It seems that the beginning of a new year inspires many people to set goals, start anew and make changes in their lives. Frequently, many of these good intentions are forgotten within a month or two or are simply too difficult to achieve. Instead of setting yourself up for disappointment, follow these simple guidelines to make and keep goals year-round.

Be realistic

Be careful when setting goals and making changes in your life that these objectives are actually attainable. Don't make a goal to travel the world if it is not a financial possibility, for example. Whether it's weight loss, getting more organized or overcoming a bad habit, making your goal realistic will more likely lead to success. Some goals may require smaller sub-goals to meet your target.

Write it down

A goal not written is only a wish. If you want to achieve your objective, writing it down is a must. Even better, put it somewhere you will likely see it every day - like a bathroom mirror or on the refrigerator. Placing it where you see it often will help you remember to work on your objective.

Make a plan

Some goals take several steps. Write down the desired result and what it will take to get there. Sometimes setting target dates to achieve parts of the goal throughout the year is useful. Break up larger goals into more manageable pieces.

Make it measurable

Be specific in your goals. Having vague expectations is rarely a workable solution. For example, don't say, "I want to exercise more." Instead, say, "I am going to exercise for 45 minutes three days a week." Or, instead of saying, "Drink more water," say, "Drink eight glasses of water per day."

Use the buddy system

Some goals are more easily achieved with the help of a friend. When setting a goal like weight loss or dropping a bad habit, an accountability partner can be helpful. Having a friend or spouse who you have to report successes or missteps to can more fully keep your end desire in mind and curb some temptations.

Start again (and again and again)

If you give in to that piece of chocolate cake, accidentally bite your nails or don't put money in savings this month, that doesn't mean you've failed and have to give up on your desire. Start again tomorrow. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither were you. Just like writing a paper in high school that takes many edits before completion, our lives also require "edits." Reevaluate, make necessary changes and renew your goals daily. If you falter, keep going and start again tomorrow.

Need some attainable goal ideas?

  • Exercise 60 minutes three times a week.

  • Take two family vacations this year.

  • Read one book a month.

  • Have daily family prayer.

  • Eat five-seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

  • Drink eight glasses of water a day.

  • Organize one problem area in your home each week.

  • Lose one-two pounds per week until target weight is met (it generally takes a month to start losing any weight after making changes to diet and exercise routines).

  • Practice an instrument for 20 minutes five days a week.

  • Read a book to your child every night.

  • Think 15 positive thoughts - on purpose - each day.

  • Give a stranger a compliment daily.

  • Kiss your spouse every day.

  • Learn a new skill by a specific date (may require sub-goals).

  • Write a book by a specific date.

  • Take time for personal meditation every morning.

Whatever goals you choose, make sure it is something that can be achieved and is realistic for you. Goals don't have to be daunting, incredibly difficult or stressful. There are simple and fun ways each of us can improve our lives and become better. Don't give up. Remember to renew your goal and recommit daily.

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