Achieving Success with New Year Goals: A Psychological Perspective

With the new year comes new hope and a reinvigorated thirst for progress and growth. However, setting new year goals is one thing and succeeding is another. We’ve all experienced countless unaccomplished dreams, especially at the start of a year, but it’s finally time to fulfill them. Let’s explore how we can tune our expectations to make the most of our potential, as recommended by psychologists. 

What are realistic goals?

You can’t set realistic goals without having a clear idea of what it means to be “realistic”. To get it out of the way, a goal is something we are willing to put effort and commitment to achieve. However, having passion for something isn’t necessarily enough, considering all the personal, social and/or professional barriers we have to overcome. A realistic goal is something that you know will be worth your energy. They are crafted after considering the tools you have and the challenges you will likely face. These are attainable, and often short term goals, to be viewed as stepping stones for larger dreams. With realistic goals, we take the ambition and dedication of goal setting, and balance it out with pragmatism and practicality. 

Understanding the Importance of Realistic Goal Setting

Realistic goals aren’t about getting done with something you’ve always wanted to do. Instead, look at them as stepping stones to sustainable success. Remember, a realistic goal is something that you set based on your own capabilities, resources and limitations. Sometimes, you would need to learn a skill, to complete a bigger task, and these smaller level progressions can also be made into realistic goals. Crucially, realistic goals are meant to be adaptive. If your circumstances don’t allow you to commit to a goal, be prepared to shift focus or tune the goals. With each realistic goal you achieve, you feel relieved, motivated and less frustrated with yourself.

The Psychology Behind Achievable Goals

Psychologists assure us that tuning down goals and making them realistic is not an easy way out or a hack to trick our brain. When you initiate a task with optimism and confidence in your own abilities to complete it, the brain responds appropriately to it, and pushes you towards your goal. The level of self control and empowerment that setting and achieving realistic goals provides you helps build resilience and a growth mindset in the long run. Besides, when you believe in your capabilities,  you are more likely to have the mental grit and perseverance to eventually attain your goals. 

Balancing Ambition with Practicality

Ambition is the fuel that keeps you going and enhances your experiences. That said, looking too far beyond your scope can affect your mental health negatively. Psychologists note that when people fail to accomplish one big goal after another, they tend to lose confidence and self-belief. By mixing in a bit of practicality, you can decide what goals you want to pursue, with what time frame and have a clearer picture of the resources you’d require to achieve them. It is a way to stay on track without feeling overwhelmed. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your New Year Goals

If you came into this thinking we’ll leave you with some superficial suggestions on goal-setting, you’re mistaken! Our experts have put together some tried and tested methods, along with some flexible options for you to adopt as you prepare to work towards your goals in the new year. 

Identifying Your Personal and Professional Aspirations

To begin with, have a clear distinction between your personal and professional ambitions. While there could be some crossover between them, it is important to construct separate paths towards them. Think about what you’re looking for in the short and long term, understand what truly matters to you, and goals will align themselves naturally. Knowing your aspirations helps ensure that your goals will match your talents, ability and values. 

Utilizing the SMART Framework for Goal Setting

When we say there are smart ways to set goals, we really mean it. SMART, short for  Specific - Measurable - Achievable - Realistic - Time Bound is a framework that provides structure to your plans and aids with goal creation and execution. Note that your SMART framework is unique to your experiences and aspirations. With that out of the way, let us address each aspect of SMART one after the other. 


Ask yourself exactly what you want to accomplish. “I want to read more this year”, for example, is a great goal, but difficult to work towards without specific results in mind. So, try to have a particular number, a time frame, and answer the where, when, whys to yourself and arrive at a clear goal. 


Once you have a specific objective, think about what metrics would need to be fulfilled to consider this effort a success. If your goal was to read x number of books, ask yourself how many would you need to read per week, how fast would you need to complete them, how many genres would you want to try out etc, for you to be happy with the eventual results. This allows you to track your progress. 


This aspect deals with the feasibility of the task. It is about asking yourself if you have prepared the tools, time, support, resources and information you need to start this journey. If you want to read more books, do you have an existing repository? Do you need to order books? Whom do you need to borrow from? Would you need to brush up your language skills first? Make sure you’re ready to take on the challenge. 


We’ve made our way back to this again! Be honest with yourself about how much you can manage considering your everyday circumstances. If reading a book within a week is not possible due to work commitments or family responsibilities, don’t set that as a goal. Don’t demand too much from yourself. 


Setting realistic goals is all about finalizing and focusing on an attainable objective, rather than stretching your time frame to eventually achieve it. Be specific about when you want to complete a particular plan. A finish line isn’t always available, but you can incorporate it into your smaller goals. 

5 Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Setting Goals

Now that we have a framework for goal setting, here are five questions to ask yourself before you finally map down your aims for the new year. 

  • What do I want to achieve?
  • Is this a realistic target? 
  • How do I know when I am making progress?
  • How attainable is this goal?
  • What is the time frame for accomplishing this? 

Now, you’re almost good to go, but it would be valuable to learn the psychological skills that can propel you towards your dreams this year. 

Common Pitfalls in New Year Goal Setting and How to Avoid Them

Most of the pitfalls that you will encounter when you try to set your new year's resolutions are mental and can be avoided with some shifts with perceptions and approaches. Here are some of the most common challenges that most of us run into, while deciding our new year’s plans. 

Setting Unrealistic Goals

It is normal to get carried away with the wave of positivity that surrounds us at the start of a new year. This leads to us setting overambitious goals which eventually leads to demotivation, self-doubt, stress and frustration. 

Lack of a Clear Plan

It is totally possible to want something so much that you don’t know exactly what you want. Most people don’t take that step back to break down their dreams into actionable steps in their road to success. 

Inadequate Tracking of Progress

Even with a clear understanding of our objects, we often find ourselves lost in the process, often delaying it or abandoning it midway. This is mainly because we don’t know how much progress we are making, which also means we appreciate ourselves less, despite our efforts. 

Neglecting to Address Underlying Habits

Some of us know exactly what is holding us back, while the rest of us are unsure, when setting out to strategize and execute our plans. Either way, whether it is procrastination, unhealthy lifestyle practices or negative self-talk, it is essential to address it before you start your journey. 

Insufficient Flexibility

Life changes all the time, yet some of us can be very stubborn about how we pursue our dreams. Many individuals struggle to adapt to evolving circumstances, leaving them feeling disappointed and mentally drained. 

Tools and Resources to Support Your Goal Achievement Psychologically

In the modern age, tools are available to us to sharpen our goal setting, planning and actioning processes. These may include productivity apps, mindfulness techniques to keep your mind in the present and other ways to maintain your positivity. You could also seek mentorship from a life coach or a counselor, as they provide a safe environment and evidence-based approaches to help you create goals, stay on track and remain motivated throughout. 

Embracing the Journey of Goal Achievement Psychologically with Mindtalk

Our new year’s goals are very personal and important to us, but we don’t have to go through the entire process of reflection, accountability, effort, adaptability and progress alone. With the help of our licensed professionals at Mindtalk, you can receive clarity and motivation in a safe, judgment-free environment, as you look to achieve new goals. If you are determined to make new strides this new year and are looking for guidance on setting goals, give our experts a call. 

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