“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C. S. Lewis

One of your top goals to start every year should be prioritizing your own mental health, so with that in mind, let’s explore how you can set realistic New Year’s goals, rather than unrealistic, and oftentimes unreasonable, New Year’s resolutions.

To start, set aside time to really think through each of your goals. Be certain you’re ready to analyze your why. Ask yourself — is this goal going to be overly ambitious? Is it intended to be a quick fix? Will setting this goal help you get closer to future goals? Will achieving this goal enhance or improve your life?

Next, give each goal your sole attention, one by one. Putting your full attention on just one goal is the very best way to start off with a win. Research shows that it takes about 21 days for a new behavior to become a habit, so be sure you’re willing to devote that much time to each one of your goals.

1. Make your goal achievable. Avoid resolutions and goals that sound great in theory, but are actually unattainable at this particular point in your life. It doesn’t make sense to start out huge just because you think it sounds good. Try starting small, and move forward from there. For example, if you’ve never run a day in your life, maybe placing in the Chicago marathon is not the right goal for you. Why not set out to run a 5k, or join a new exercise class you’ve been considering?

2. Set yourself up for success. Giving yourself the tools you need to have in place is key to giving yourself a better chance at succeeding. If your goal is to spend less time on social media, keep your phone out of reach first thing in the morning, rather than keeping it on your bedside table to taunt you. If you want to work on getting to bed earlier during the week, start your nighttime routine earlier and set a bedtime alert on your phone — and save the Netflix marathon for the weekend. If you want to limit sweets, don’t stock up in the house where you’ll be tempted, and save the dessert for special occasions or rewards.

3. Be patient with yourself. This is a big one, and one we can all work on in different areas of our lives. We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean you should throw your goal out and give up. If you backslide on some goals, forgive yourself and try again. Go easy on yourself, and you’ll feel better about continuing on your journey toward reaching your goals. And don’t forget to practice gratitude as you reach your goals.

4. Share your goals. We all need ways to stay accountable to ourselves for our own success. Sometimes we just need someone else to help us stay accountable — whether it’s a support group, a friend, your spouse, your kids or a coworker. Finding someone to help you stay on track can help get you motivated, and keep you motivated.

5. Reward yourself. When you set a goal, put a reward in place for achieving it. Make sure your rewards make sense, meaning if you achieve a small goal in a short time period, keep the reward modest. For bigger achievements, throw yourself celebrations!

While you’re setting goals for 2023, don’t ignore your own well-being. Taking care of your mind and body is always a great way to start (& finish!) your year.

Set yourself up for success in the New Year by setting realistic, attainable goals.