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How to Set Goals You Can Reach

Updated on February 13, 2018
DzyMsLizzy profile image

Peace, harmony, and lifelong learning are Liz's passions. She's outspoken on education and childhood and is an activist in local politics.

Too Many Resolutions?


New Year's Resolution Goals Can Cause Stress

It is the time of year when a great many people incur a great deal of needless stress over the annual ritual of setting goals, commonly known as "New Year's Resolutions." The stress arises over worry of failing to achieve the goal or goals, which in turn has much to do with memories of prior failed attempts.

There is no need for this annual stress. We live in stressful times. The economy is in terrible shape; people are losing jobs and even their homes on a daily basis; goods we need are being priced out of reach. There is plenty of stress to go around with all of those things. Why add in more stress with your resolutions?

Personally, I refuse to add this stress to my own life, and over twenty-five years ago, made the only "New Year's Resolution" I've ever kept: I "resolved" to never make any more New Year's resolutions.

Timing is Everything

If you don't want to follow my lead, that's fine. Just be sure to set realistic goals that won't overstress you.

First, you don't need to base your resolutions or goals on the start of a new year. It might not be a good time to do that. In fact, it probably is one of the worst times to try and start a new regime of any kind.

The hustle and bustle of the holidays has ended, and everyone is coming down from their holiday high into an anti-climactic place of just being dog-tired from all the rushing around. Your body and mind both need time to rest and recuperate.

After going over-and-above from Thanksgiving (sometimes earlier), until after the various December holidays, shopping, cooking, cleaning, visiting, cleaning, visiting, cooking,, get the picture. By the time January 1st rolls around, for the most part, we are physically and emotionally spent.

Add to that the fact that tax forms start showing up in the mail, and then everyone is stressing about April 15th looming.

Give It a Rest

Allow your body and mind some down-time after all of that holiday rushing around. This is the time to catch up on those books you wanted to read, the new games you want to play, the long phone calls with friends.

This is the time for those long soaks in a relaxing bubble bath, or hot tub, naps in the afternoon (well, on the weekends, anyway, for those not yet retired) and playing with your pets, who may have felt neglected during the holidays.

It is still the dead of winter, and that lack of daylight drains the energy from many people. For some, it even manifests as a medically-defined ailment known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Interesting, don't you think, that the condition's initials spell "SAD?." That's how many people feel when winter has them in its dark and icy grip. It is a form of depression, and makes doing anything, even normal daily routines, much harder.

Mother Nature Refreshes and Renews Early in the Year, Too

Spring is even Mother Nature's time of renewal
Spring is even Mother Nature's time of renewal

Spring Into Your Resolutions

With the coming of Spring, the light is coming back, the weather is starting to improve, the days get longer, and our physical and mental energy become renewed as well.

Now is the time to go after new projects, goals, resolutions, or whatever name you choose to assign.

A word of caution, however: choose your goals carefully, and just because you're feeling a new surge of energy, do not over-estimate your "carrying capacity." I offer a quote from the inscription of the ancient Greek temple at Delphi which advises, "Know thyself." Understand your own limitations and tolerance for multi-tasking.

The only true failure is the failure to keep trying."

How Do We Manage This?

If Spring is a good time to start new projects, it doesn't necessarily follow that it is a good time to start four, six or a dozen. Don't cause yourself stress by trying to do too many things at once.

For example, if you want to quit smoking, focus on that, and don't try to go on a diet at the same time. In fact, those two particular goals are the single most difficult pair most folks will face, and they will 'argue' with each other. A great many people end up putting on weight as they stop smoking, so trying to lose weight at the same time is doing things backwards.

Get off the smokes first, and when you feel fully clear of them, that is the time to approach the dieting issue. Yes, it might be another year. Don't be hard on yourself. That's the whole idea, here--eliminate additional stress--especially self-imposed stress.

Patience is the keyword here, and to use another familiar saying, "Rome wasn't built in a day." Pick your battles of will, and focus on the big ones one at a time.

