I hear people talk constantly about different goals they have for themselves, yet they express difficulty achieving these goals. These desires may be to read a book every week of the year, to lose weight, or to cut down on spending. For far too many people these goals end in disappointment, not for lack of desire to change, but rather due to not having a realistic plan in place. A common time that people make goals is during the new year. According to Very Well Mind, a study was conducted regarding New Years Resolutions and found that 12% of people who make these resolutions felt successful in reaching their goals. This means that 88% of those included felt unsuccessful1.

Getting Started

It can be easy to jump into a new year, new month, or new week with high expectations for yourself, yet this can oftentimes lead to frustration and giving up. No one wants to go into these new phases feeling defeated, so instead of focusing on past troubles with success, we will look at what helps to keep a goal going and how to create a plan that is workable. Through the process of making long-term goals, finding short term ways of meeting these long-term goals, and implementing resolutions in a successful way, change can start at any given time. Lastly, we will go over a more detailed example of personal long-term goals, short-term goals, and resolutions.

Creating Long Term Goals

Creating a change in lifestyle can be overwhelming. However, any time can be utilized to make changes to your life. Do not allow the fact that it is already past your ideal start date to stop you from making a change. Keep in mind that the reason people choose the New Year to start resolutions is because it feels like a fresh start and a chance for change. Yet, in reality, we can make this change on any given day.

Where to Start

Start by making a list of what kind of things you want to change in your life. This list does not have to be specific by any means. It may include things you want to accomplish in one year, five years, ten years, and so on. These things are goals that you know will take some time to achieve, such as getting married, obtaining a college degree, having children, moving out of the country, etc. It is also a good idea, depending upon the number of goals you have, to separate goals based on the time frame you wish to achieve them.

The time frame should be realistic, meaning, you will not want to say your goal is to graduate college in a year if you are not already in some sort of a program. Similarly, you want to make sure you are not procrastinating goals either. So if your goal is to lose 50 pounds, make sure you are not giving yourself an extreme amount of time, such as ten years. This is where procrastination will come in and you will find yourself continuing to put things off. With making this list, you can see what goals you have for yourself and this can help you to create the short term goals.


Making Short Term Goals

After having looked at long-term goals, this should help you to see what kind of steps will need to be taken in order to move a step closer to these end-goals. This is where short-term goals come into play. For example, if one of your long-term goals is to get your degree and you are not yet in any sort of formal education, these short-term goals may involve things like applying to programs, volunteering in jobs in related fields to your desired career, and interviewing people already in these career paths. This is where it is important to be far more specific. While the long-term goal may be broad, these short term goals should be defined in a way that will allow you to measure progress.

Try to Limit Number of Goals

Many goals are not going to be temporary, but are rather going to involve lifestyle changes. Keep in mind that lifestyle changes can be difficult. It is not easy to abruptly tweak your current way of life to do things differently. This does not mean that it is impossible, but rather that you do not want to over-extend yourself. While the list of resolutions you have may be a full page long, pick which one or ones you want to work on first. Ideally, it is best to pick one goal at a time to work towards, rather than picking multiple goals and having to concentrate on many different areas of change at once2.

It is absolutely possible to change more than one thing at a time, but changes in behavior can take a large amount of effort and therefore, chances of achievement are far greater with one particular goal. This may apply more-so to the long-term goal than the short term goals though. For example, if your long-term goal is to lose 20 pounds, your short term goals may include changes in exercise routine, changes in diet, and even changes to grocery shopping routine. A good rule of thumb is if you feel you are biting off more than you can chew, do not be afraid to take a step back and decide to focus on one area at a time.

Tracking Progress

Having a way to keep track of your goal and progress towards the goal can assist with motivation, as well as give you a way to see where you are at throughout each step versus when you first started. Take, for example, if your goal for the year is to read one book a week. The best way to keep track of this data may be to start a spreadsheet with each week and the corresponding book for that time frame.

Make sure to specify what the time frame consists of, such as does it go from Sunday to Saturday? Do you have until the evening before to finish the book? Do you have specific guidelines for what kind of a book it needs to be, such as a genre or a certain length? These are all things to specify ahead of time so you do not find yourself questioning the criteria after the fact. If a spreadsheet is not the right method for you, maybe it is keeping a note in your phone or keeping track in a journal.

