race. She is stretching her leg. On the ground it is written "2024 START"

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, it’s only natural to reflect on the past and contemplate the possibilities that lie ahead. For many, this is a time of renewal and self-discovery—a chance to set intentions that pave the way for personal growth and fulfillment. Setting goals is a powerful tool in this process, acting as a compass that guides us toward the life we envision.

If you struggle with perfectionism, you may have had trouble in the past when it came to setting your goals for the new year. Whether you suffered from all-or-nothing thinking and were never satisfied, or didn’t make any attempts toward your goals because “why bother if it won’t be perfect?”, you may have a tough relationship with New Year’s goals. Part of the process, therefore, is viewing a goal as a direction to take and a journey to embark upon rather than solely investing in the final outcome.

The Importance of Setting Goals

Goals serve as beacons of purpose in our lives, offering direction and motivation. They provide a roadmap that not only helps us identify our aspirations but also enables us to break them down into manageable steps. Setting goals fosters a sense of accountability and accomplishment, empowering us to take charge of our destinies. Moreover, the act of goal-setting instills a positive mindset, encouraging us to focus on what we can achieve rather than dwelling on perceived limitations.

5 Ways to Set Goals for The New Year

1) Reflect on the Past Year:

A young African American woman is sitting on the couch of her living room, looking out the window. She is writing in her journal.

Setting goals isn’t about changing everything about your life. Consider what worked well, what you learned, and how you can leverage these experiences to shape your aspirations. For example, if you discovered a new passion that you’d like to make more time for in 2024, that will impact how you prioritize your time when it comes to your goals overall.

You might have difficulty determining what you learned from the last year; maybe it felt like a blur, or maybe you didn’t feel like you grew or changed. To help yourself focus, think back to the happiest times of the year. Think back to the times you felt most accomplished. Remember events or situations that you felt confident in. Those positive feelings are what you are aiming for.

For example, if your happiest memories involve spending quality time with your friends, then consider if you would have liked more time with them. If so, that can be a goal for the year! The purpose of our goals is to make sure we are pursuing a life that aligns with our values. Not every goal has to be to climb a mountain, get new training, or learn a new skill. They definitely can be if that will add the most to your life! But there is nothing wrong with making goals about rest, community, and relaxation.

While bringing your happiness into the new year with you is important, reflecting on the past year will also allow you to determine what wasn’t serving you. Did you struggle to set and enforce boundaries? Were you drawn into a toxic dynamic or susceptible to unhealthy behaviors in relationships? How much time did you spend on self-care; were you looking out for yourself? Conversely, did you mean to make more of an effort with certain loved ones, but you found yourself forgetting to reach out or canceling on plans? This process isn’t about shaming yourself but rather considering if you feel your choices and actions align with the person you are and the person you want to be. If they did not, bidding them farewell is a great way to focus on what you think will best represent you going forward.

2) Define Specific and Measurable Objectives:

A young graduate is raising her hands in celebration with her diploma in one hand. She is wearing a graduation gown and hat.

Whether it’s personal development, career milestones, or health and wellness goals, articulating clear objectives allows you to track your success and make adjustments as needed. “I want to feel healthier” is an idea for a goal, not the goal itself. When you are setting goals, be specific. Health is a great one to break down, as the way we have been conditioned to measure our health (typically from an aesthetic point of view) is flawed for two reasons: one, how you look and how you feel don’t necessarily correlate; and two, the way you look isn’t behavior or habits.

With this in mind, consider what you might mean when you set a goal of improving your health. Would it benefit you to get outside more often; how many days per week can you commit to that? Do you want to be able to run a certain distance? Do you like the idea of committing to a certain number of days in the gym? Are you determined to drink enough water this year? Have you found that you feel better when you eat more nutrient-rich foods? How about sleep: how much sleep do you get? Do you attend massage therapy and/or physiotherapy appointments? You may have an existing routine that you’d like to adjust, such as changing a three-day split to a five-day split or adding a class you’ve been curious about, like pole dancing.

In some cases, if you are working toward a task with a finite result, such as upgrading your education or qualifications for your career, it is easiest to begin with the end and work your way backward. If you are seeking a promotion, what steps would you have to take to get there? Are there qualifications that you need, such as a certain amount of experience in an aspect of your job? Might a change in employer be necessary to get where you want to go?

Being specific and breaking your goal down into milestones not only gives you a game plan but also allows you to celebrate as you go along. Waiting until some future date in which you can celebrate is a surefire way to either give up or resent the process.

3) Prioritize and Break Down Goals:

A woman is writing in her journal with a pen. She is standing in her pantry.

Break down large goals into smaller, more manageable tasks. One giant, looming goal can be daunting, to say the least. It also doesn’t factor in how interconnected various goals can be. For example, if your goal is to spend more time caring for yourself, that can impact goals you have about your career, spending time with your loved ones, as well as your regular care routines to do with eating, sleeping, hydrating, and moving your body.

