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I didn’t always know how to set goals and really stick with them. When I was a teen, I used to sit down on New Years’ Eve and write myself a little note. I wrote about things I hoped would change, things I knew would be different, a few time-capsule sort of notes about what I liked and (always) how I’d had my hair cut. I hid this in a secret spot, and a year later, I’d get to see how I was different and what did change. Then I’d write a note to myself all over again.

Gone are the days when the New Year meant a fun little exercise in capturing my life and predicting the future. But truth be told, I only put serious thought into it after I became a mom. There’s just so much swirling around in this mom brain, and doing things like planning and writing out my goals has become a necessity. If you can relate, read on and grab the free workbook I created!

I think all of us face the New Year with some thoughts about what we hope it will bring. If you want to get intentional about it and learn how to set goals, I’ve got some great resources for you.

a pink flower, gold paperclips, a turquoise notebook, and a pink watch sit on a table. Text overlay reads How to Set Goals for the Year - Get the Free PDF.

The Difference Between a Resolution and a Goal

First of all, there are good reasons to make resolutions. In the Bible, the word is used sparingly, in intense situations. Here’s my favorite of what I found:

And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.

1 Corinthians 2:2

From what little I learned about resolutions from the Bible, I came to the conclusion that the only time you truly need to resolve yourself to something is when it comes to serious spiritual matters. Resolve to honor God (Malachi 2:2). Resolve to seek God when war (or difficulties) are waged against you (2 Chronicles 20:1-4).

A resolution is a firm decision to do or not do something.

A goal is an end to which effort is directed; aim.

There’s nothing wrong with resolutions, but I’m kind of smitten with goals. Goals are big-picture plans that involve effort over a period of time. It takes more intention and it is a process that’s in motion until the end is reached, where a resolution is just a one-time firm decision.

woman holding a pen with a cup of coffee, a bible, and a notebook.

How to Set Goals the Smart Way

So, let’s set out with intention and create some awesome goals for the year! One well-known method to set goals is to make sure they are SMART—

Relevant, and
Time Bound.

Learn how to set SMART goals for the year and to achieve them too! Click To Tweet

Just looking at that acronym makes me feel a bit intimidated, but I know putting some thought into what goals I want to aim for this year is going to be worth it. Here are some random examples to help you learn how to set goals.

Difficult-to-Keep Resolutions SMART Goals
Read more often. Turn off the t.v. on Tuesday and Thursday nights and read until I’ve finished 3 novels before summertime.
Participate more in imaginative play with my kids. Play pretend with my kids for one activity every weekday, after their morning snack, for at least half an hour.
Drink more water. Add a small amount of lemon to my water every day, and make sure I need to refill my water bottle every other hour from 8 AM-6 PM.

So, using the SMART system when you create your goals just means that you’ll be more likely to achieve them.

writing in a notebook with the Bible and a coffee nearby

How to Achieve Your Goals

If you have some pretty challenging goals for you on your list, first of all, that’s awesome! Tackle those with patience toward yourself, and common sense too.

Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity,
    but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.

Proverbs 21:5, NLT

Once you know how to set goals and have them written out, here are a few tips on pursuing them:

  1. Be accountable. If you’re trying to change a deep-seated behavior, you’ll need to be honest about your progress with yourself and with others. You’ll be better motivated to achieve your goal when you know your friends will be asking you about your progress.
  2. Find support. Whether your goal is to kick a habit or try something new, you’ll be able to accept the change better if you aren’t alone. Try to find someone who was once where you are now and succeeded, or at least a sympathetic cheerleader to lend an ear when you’re struggling.
  3. Forget willpower. It’s like those cheesy, over-dramatic videos from Driver’s Ed taught you: you won’t be able to stop yourself from crashing into the dashboard by strength alone. You need a seat belt, dummy! (Did anyone else see that video in Driver’s Ed? It was unintentionally hilarious.) That’s my way of saying you can only do so much by your own will. You’re human and you’re not going to be perfect. So stay humble and ask for help from others and especially from God along the way. If you are trying to get out of an addiction or want to conquer something particularly challenging, therapy can be very helpful, of course! (My hubby is a therapist.)
  4. Track your progress. Your goals should include attainable milestones to reach as time goes on. I know, It sounds like a pain, but you’ll want to record your progress to keep yourself motivated.