If your list includes other smaller issues, such as re-organizing your office, or going through the closet and weeding out things you no longer use, then of course it makes sense to do a certain amount of multi-tasking. We multi-task all the time. Well, at least we women do; we are very comfortable with the concept of while the washing machine is running, we can vacuum the carpet.

Starting a volunteer activity is another type of thing that can be accommodated while you are doing something else. In fact, it is an excellent choice to accompany a bigger, harder thing such as the dieting or stopping smoking, as it will give your brain something else to think about.

Just be sure the activity is compatible with your goal. For example, don't volunteer at a food kitchen for the homeless if dieting is your objective. You will only torment yourself and cause that added stress.

Break It Up!

Just as with any physical fight, you want to end it, break it up, stop the fighting. In the realm of resolutions and goals, the way to do this is to plan for smaller bites.

Don't think, "Oh, I'm going to get back in shape by running 5 miles every day." Wait! What? Are you even accustomed to running at all? Try walking for a certain amount of time, instead.

It is much easier to set smaller goals that can be more easily reached, and then set another smaller one, and so forth, until the ultimate goal is achieved. This is so much more relaxing and easy to do. And, you don't have to ever beat yourself up for being a "failure." Even if you do backslide at some point, no matter what the final desired result, let it go.

Tomorrow is another day, and you can simply wipe the slate and start again. You won't have lost enough to worry about, and you won't be stressing yourself out.

So, whether it's dieting, smoking cessation, writing a hundred new articles, or going back to school; take baby steps, do one thing at a time, and be kind to yourself.

Baby Steps

A class I attend for stress management offers this means of checking on your goals; they should be "smart:"

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Actionable

R = Realistic

T = Timeline

By checking in with these criteria, we can be sure of not biting off more than we can chew, and of not getting overwhelmed by the larger picture. "I'm going to walk for 10 minutes 3 days this week," is very specific, it is measurable, it is an action we can take, it is realistic, and it has a definite timeline to happen. This is a goal that can be met.

On the other hand, setting a goal such as "I'm going to lose 40 pounds," is perhaps admirable, but not very specific; there is no timeframe, and it is too much to consider all at once.

Baby steps, folks, baby steps. I struggle with this myself. I have a huge project to do in my office, and I am continually bogged down by seeing all of it. I, too, need to remind myself to start from where I am, and just aim for a few small successes at a time.

© 2011 Liz Elias


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, talitz2550--Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm glad you liked the article and that I was able to provide some inspiration and motivation.

  • talitz2550 profile image


    9 years ago from Thailand

    Fantastic Hub! I must read this over and over and over again!!! So I can rekindle my hubbing :D Keep it up!!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, 2uesday--

    Thanks so much--I'm pleased you found the article useful and fitting.

  • 2uesday profile image


    9 years ago

    Wise advice for me the spring is a much better time to get to grips with things than winter time.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Chin chin--I'm pleased you liked the article, and I thank you for your compliment and for adding your thoughts. Timing is everything, in all of life, now, isn't it? Thanks for stopping by!

  • Chin chin profile image

    Chin chin 

    9 years ago from Philippines

    Nicely written MsLizzy. At the start of the New Year, it is when most people would like to start anew with their goals. But I agree with you that it can be overwhelming. Any time of the year, especially Spring, can be a good time to start doing something. A good gauge as well is to start it just when you feel the most need on doing something. Totally agree on Timing is everything.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ ImChemist--Thank you very much for your comment and the vote!

    @ cardelean--I hear you. Most of my life has been filled with assorted piles of incompleted projects. Then I learned not to try to tackle so many things at once, and to forgive myself if there were some that never got done. Thanks very much for your input; I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

    @ Nell Rose--Hi, Nell--Why, thank you for such a wonderful compliment! I just put it to my brain this way: I don't do mornings because I need light and sunshine, and winter is very much like the pre-dawn hours. In fact, next year, I'm thinking of taking up hibernation! ;-) Enjoy your book and tea!

