2021 New Year Resolutions: Ideas for Setting Realistic Goals this Year

Ideas for setting realistic goals this year

Looking back on last year’s resolutions, you may find a gap between your expectations versus the reality. By February, however, 45% of people have already given up on their resolutions. In fact, only 8% of people achieve the goals they set on New Year’s.

This year, you may want to focus on achieving something that you can pin down as a milestone. I’m not talking about holding yourself back, either. I’m talking about breaking down the exact steps you need to take to get from point A to point B.

One of the best ways to do this is to start with SMART goals. These are goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Let’s go through each of these categories to place them in the context of making resolutions on New Year’s Day.  

What are smart goals?

Smart goals are ones that are:

  • S - Specific
  • M - Measurable
  • A - Achievable
  • R - Relevant
  • T - Timebound

A woman writing notes in her journal

Setting smart goals for your New Year's resolutions

Specific: Maybe you want to eat healthier this year. That’s a good goal. Our health matters. But healthy means something different for everyone. Do you mean Gluten-free? Less meat? Less calories? Or maybe you mean more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods? When you define your specific goal, it gives you the power to take action right away.

Measurable: Taking the previous example, let’s say you want to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. To make a measurable difference, you’ll need to check how much you’re currently eating, and set a higher quantity. The daily recommendation is currently at 10 servings per day, but is that realistic for you? If not, set your own measurable goal. It might mean eating fresh fruit or veggies at every meal and between meals twice a day as a snack.

Achievable: Compare your measurable goal with your existing habits. If your goal is about 30% more of something, you might want to scale it back and say you’ll increase and review every 3 months to get to your larger goal.

Relevant: Among all the things you could set a goal for, eating healthy fruits and veggies might not fall in your top priorities. This is especially true if you’re already healthy. Choose something whether it’s for your career, social life, relationship, or lifestyle that seems like it will make an important impact on your life.

Time-bound: When you have a deadline for your goal, you might be more motivated to achieve it. For a new year resolution, the deadline is usually by this time next year. But this doesn’t help you much in the way of planning. So set yourself smaller quarterly and monthly benchmarks to reach that major goal. Using our example, this could mean adding in an additional serving of fruits and veggies every other month, until you reach 10 servings by the end of the year.  

A woman looking at her child in a stroller

How to make Popular New Year Resolutions more Realistic

Here are the top ten New Year's resolutions by popularity. You’ll notice they aren’t smart goals at all. Let’s fix that.

  1. Lose weight
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Save more money
  4. Find a partner or get married/divorced
  5. Learn something new
  6. Spend more time with loved ones
  7. Quit smoking
  8. Read more
  9. Change jobs/careers
  10. Do fun things more often

Turn these into smart goals with this thought-provoking checklist:

  • Narrow down your approach. State the exact thing you plan to do. If it’s reading more, say which books you’ll read, for instance.
  • What is your end goal. How much change are you planning to undergo?
  • Do you have the time, resources and a support system in place to achieve this?
  • How much will this support all of the other goals in your life? Is it really worth it, or does it just sound cool? What’s your primary motivation for this and is it a good one?
  • Set daily, weekly and monthly benchmarks to get you to that big end goal.

A woman walking her dog on an empty dirt road in a field

You got this!! As you can see, setting smart goals is a great way to improve your chances of winning. But not everyone is self-motivated to get things done. We need all the help we can get to make things more achievable. So, if your resolution is a tough one, get a buddy to go in on it with you. This way, you can hold each other accountable for your progress throughout the year.