Set Your Goals + Achieve Them with Free Apps

Thankfully, there are some amazing systems out there to help you achieve your goals! Here’s a little roundup of my favorite FREE apps for meeting your goals in 2018.

  • Strides is a goal and habit tracker that outdoes itself when it comes to visualizing your progress. This one incorporates the SMART system, and creates all kinds of progress reports for you. It’s got an easy-to-use interface. The app is for iOs only, however.
  • is known as the leading habit tracker app. Set your goals, targets, and reminders, and takes care of the rest. They’ll send you props when you’re doing well, create weekly and monthly trend reports, and they even provide plans for those who need extra guidance. It’s available for Android and iOs, and if you have an Apple watch, it’s integrated with that, too.
  • 42 Goals is another great place to get started! Both a website and mobile app, this goal tracker is super helpful. You can even play with their online demo without jumping through any hoops.
  • StickK is a website and app created to help you achieve your goals. StickK comes from a psychology angle, asking you to sign a commitment contract for your goals, and giving you the option to set your own incentives (rewards or consequences) as well. You can also add a “referee” or real-life accountability partner to each goal.

Download the Free Goal Planner

Aaaaaand, I’m not stopping there. I created a workbook for you to help you choose your goals for the year! Because, if you’re like me, you might not even know where to start. My goal-setting workbook will help you reflect, and narrow it all down too.

It’s free. Grab it now and thank me later. 😉


I’d love to hear your thoughts are on creating yearly goals, as well as things you’re aiming for this year. (Psst! Need help in choosing a guiding word of the year? Check out that link!)

I hope you have a blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!

Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

Proverbs 16:3

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28 Comments on How to Set and Achieve Your Goals for the Year

  1. Thanks for sharing. I definitely like goals that I can break down and make more specific. I need to get back into the habit of sharing monthly goals on the blog, I think. It should help me be a bit more accountable, I hope!

  2. This is such a great way to plan for the New Year! After taking a Holiday break, we are picking back up with the Mommy Moments Link Up and this was the top viewed link from our last link up last year! Congratulations! It will be featured in the link up today 🙂 Happy New Year!

  3. great post, I just heard about SMART goals and starting trying to write them down. I also started using the “IKE” app on android, it’s based on the 4 quadrants (Eisnehower I think) where you prioritize (urgent, not important, etc..).

  4. You have given some excellent tips and I love that you told us about the apps. I never knew that there were apps to help you stick to your goals. I definitely took advantage of your printable and will be putting it into place as I finalize my 2018 goals! Thanks!

  5. This one is great, Laura! I used to mix resolution with goal. But yes, there is a difference between these two terms. May be, I will achieve all goals that are set for the next coming year. Feeling excited!!

  6. I LOVE setting goals and want to be really intentional in 2018. I am bookmarking this post and I am going to come back to it next week when I’m getting all set up for the new year!

  7. Very good tips, and I like the SMART acronym. I’ll be coming back to your post to study it some more. Thank you. (We’re neighbors at Holley’s) Merry Christmas!

  8. I’ve actually never heard of the SMART analogy before, but it makes so much sense. I definitely struggle with setting attainable goals. I am always full of big dreams that I call goals, but they’re usually quite unachievable in whatever timespan I’m looking at. I’m trying to do better about my 2018 goals and making them realistic!

  9. That’s a great break down between goals and resolutions! I find the resolutions so hard to keep but usually the goals are a breeze. However, nothing lately is breeze like, hah. I am hoping to change that soon.

  10. 2018 is the in which I will finally start working with goals. I have never been really goal-oriented and that hasn’t helped me very much, I think. So from now on I will. And I will incorporate your tips. Thank you!

I'd love to know what you think. Thanks for commenting!