How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Keep This Year

I know, I know, you’ve probably heard how to set goals and New Year’s resolutions with hundreds of times over the years.

But if you’re anything like me, it never hurts to have a reminder every once in a while. And this time of year is the perfect time to set new goals since it really does feel like a fresh start. The holidays are over, the days are (slowly) getting longer, and it’s time to kick some serious ass at life!

Here are 5 simple yet effective ways to set goals you’ll actually keep this year, whether they’re fitness, career, or life-oriented:

Make them actionable (and measurable)

I know I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t stress how important it is to make your goals something you can take actionable steps towards and then easily measure the result.

For example, while making a goal to get stronger is an OK goal to have, a much better goal would be to say you want to be able to hold a handstand for 30 seconds, do your first pistol, or do 5 pull ups in a row.

Each of those goals is something you can easily make a plan to work towards (the plan is the easy part—then you have to put in the hard work). Better yet, actionable goals like these allow you to track your progress much better than a broad goal like “get stronger” will.

Make them realistic

Please, please don’t think that by saying to be realistic I’m telling you not to go after really challenging goals. That’s not it at all.

I want you to dream big. If you have a goal, even if it seems impossible now, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it.

By making your goals realistic, what I’m really suggesting is that you go after something that is at least somewhat possible.

For instance, no matter how much I’d like to be an Olympic gymnast, there is pretty much zero chance that I could ever get there in this lifetime. I’m too tall, too old, haven’t been training since I was two years old, etc. It’s just not going to happen.

Yet pretty much every fitness goal I’ve made in recent years has been something I’d previously thought was impossible… but I went after those goals anyway.

When I made a goal to be able to hold a handstand for 30+ seconds, it’s not like I was actually good at handstands—I sucked at them. But I knew that although I was at a disadvantage, having long arms and never having done gymnastics as a kid, I could do it as long as I worked hard and didn’t give up.

When I first decided I was going to be able to do a pull up, despite having weak, stringy arms, I was not met with a lot of encouragement from others. Heck, even The New York Times tells women they shouldn’t be able to do pull ups.

At the time I decided I wanted to be able to do 50 double unders in a row, I could barely even do two in a row without tripping or whipping myself with the jump rope. It took a long time, and I ended up with a lot of bruises—but I got there.

All of these goals were scary, and hard, and really, really frustrating at times. But all of them were also realistic—meaning there wasn’t anything stopping me from doing them aside from my own dedication and hard work.

So when you go to make your upcoming one, two, or five year goals, don’t rule out the hard stuff. Go for the really big goals, the goals that scare you a little bit (or a lot), even the ones that other people might tell you are impossible.

But maybe don’t make it a goal to be in the NBA if you’re 45 and have never picked up a basketball in your life.

Attach them to a timeline

There’s something really motivating about going after goals that have some sort of deadline.

That’s why so many people like to set goals to complete a marathon, a triathlon, etc. yet only really start training for it once they’ve actually paid the fee and put it on their calendar—our human brains just seem to really function well with time-oriented goals as opposed to open ended ones.

So whether it’s a forced deadline (i.e. “I am going to be able to do a pistol by this summer, dammit!”) or a predetermined one like a specific race, tournament, etc., try building in a timeline to as many of your goals as possible.

Not only will attaching a deadline of some sort to your goals keep you more motivated to go after them, it will probably also encourage you to work harder and more efficiently, and as a result accomplish your goal sooner than you would have without a timeline.

Make them something you’re excited about

It’s a lot more motivating to go after something you’ve always wanted to be able to do—such as compete in a Tough Muddler race or be able to do a muscle up on the rings—than to try to do something you feel like you should do, like exercise more to lower your blood pressure or lose 10 pounds just because your doctor told you to.

The first strategy will make you much more likely to follow through and actually accomplish your goals since performance-based goals tend to be more motivating and more fun in general than general “have to” goals. Plus, the good thing about performance-based or excitement-based goals is that although they’re much more fun to work towards, they end up helping you with any general health or weight loss goals along the way as well.

For example, if you’d like to lose weight and improve your mobility, you could spend hours a week on the elliptical machine and then even more hours in a stretching-focused class that you hate going to…

Or, you could pick up rock climbing, get really excited about it and realize you need to increase your mobility and flexibility in order to keep improving, so you end up rock climbing several days a week and happily foam rolling and stretching at night while watching your favorite show, knowing the more you work on your flexibility, the better you’ll get at your new sport.

Both strategies will lead to a similar result (although you’ll build strength while rock climbing as well as burning fat), but one will be way more fun than the other.

Write them down

What do you think the chances are that you’ll accomplish a goal if you forget you even have it as a goal?

Yeah, probably close to zero.

That’s why it’s so important to write down your goals—so that you never, ever let yourself forget you made them in the first place.

Write them in your journal, put them in an Evernote note, jot them down on sticky notes and put them all over your bathroom mirror—just make sure it’s a place that you check often so that you never forget you have those goals.

Having a constant, written reminder of your goals will make it much, much more likely that you’ll actually accomplish them.

My fitness goals for 2015

Rather than setting myself up for failure with way too many overly strict New Year’s resolutions, I thought I’d make a few, fairly reasonable (based on my current skill and strength level) fitness goals instead.

That way, if my understanding of what it takes to accomplish those goals ends up changing, or if my interests pivot slightly, I won’t feel as bad about myself than if I’d set non-changeable resolutions and then failed to accomplish them.

Here are some of my personal fitness goals for this year:

  • To finally get under the 6 minute mark when doing 100 burpees
  • To do a human flag. Or at least a partial one…
  • To do unassisted front and back handsprings
  • To improve at several aspects of handstands (be able to do splits, straddles, and tucks without falling, start working on elevated handstands, etc.)
  • To do elbow levers (on the ground) and back levers (on the rings/pull up bar)
  • To do a non-chicken wing muscle up

What are your goals for the year? Leave them below in the comments if you want to share!

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3 thoughts on “How to Set Goals You’ll Actually Keep This Year”

  1. My goal is to do one pull up. ONE! I am working so hard, and I have taken your advice (from other articles) to heart. I am about 33% there haha, working with a band for assisted pull ups at this point. But I am getting STRONGER and the other day my boyfriend commented on my “rock hard shoulders” so this goal comes with extra benefits 🙂
    It may be a small goal but it’s one I never thought I could achieve until recently.

  2. Hi Krista,

    One goal is complete my fourth Half Marathon in a year – having never ran one before March last year, I trained for it, caught the bug and signed up for two more across the year, plus some 10Ks. To run the one in March this year would be the anniversary of my first so it would be a celebration of a year of running. In that year I managed to get my average minutes per mile down from 8:30+ to 7:40 over 13.1 miles. And over 5K from 7:40 to 6:43. I would like to get closer to 7:30mins over 10K and Half Marathon.

    After this, my next goal is to train for a Muay Thai fight in September. I’ve been training solidly in martial arts for the past 7 years and included Muay Thai two years ago – I passed four gradings in 2014 in this style, as well as gradings in Filipino Kali and Wing Chun Kung Fu.

    As a by-product I would like to get my weight down to around 69-70kg from the current circa73-74kg in time for the proposed fight. In addition see my body fat get as close to 5% as possible.,

    Happy New Year!


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