How to set Realistic Goals for the New Year

Hey 2021!

***Disclaimer: This post is a little late, as I wasn’t sure that putting pressure on people to set goals for 2021 would be insensitive – after all, many of us have had few successes in 2020 and feel a little sad and anxious about setting ourselves up for more disappointment. However, I personally love that feeling of achievement, big or small. Ticking something off a list and feeling a little wave of joy. So whether you set goals for this new year, that’s totally up to you. Set a challenge, or something more achievable. One of your goals could be ‘get dressed once a week’ or ‘try a new recipe’ or ‘climb a mountain’. You do you, and find the joy in the little things. 🙂

Each year I start a shiny new journal/notebook and list all of my achievements from the previous year and then set out all of my goals for the next. There’s usually only 10 or so on each respective list, but I find getting both down on paper are hugely motivating and provide a sense of achievement and worth. I truly believe that lists are the greatest invention and seeing my hard-earned achievements and future goals written down on paper extremely useful to look at throughout the year during times of self-doubt or de-motivation.

2019 was a pretty great year when I look at what I wrote down. I was so proud to have graduated with a First Class Honours Degree, I bought my first car, started my blog, explored two new countries, and got my first tattoo (just to name a few!). When I wrote these down, I considered the variety of achievements and tried to channel that into my goals for 2020.

I was able to tick off about 80% of my goals for 2020, including moving to China, gaining my TEFL certificate, reaching 100 followers on the blog, and reading at least one book each month – but I wrote more about reflecting on 2020 in my last blog post. Some haven’t been attained due to Covid, but I acknowledge that those things have been out of my control and that doesn’t equal failure!

Here are some tips that I have found useful when beginning to look at my goals for 2021….


My only mistake with my 2020 list was that a couple of them were too vague and I therefore can’t really tick them off. For example, “give in to peer pressure less” and “drink less alcohol”…. I can’t honestly say I have achieved these because they are impossible to measure or quantify. So with that in mind, my list for 2021 is going to include goals which are more measurable and thus less frustrating.


This might just be me but… if my list looks nice, and is written in a lovely new journal, then it just makes me even more motivated to start working towards my goals! You might be like me and enjoy handwriting them, or using different colours, tables and formats, or typing them up on a spreadsheet!


There’s nothing to say for certain that 2021 will be ‘back to normal’ as we keep hoping, but it’s always worth striving for the best we can and remaining optimistic that we can achieve our goals no matter what. Perhaps, if the idea of setting big goals for 2021 makes you feel a little anxious, simply set aside your bigger dreams for now (or add them to a Five Year Plan, which I’ll explain in a bit) and focus on the smaller goals instead.


If you would rather set goals which can continue moving forward after the year is up, consider creating a five year plan instead. This allows you to set long-term goals which you can divide into stages. For example, one of your goals for a 5 year plan might be “buy a house”. Your goal for 2021 can therefore be “save up X amount of money for a deposit” or “choose an area I want to live in”. This allows for you to ultimately continue working towards the same goal for multiple years in a row until it is fully achieved. I was originally inspired to do this after watching Hannah Witton’s YouTube video about Five Year Plans, which you can watch here.


It’s easy when writing down your goals to be very self-critical – this is not what goal-setting is about. Instead of aiming to change things about yourself, which may affect your mental health and how you value yourself, try to turn it into a positive goal. Change “be less —-” to “be more —-”. I was inspired to do this by the lovely Sophie Cliff AKA The Joyful Coach, whose podcast and Instagram are really uplifting. My main aim for 2021 is simply to be more joyful. ❤


A method I find quite useful is to put your goals into categories, such as ‘Financial’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Career’ and ‘Fun’. This means you aren’t solely focusing on career or financial goals; it inspires you to consider a wider range of goals that you may not have thought of originally. These varying degrees or levels of ‘achievement’ thus help to make your goals challenging yet attainable.


Finally, I believe it is realistic to consider any potential obstacles that may prevent you from achieving some of your goals. Want to go on a road trip but don’t have a car? This might cause a problem so make sure your goal is realistic, or put a plan in place to get around obstacles.

I hope these tips are useful for some of you! One of my main goals is to read 20 books – I may even up this to 30 as my sister is doing it with me so we’ll motivate each other! Another is to walk more in the Lake District, specifically to summit 50 Wainwright Fells (out of 214) in an effort to get more fit and see more of my favourite place in the UK. Let me know in the comments what one of your goals is for 2021!

Published by Liv

Travel blogger and digital nomad 🌏

4 thoughts on “How to set Realistic Goals for the New Year

  1. Setting small goals is a way to go. With another strict lockdown and high rise in new covid cases, looks like we are in for another challenging year. But it doesn’t mean, we have to stop dreaming. Happy New Year to you 🙂 Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

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