How to Set Goals for a Successful Year

I strongly believe in the power of goal setting. When done with care and effort, goals can be a powerful way to keep to our desired path, stay motivated along the way, and live with more purpose. And it’s not just in January that setting smart goals is effective – they can be set and reset at anytime of the year. Here are 4 tips on how to set goals for a successful year. 

Be as specific as you can with goal setting.

Take some time, and then maybe some more time, to figure out what it is you really want to accomplish this year. Write it down and be as detailed as you can. The more specific you get, the more you can breakdown a goal into smaller, more manageable chunks. And the clearer the path to achieving your goal will become. 

You may want to start by breaking your goals down into categories, such as fitness, nutrition, relationships, travel, career, personal growth and so on. The next step would be to break them down even further. For example, fitness can be broken down into strength, flexibility, and endurance. Then strength, for instance, can be broken down into upper and lower body. You get the idea. 

More specific goals – those that involve a timeframe and are quantifiable in some way – are also more likely to result in a favourable outcome. Consider the two examples below. Which goal is more likely to get accomplished?

I want to be able to hike further this year than last year.

I will complete 100 kilometres of the Bruce Trail by November 30, 2021. 

Set short-term and long-term goals.

For every long-term goal you set, it’s advisable to set a few short-term goals. How many will depend on the magnitude of the long-term goal. The larger the goal, the more stepping stones you’ll want along the way. Short-term goals allow us to track our progress, and with tracking progress, we can celebrate milestones when we reach them. It’s important to celebrate the small wins en route to a larger goal as the road can be looong. 

Setting short-term goals also provide us with a clearer and more manageable path to follow. And remember the cliche: it really is about the journey – not just the destination. Most growth will occur along the way. 

The above hiking goal would be considered a long-term goal which when broken down into short-term goals, would look like this:

By April 30th, I will complete 30 kilometres of the Bruce Trail. 

I will complete 70 kilometres of the Bruce Trail by August 30th. 

By November 30th, I will complete 100 kilometres of the Bruce Trail. 


Find someone who will keep you accountable to your goals.

Accountability is key. Having an external person to help you with sticking to your goals increases your chances of reaching them successfully. If possible, pick someone who has also set smart goals themselves, as they may better understand the work that goes into this. As well as understanding the value of having an accountability partner. It doesn’t have to be someone who has similar goals to yours, just someone who is also on a journey towards achieving x, y and z. 

Make a commitment to schedule regular check-ins with your accountability partner, say monthly. Having a set schedule for check-ins will make them more likely to happen. This can be a great source of motivation to continue pursuing your goals in between check-ins. 

Prepare for setbacks when setting goals.

Setbacks or obstacles are a very real part of life, whether we’ve set goals or not. We can, to a degree, prepare for the inevitable. This gives us a better chance to push through, or in the least, be less negatively impacted. 

Once you’ve set your goals, brainstorm a few examples that could get in the way of reaching your bigger goals. You’ll also want to think of ways in which you could prevent, or overcome these obstacles, should they come about. 

In our hiking example, potential obstacles keeping someone from this goal may be: sustaining an injury; weather conditions unsuitable for hiking; a hiking partner becomes unavailable. 

A few ideas that could help off-set, or perhaps even prevent these barriers, could be: keeping up with a regular strength and mobility program specific to hiking; owning high-quality rain or winter-gear for less ideal weather conditions; having a back-up hiking partner for when your go-to partner is unavailable. 

Physiotherapy, coaching and why to set goals.

I always work closely with my clients on how to set goals for what they want to accomplish with virtual physiotherapy and with coaching. It helps make our sessions more focused and meaningful. This goes for something as general as the desire to become more active, to something specific like rehabilitating from an ankle sprain. 

For someone wishing to get more active in 2021, I would prompt them with these types of questions: 

What does “more active” mean to you? More walking? Starting a running program? Taking the stairs more often?

How will you measure your activity level? Step-count? Time spent exercising? Heart-rate over a certain level? 

Where do you hope to be by the end of March/June/September/December?

What goals are you setting for 2021? 

Let me know in the comments section below. I’d love to read them. 

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