Finding Motivation

Often times when we begin working towards a goal, we feel extremely motivated. We love the idea of the changes we are aiming to make and are able to find this as a way to stick to our new lifestyle. However, as time goes on there will be hard days. These may be days where you have not been seeing progress in the way you hoped and therefore you feel like it is pointless to keep going. These are the times it is important to specifically search for motivation.

Find the thing that works for you that will help you to achieve your goals. Some people find this by having a partner to participate in these goals with, so they have someone to turn to for accountability. With social media, there are people that will post about their experiences, knowing that if they miss posting about it that this may be recognized by others. Maybe you have some sort of a treat for yourself for motivation, such as something you want to buy but will not allow yourself to purchase until you reach these goals. Regardless of how you do it, it is imperative to find a way to push yourself to keep going on days or weeks where that desire for change is lacking.

Embrace Imperfection

A huge part of making changes is recognizing that we are only human and make mistakes. If your goal is to lose weight, you may have a bad week where you gain a few pounds back, eat outside of what food you are trying to stick to, or do not get your normal exercises in. If your goal is to read a book a week, you may have a week where you do not finish in time and have to double up for the next week. This does not mean that you should give up on your goal, but rather pick yourself back up where you left off and get back on track.


Let’s Talk Specifics

Now that we have gone over all of the steps to making and achieving goals, let’s go over a more specific example from start to finish of long-term goals, short-term goals, and overall plan. First, I started by outlining my long-term goals.

My Long-Term Goals

  1. Lose 30 pounds
  2. Get PhD in Psychology
  3. Have kids
  4. Write a book
  5. Travel to each Continent

At this point, I wanted to decide which of my long-term goals is most realistic to prioritize right now. As I am getting married next year, I wanted to prioritize losing 30 pounds. Therefore, I based my short-term goals on this long-term goal.

Short Term Goals

  1. Cut out fast food
  2. Drink 64 ounces of water per day, minimum
  3. Meal prep twice a week (once in the beginning of the week and once in the middle of the week).
  4. Exercise a minimum of 30 minutes per day 5-6 days per week.
  5. Count calories through My Fitness Pal in order to ensure I am in a Caloric Deficit.


Outlining & Implementing a Plan

After making this short term list of goals, I came up with a specific plan. I chose to stagger some of these short-term goals, in order to not overwhelm myself. First, I began with cutting out fast food and started meal prepping twice a week, in order to get my diet on track. I started to utilize My Fitness Pal immediately, keeping track of what I was eating for each meal and snack. This also allowed me to keep track of my water intake, although I put off implementing the 64 ounces of water per day until I felt ready to add on another short-term goal.

After about two weeks of this, I began to exercise 5-6 days per week. I started with some work out videos I have done in the past and enjoyed and then started to design a work out routine by having my work-outs for each day of the week lined out. I created a spreadsheet through Excel in order to keep track of which workout I was doing on which day and would mark off how many calories I burned during each workout. Finally, I upped my water intake. I utilized my water bottle that holds 64 ounces of water and has markers on it indicating where I should be based on the time of day.


While my resolution originally started as simply seeing a different number on the scale, my resolution for the year is not just to lose 30 pounds this year, but rather to also feel good in my body by the end of 2022. At the end of the day, we all want to meet our goals and feel good about the places we are at in our lives. In order to find success, it takes a great deal of planning, patience, and dedication. The sooner you start on this process, the sooner you will be on your way to meeting your personal expectations.

How Online Therapy can Help

If you have difficulty designing and implementing personal goals, our therapists through Online-Therapy.com provide Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and can assist in finding new ways to think about goals, as well as an unbiased professional to help keep you accountable. 

Our platform offers a complete online therapy toolbox which includes time with a personal therapist who can support you throughout your journey. If this is something you are interested in, we would love to hear from you!

When you are ready, head over to www.online-therapy.com, we are looking forward to helping you!



Cherry, Kendra. (2020, December 21). 10 Great Tips for Keeping Your Resolutions This Year. Very Well Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-keep-your-new-years-resolutions-2795719