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Setting Realistic and Achievable Goals

Updated: Jan 14

- Teresa Jacobson, DBH, LPCC-S, NCC

December 29, 2020

The end of 2020 signifies the end of an era of collective trauma, and the beginning of a new year and new journey. Many of us start off a new year with a desire to change.

Studies show new years' resolutions only "stick" a fraction of the time. But with goals we intrinsically desire, the results achieved are much higher.

Anything in 2021 worth striving for will require us to stay mindfully motivated. This article offers a countdown of 10 healthy ideas to consider for the 2021 New Year:

"10" Take 3-4 deep diaphragmatic breaths when experiencing stress. Begin with a long inhale through the nose and extra-long exhale through pursed lips (like you are about to whistle). This breathing technique promotes full oxygenation exchange, lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and slows down the stress response.

"9" Start new playlists for a number of moods. Music to calm, music to charm; music to run or dance, music for romance; music to inspire, and music that makes you tired.

"8" List what you’d like to accomplish in the new year and prioritize the list.

"7" Find ways to let go of troublesome thoughts or memories. Process your concerns with a support person or professional to help ensure steps forward.

"6" Find a relaxation or meditation app and make time to take time.

"5" Energize your brain with brain games and creative activities. Enjoy art, drawing, painting, coloring, crochet, embroidery, knitting, woodworking, journaling, writing, poetry, photography, or other creative outlets.

"4" Increase physical activity. Try extra steps, dancing, walking, jump rope, biking, yoga, stretching, stairs, running, whatever physical activity suits you.

"3" Feed your body and soul. Eat more vegetables, proteins, and low carbohydrates (and less sweets and fruit).

"2" Hydrate. Drink a minimum of 64 ounces a day of water (more is even better).

"1" Connect creatively and safely with loved ones--as much as you can.

By finding intrinsic motivation and setting your own goals, you are much more likely to succeed. “First, autonomous goal motivation can lead directly to greater goal progress by allowing individuals to exert more effort, experience less conflict, and feel a greater sense of readiness to change their behaviour” (Koestner, 2008). “Second, autonomous goal motivation also appears to allow individuals to make better use of implementation plans that specify how, when, and where they will enact goal-directed behaviours."

"Moreover, support for autonomy from other people (health care providers and close others) can play a vital ancillary role in facilitating goal pursuits. Finally, there is evidence that successful goal progress results in enhanced well- being, particularly if the goal pursuits involve satisfaction of intrinsic psychological needs.”

Combining playful elements with physical activity, brain exercises, or relaxation techniques, games not only adds enjoyment, but increases intrinsic motivation (Hochsmann et al., 2019). Consider adding an app to your smartphone or device to enhance motivation, relaxation, and enjoyment.

Kaiser Permanente (2020) evaluated 14 apps for relaxation and meditation, which include: Simply Being, Omvana, WhiteNoise, Equanimity, Insight Timer (free), Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics by 10% Happier (free), buddhify, Stop, Breathe & Think (free), Headspace (free), Calm (free for basic), Gratitude Journal, SimpleMind+ (free), My Mood Tracker, andBreathe2Relax (free). Please follow this link to read the review in Kaiser Permanente’s newsletter can be viewed here.

Setting realistic, achievable goals is the easy part. I hope you decide to embark on a lifestyle change this coming year and you have the intrinsic motivation to make meaningful changes. Only then will you discover where such a journey can lead you.

So long, 2020. Please shut the door on the way out.


Teresa Jacobson is a Doctor of Behavioral Health and Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor Supervisor who is counseling Ohio and Kentucky adults of all ages and life experiences via secure Telehealth/Video visits. A strength-based, person-centered multi-cultural counselor, with an existential philosophy, Teresa can be reached by emailing, calling (513) 206-3026, or visiting



Hochsmann, C., Infanger, D., Klenk, C., Konigstein, K., Walz, S.P., and Schmidt-Trucksass, A. (2019).

Effectiveness of a behavior change technique– based smartphone game to improve intrinsic

motivation and physical activity adherence in patients with type 2 diabetes: Randomized

controlled trial JMIR Publications. Serious Games 2019;7(1):e11444 DOI: 10.2196/11444

Kaiser Permanente (2020). 14 meditation & relaxation apps reviewed. Kaiser Permanente

Koestner, R. (2008). Reaching one's personal goals: A motivational perspective focused on autonomy.

Canadian Psychology 49(I):60-67.


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