The Essential Guide to Setting Goals for the New Year

New Year’s Resolutions don’t have a great reputation. I’ve met people that don’t worry about setting any just because they’ve heard that statistic that goes around about how many people abandon them by February! I think a large part of why goals for the new year don’t work for so many is because they only think about them for the last few hours of each year. They remember another year has passed and it will soon be a new one, and they say to themselves, “This is the year I will finally” save money, quit smoking, start working out, or something else. Here’s my rule of thumb: if you want to set a goal that’s meant to change your life for the next 12 months (or longer!), maybe you should think about it for more than 12 days. So, it may be November, but it’s not too early to start drafting your goals for the new year. Utilizing a few examples from goals I’ve set in the last few years, I’ll help you get set up for success in 2023.

Most of us have heard of SMART goals by now. The letters of SMART, of course, stand for Stupid, Moronic, Asinine, Ridiculous, and Too Much. SMART goals are yesterday. SMART goals are what human resources has everyone practice writing out in a workbook during their first year at the company. Now, Greta Gerwig, the critically acclaimed writer-director of Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), is having a moment, and so are GRETA GERWIG goals. As you can imagine, that stands for:












One of the goals I set for myself this year was to write a novel. I did not write a novel. While this goal was certainly Extra and Rare, it was not a GRETA GERWIG goal because it was not Responsible, Wise, or Time-Aware. If I were to set this goal again, I would be sure to develop a more concrete plan, and maybe even give myself a deadline a few months into the year, by which I’d have to decide to continue with the goal or abandon it.

This year, as with most years of my life, I set a goal to continue journaling every day. This goal has been a wild success since I started my ongoing journaling streak on January 1st, 2021. Goal streaks always keep me motivated, but the best thing about this goal is that I have a strong motivation behind it. It’s important to me to have a record of every day. If something major happened, I want to know the exact day it happened. Because my journal is on an app, I can also search all the entries when I’m curious about when certain things have happened. A large part of the reason I’ve done this “every day” for almost two years is because I haven’t, really. If I miss a day, I go back and write down something, and attach a picture from that day. The important thing is that every day has a record, not that I create that record by midnight every day. This goal is a GRETA GERWIG goal because not only is it Inspiring and Responsible, by letting myself go back and journal for a previous day I’ve missed, the goal stays Generous and Gracious.

Most years, I set at least a few goals regarding reading and writing. As I mentioned, the novel-writing goal was a predictable yet unfortunate failure, however, my reading goal was a huge success for the second year in a row. My goal this year was to read 50 books, and I’m currently sitting at 95. Of those 50, I wanted 12 to be fiction, and as of this writing, I’ve read 13 works of fiction. Here’s how I read so much.

  1. I don’t have any children or even a dog. I have a cat who is very supportive of my reading endeavors.
  2. Most of the books I “read” are audiobooks. Because I read to gain information and perspective, whatever helps me read more books is what I will do. When I happen to read a book in print, I do notice I enjoy it more and get more from it. But the truth is, if I only read print books, I would read about ten a year, if that. This way, I can read all the things that interest me.
  3. I go through reading phases, and I don’t let it phase me. Summer is not a hit reading season for me. I want to be outside, milling around the state fair or going to food truck festivals. When I’m in a reading lull, I don’t worry about it. A book I’m particularly excited about or a change in weather will dependably pull me back into reading before too long.

Another success came from my goal to run 100 miles. In 2021, I set out to run 50 miles in the year, with the idea that if I just ran a mile a week, I was bound to achieve that and more. I ended up running 105 miles, so this year, I set my goal at 100 miles. These kinds of running numbers are nothing for people who love to run, but for me, this is perfectly within my comfort zone, and that’s okay. Running is not a hobby for me. I enjoy doing it, but a large part of why I do it is because I notice a decline in my mood if I go too long without it. This year, I’m at 112 miles already, but I will probably set my goal at 100 miles again in 2023. Will I run more than that? Absolutely. But I don’t need to.

Now get thinking about goals for the new year! Reflect on the success (and failure) of past goals as you decide on new ones, and don’t set a goal unless it inspires you. Don’t feel bad about yourself for quitting on a goal, or setting your goal in a range that feels overly achievable. You know what works best for you better than any book or blog does, and if you just remember GRETA GERWIG, you’ll be setting goals that are Generous, Rare, Extra, Time-Aware, Gracious, Efficient, Responsible, Wise, Inspiring, and Good in no time. It’s simple!

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