When it comes to prioritizing your goals, approach them realistically. Some things will always take priority for you. Sometimes, emergencies will occur. Understanding how you rank your goals will allow you to pursue what is most important and keep track of them if and when something doesn’t go to plan. Having your goals broken down also helps with this, as you can still tackle a smaller piece of the puzzle when you have other events on the front burner. In this way, your goals aren’t forgotten or abandoned; you might have to adjust their timeline a little bit.

When you break down your goals, don’t forget to decide what your rewards will be as you achieve each milestone. Celebrating yourself as you move through the process is great for morale. Will you go get your nails done? Have a potluck dinner with friends? Buy something from your Wishlist? Attend an event? Run a bubblebath and light the bathroom with candles? However you choose to celebrate, the important thing is that you do it. And don’t forget to share your success with others! Whether they be people in your field who will understand how important that certification is, loved ones who love to cheer you on, your therapist, or anyone. You deserve to be proud of yourself out loud.

Another great thing about breaking your goals down is that you have overall achievements. For example, if there are days where you don’t get enough rest and you don’t make it to the gym, but you still drink enough water, set aside to meditate and/or journal, and eat enough food to keep you energized, then you have succeeded in a lot of aspects of self-care for the day! Success is a far healthier motivator than failure, and a bunch of wins is a more realistic reflection of success. Yes, on a day with no hiccups, it feels great to achieve everything you set out to do. But days like that are few and far between; life isn’t predictable.

4) Create a Support System:

2 young women are running up a hiking trail of stairs. They are surrounded by greenery and are wearing workout clothing.

Share your goals with friends, family, or a supportive community. Having a network of individuals who understand and encourage your aspirations can be a powerful motivator. A support system will also be there to hype you up when you experience times of reduced self-confidence. Having confidence in yourself is an ongoing learning process; the goal is for you to feel that way most of the time. However, everyone can use a boost now and then!

If you are someone who struggles to ask for help, the idea of sharing your goals and reaching out for support might make you uncomfortable. Imagine that your friend or family member had a goal they were working towards and felt like a burden asking you for support. How would you feel? Sit with that feeling for a while. Consider the people in your life and how much you care for them. Think about how excited you are for them when they reach a goal or milestone. It can’t be hard to imagine they would feel the same way about you!

You can access support in your immediate circle or groups working towards similar goals, either in-person or online. The only time you shouldn’t ask for support is if doing so would harm the other person or go against beliefs you know are important to them. The wonderful thing about online communities is that you can find like-minded folks for almost everything! You can utilize your support network as accountability buddies, co-celebrators, troubleshooters, or anything that works for you.

You may also inspire them to chase some goals of their own! You will strengthen your connection with people who want to know how you are doing, what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Sharing our desires invites intimacy, understanding, and investment.

5) Embrace Flexibility and Adaptability:

A young Asian American woman is fallen in an ice rink. She is wearing ice skates and ear muffs, as she smiles and raises her leg in the air.

Sometimes, we are so focused on our goals that the smallest setback can seemingly come out of nowhere. These unhappy surprises can derail motivation if we’re not ready for them. Other times, we set a goal and don’t give ourselves permission to change it, even when we realize through the process that we don’t want what we thought we did or that we aren’t enjoying ourselves at all. If needed, be willing to reassess your goals and adjust your approach based on evolving circumstances. This resilience ensures that setbacks are viewed as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles.

We work toward adaptability in our young adult therapy in Woodland Hills, California. If you can grow up practicing being flexible and rolling with the punches, you have a solid skill set as you transition into adulthood. However, regardless of age, you can adopt behaviors and tactics to help you embrace flexibility. When we accept that we cannot predict the future, we also accept that we don’t have control over it. What this means is that we can control ourselves. We can think, speak, and behave in ways that align with our goals. Beyond that, we are not the boss.

Some days, we feel that the last thing we need is a mishap. However, these pauses are sometimes reminders to slow down, rest, and evaluate. Other times, they serve as proof that we are passionate about what we are working on! When you accept that progress doesn’t happen in a straight line, you can perceive solutions and silver linings. You are also able to come to terms when something doesn’t go your way, give yourself permission to be a little down about it, and console yourself. These disappointments sometimes require self-care; being aware that you are ready for it makes a big difference in how you take on that period of regrouping and trying again.

Planning and working toward goals is something that we see the benefits of in therapy for young adults and individuals of all ages, as well as therapy for couples! Having a purpose behind your decisions can create a sense of empowerment as you move through your life. Not every day will be one in which you make great strides or achieve big goals, but knowing what you are moving toward helps you feel that you are still moving! Becoming stagnant can create a sense of passivity and hopelessness. Goals, great and small, inspire self-focused work that keeps us aligned with what we value most.

Therapy for Young Adults in Woodland Hills 

In therapy customized for young adults, we want to get to know the real you—not the version your parents or society tell you to be. We want to learn about your feelings, thoughts, the things that keep you up at night, and what you want to achieve for yourself. When you begin Therapy For Young Adults in Woodland Hills, you can learn the skills you need to feel more resilient and develop authentic relationships with yourself and others. 

Contact us today for your complimentary 20-minute phone consultation with our Admin Team today!

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