New Year, New Start: Help for Setting Goals in the Coming Year

New Year, New Start: Help for Setting Goals in the Coming Year

A New Year & A New Start

There’s something about the start of a new year that feels like a fresh start. As the clock ticks down to midnight and the calendar starts over with month one, day one, we all get a sense that something is ending and something new is beginning. It makes me feel like I’m turning a page, starting a new chapter. I find myself looking back and taking stock of the year that was while peering around the corner at what the year ahead could be. Most of us really want to make the most of that brand new chapter whether we’re building on previous chapters or developing a theme. Maybe we’re ready for a plot twist – a change of direction; something completely new. I think this causes our thoughts turn to making resolutions.

Ah…New Year’s Resolutions. Some of us love them. Some of us dread them. We’ve all made them. We’ve all broken them. Ever wonder why that is? Sometimes it’s because the resolution was something completely unrealistic. Sometimes it’s simply because we didn’t really have a plan to make the resolution happen.

I prefer to set goals rather than making resolutions for the New Year. Resolutions declare our intentions to grow or change in some way, but goals give us direction and purpose as we move forward. Goals help us focus on where we… Share on X

I prefer to set goals rather than making resolutions for the New Year. Resolutions declare our intentions to grow or change in some way, but goals give us direction and purpose as we move forward. Goals help us focus on where we want to go and lay out a plan to get us there. I take time to set goals every year, and I hope the strategies I’m going to share with you will help you set some goals that lead to meaningful and long-lasting growth and change.

Help for Setting Goals in the Coming Year

Before you begin, grab yourself a little notebook or pretty journal, or use my free printable worksheets. Then, let’s get started!

1. Begin with prayer.
First, thank God for where he has brought you this year. Write it down! In another year, you’ll be glad you can look back and remember what God brought you through and what God has brought you to. Then, ask God where to go next. Write down what you sense God is saying to you. Actually, by the time I sit down to outline my goals, I’ve been praying and thinking about this for weeks. But it’s not too late to start thinking and praying now!

2. Take inventory.
Where are you now? Where do you want to be this time next year? Where do you want to be in 3-5 years? Write it down!

Now you’re ready to start formulating your goals! On to the next step!

3. Outline your goals.

a. Divide goals into categories. I like to divide my goals into categories. This year I have four categories: Health & Personal Care, Organizational, Spiritual, and Professional. Your categories may be different. Mine are not the same every year.

b. Keep goals simple. I have a few goals in each category. If you are new to goal setting, don’t overwhelm yourself. You’ll give up. Keep it simple. I would suggest starting with:

One personal goal
One spiritual goal
One educational or professional goal

c. List steps necessary to achieve each goal. Once you have your goals listed, go back and list each step necessary to achieve them. If you don’t know all the steps, make it part of your action plan to find out. What resources would help you achieve your goals? List actions you will take and list a start by/complete by date for each.

4. Accountability & Follow Through
Finally, establish a plan to check in and track how you’re doing. Review your goals periodically (weekly, monthly, quarterly – whatever works for you) and record how you’re doing at that time. You can even print your goals and display them someplace you will see them regularly so you can pray about them and keep focused on them. Find a friend who will meet with you periodically and discuss where you are and how you’re doing – a cheerleader who will help you get back on track if you’ve wandered off.


Be SMART About Setting Goals

So, why is it that we often end up bailing on those New Year’s resolutions? I believe there are several reasons behind this. Resolutions are often not clearly mapped out. Consequently, we don’t have any idea how to get where we want to go. Many resolutions are not very realistic. And, we don’t build in accountability for follow-through. In a word, they were not SMART. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of SMART Goals (George T. Doran, 1981). If not, let me explain. S.M.A.R.T. = Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time Bound. 

Specific – Keep your goals simple and be specific. If they’re too broad or too vague, you will struggle to feel like you’re getting anywhere near the bulls-eye. For instance, “eat healthy” is a great sentiment, but too nebulous as a goal. “Eat healthy dinners instead of fast food 3 to 5 times a week” is more specific and easy to see if you’ve hit the mark or not. Make sense?

Measurable – Make sure your goals (or some aspects of them) are measurable. For instance: It’s tough to measure spiritual goals, but you can measure your progress in the steps that may lead to spiritual growth. For instance: You may not be able to measure if you’re growing closer to God, but you can measure how much time you spend in prayer and how often you pray. You may not be able to quantify whether your prayer life is improving, but you can document books you’ve read about prayer or new prayer strategies you’ve tried.

Achievable – Make goals that are not completely unrealistic. It’s great to make them challenging and you want them to stretch you; but if there’s little hope you’ll reach them, you’ll give up on them right away. I’ve always hated the American ideal that you can be anything you want to be. It’s just not true. For instance: No amount of effort can make me a great singer. I can dream. I can try. I can give up everything else to follow my dream, but the reality is… I simply was not born with the right vocal chords required to be a great singer. So, winning ‘The Voice’ would not be an achievable goal for me.

Relevant – Make goals that are relevant to your life and meaningful to you. Make sure they are personal to you and that you are passionate them. For instance: If someone in your life thinks one of your goals should be to run a marathon this year but your heart just isn’t in it, then it isn’t a relevant goal for you.

Time Bound – Set a time frame for when you will begin and complete each step to accomplish your goal. If you’re anything like me, I do better when I have a timetable to follow (less procrastination) or a deadline to meet.

Making goals SMART will help us set goals that will actually take us somewhere. If you’d like more structured help outlining your goals, download my free printable Goal Setting Worksheets here.

Happy goal setting, and happy new year! May this be a year of growth and transformation for you all!

 Does the thought of pursuing goals, taking the risk, making a change have you feeling a bit sheepish? Need some encouragement to “get out of the boat” and get started? Read Mendie’s post “Will Fear Keep you from Getting Out of the Boat?” It will give you just the encouragement boost you need to get going!

We all need hope. Let’s ponder it, explore it, and even run like mad for it – together.

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2 thoughts on “New Year, New Start: Help for Setting Goals in the Coming Year”

  • Hi Lori, Thank you for this, I haven’t set goals for next year, Right now my life is an uncertain phase. I may have to move and I don’t want to. I am praying and leaving my life in God’s hands right now. Please pray for me.

    • Melinda, for sure, I will be praying for your situation! I know it’s hard to look ahead when the future is uncertain. But I see a goal right there in your comment…”leaving my life in God’s hands…” 🙂 Trusting God for the future. Looking to God for direction. Leaning on God in the uncertainty. Those sound like great spiritual goals to me!

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