The Art of Goal Setting for the New Year

As a new year begins, many people begin making resolutions in an effort to better themselves and others. Be careful with this trend, though, as resolutions can set you up for disappointment.

Goals, on the other hand, often set you up for success. Making goals that are achievable, practical and sustainable is a great way to ensure that you'll be pleased with the end results.

What's a good goal?

A good goal is one that will challenge you to be better, but doesn't defeat you mentally or physically each time you jump in the water, lace up your running shoes or hop on the saddle.

If a goal isn't realistic, it will be difficult to accomplish. Is finishing a half marathon in 1:15 realistic for you? How about completing an Ironman in less than 10 hours?

Some examples of good goals are to drink more filtered water daily, be physically active throughout the day, educate yourself on what you are putting into and on your body, implement a flexibility and strength routine, and practice better overall nutrition.

How can I make realistic goals?

To make realistic goals, set ones that pertain to you, not someone else. Sustainable goals are those that are personal to you.

With social media, it can be hard to make goals that reflect your abilities. Keep in mind that we're all in different areas of our life journey, and comparing yourself to others is rarely beneficial.

Why do I need goals?

"If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time," says Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

Goals not only help keep you motivated and focused, but they also keep you excited about life. When the winter holidays end, we find ourselves in the middle of a cold and dark season, and goals can be just what we need to keep us moving forward.

When it's hard to get out of bed on a chilly, dreary morning, goals can help us put in the effort so we can eventually cross the finish line with pride. Achieving a goal is satisfying because of the hard work and dedication you put in to make it happen.

How do I achieve my goals?

Actionable steps are vital when it comes to accomplishing goals. If you want to run a half marathon in less than 2:00, but your personal best is 2:30, it's going to be difficult to achieve the desired result without subset goals. To reach your ultimate goal, you'll need subset goals to achieve them.

Subset goals could include performing specific speed drills or hill runs once a week, participating in carefully chosen races to gauge your training and practicing smart nutrition to achieve your desired time.

If drinking more filtered water is your goal, subset goals could include having a 10-ounce glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning, carrying a reusable water bottle with you at all times and always choosing water before other beverages.

After weeks of unhealthy holiday eating and drinking, it's natural to swear off sweets and hit the treadmill. Gyms offer deals and weight-loss products bombard us with commercials to help make the New Year's goal of weight loss a reality.

Weight loss is one of the most common New Year's resolutions, followed by commitments to quit smoking, eat healthier, drink less, and get fit, according to

Despite the best of intentions, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their goal, according to a report published by the University of Scranton. This is evident in gyms across the country when, sometime in February, the treadmills suddenly become empty again.

Resolutions are easy to make, but sticking to them is the real challenge. This year, make yours last.

1. Have a Plan

If you know that you tend to be starving by 4 p.m., be prepared. Pack a snack daily with fiber and protein (like grapes and string cheese). If you typically drink too much wine with dinner, start with a large glass of water.

Developing new habits take time, 66 days to be exact, according to a study in the European Journal of Psychology. Sit down and develop a plan, stick with it and soon it will be part of your routine.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

It probably took months or even years to put on the extra weight you want to lose. Don't expect to lose it overnight.

Start by simply making a promise to walk 30 minutes per day, or to cut 500 calories per day. You can start small: change just one habit, like drinking alcohol only on the weekends. Whatever it is, don't make it unachievable, or you will be forced to quit.

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