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 

    9 years ago from England

    Hi, your a genius! lol! I never thought about taking a rest because its winter and we need the sun etc to get our energy up, why on earth do we do resolutions at this time of year? exactly! nice one, now I am going to get a book and a cup of tea! ha ha!

  • cardelean profile image


    9 years ago from Michigan

    I can definitely say that I am one that tries to do too much. One of my goals this year is to actually take time for myself and work toward some things that I have been putting off. Thanks so much for your timely reminder.

  • ImChemist profile image


    9 years ago

    I agree with you about timing because timing is every thing in real, all my life is just plan with time.

    thanks for sharing this useful hub that i rated useful

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, K9!

    I'm tickled pink that you so enjoyed my slant on this tired old tradition. Hub hugs "back atcha!"

  • K9keystrokes profile image

    India Arnold 

    9 years ago from Northern, California

    This is a hub that I can get behind! I really appreciate your advice on just taking it slow and knowing when the time is right to take on new goals. The New Year makes so many of us feel as if this is the only time to set new goals. As you make clear, this may well be the worst time to set goals! Great hub dzymslizzy!



  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    @ geethbhim--Thank you very much for your input. I agree with you.

    @ mljdgulley354--You are right. It is very easy to think of too many things to do and paralyze ourselves just thinking about all of it at once. Thanks for your valuable comment.

    @ FGual--So true--I fully agree that was a crummy tradition for someone to start. I've no idea where it came from, but it's been around too long, and needs to be shown the door. You're right--do things whenever able throughout the year, and don't forget to reward your accomplishments.

    @ Simone Smith--Hi there, Simone! I'm glad you liked my take on the concept. Thanks very much for stopping by and commenting.

    @ JYOTI KOTHARI--Hello, Jyoti--I'm pleased that you liked the article. Thank you very much for the comment and the votes!

  • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

    Jyoti Kothari 

    9 years ago from Jaipur

    Its unique. You are writing in non-traditional way with new angle. Actually speaking I love new ideas.

    This is really a great hub. Rated Awesome and up!

  • Simone Smith profile image

    Simone Haruko Smith 

    9 years ago from San Francisco

    Spring is SUCH a great time for setting new goals, and you make a great point about keeping it simple. Good point also about the first of the year being a bit too hectic and stressful for taking on such ambitious new projects. Thanks for sharing the sound recommendations!

  • FGual profile image


    9 years ago from USA

    The entire New Year's resolutions idea is lousy, I wonder who started that. Setting goals when tired of traveling and partying will be fruitless. Much better to set small achievable goals throughout the year, then celebrate your success.

  • mljdgulley354 profile image


    9 years ago

    Knowing your own limitations is very wise. Sometimes we have so much we want to do that just thinking about it we overwhelm ourselves and nothing gets done.

  • geetbhim profile image

    sangeeta verma 

    9 years ago from Ludhiana India

    Yes I agree with you new year is not the time to start a resolution, its whenever you feel you can start your resolution and stick to your goal.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Arlene--

    Yes we can be guilty of getting in our own way many times. Sometimes, as I mentioned, it is timing, and sometimes, a matter of lack of faith in oneself.

    Thanks for stopping by and adding your comment, and the vote!

  • profile image

    Arlene V. Poma 

    9 years ago

    Awwwwwww, MsLizzy, some people are their worst enemies when it comes to not achieving their goals in life. I found out almost 15 years back (this was during the New Year, too) that if you really want something, you will go after it. There is something so magical about reaching a goal. You would be a fool not to repeat the process again and again. If anyone is lacking confidence when it comes to meeting their goals, I'd like to say, "Just go kick some ass, Honey. You'll do just fine . . ." This is my wish for anyone who is struggling. Voted up!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    9 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, venki_indiain--thank you for your input. Yes, a plan is important, as well as proper timing, and for each individual, that will be different.

  • venki_indiain profile image


    9 years ago from Chennai

    By putting a proper action plan, there will be a meaning of setting goals. But people every year they may set goals but action plan is missing.

    Action plan and regular follow ups will lead to achieve a goal whatever it is.


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