How to Set Realistic Goals for 2021 (and Stick to Them!)

Osmosis Team
Published on Jan 4, 2021. Updated on Dec 29, 2020.

Happy New Year! Many of us make resolutions at the start of a new calendar year, but it can be tough to figure out how to set reasonable goals you’ll stick with long-term. Well, Osmosis Health Coach, Ishan Dahal, is here to help! Today, he’s sharing five actionable tips you can use to set attainable goals and make the most of the year to come.

2020 is finally behind us, and while we're not out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID-19, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Many of us worked on self-improvement goals at home during a year of physical distancing. (Many also didn't, and that's perfectly fine, too!) If you feel ready to start Reaching Further in 2020, check out the tips in this blog!

Today is a great time to consider what you wish to accomplish this year. Incredible accomplishments generally require consistent, dedicated effort. However, it’s important to remember that most great accomplishments aren’t realized immediately.

As the saying goes, “Fortune favors the prepared.” Let’s talk about how you can set realistic goals and stay on track, whether you’re looking to work out more, reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill, or crush USMLE® Step 1 this year

Whatever you have in mind, here are three things you can do to make sure you start 2021 off with your best foot forward.

1. Plant a Seed Habit 

Planting a Seed Habit means making ONE small behavioral change and incorporating it into your routine. Once it becomes “rooted” in your daily life, you can cultivate it with additional habits. 

For example, you might want to get into better shape. A seed habit you could plant to kickstart this goal is making the decision to take a 20-minute walk every morning. As time goes on, you notice that the extra exercise is paying off; you feel better, and that’s really motivating! This inspires you to add other things to that routine, like eating a healthier breakfast before you leave the house, or listening to podcasts while you walk. 

Learn more about Seed Habits in this Osmosis video: 

2. Use chunking to break down your goals.

Significant, long-term goals can seem daunting; chunking them can help.

Chunking means breaking something down into smaller, more manageable pieces—you might have heard of this in Osmosis’s Learning Science video, Multimedia Learning

Let's say you want to be more active and work out 4 or 5 times a week. For some people, it might not be the best to start hitting the running trail five times a week right away,  especially if it’s a brand new addition to your routine. You can use the chunking method to make this goal more manageable. 

Instead of running 5 times right away, you can modify your goal slightly: in 4–6 months you’d like to be involved in some sort of physical activity 4–5 times a week (notice it’s now framed as “physical activity” not “running”, opening things up to almost any form of activity that raises your heart rate). 

You will get started with 1–2 weekly workouts for the first month. In the second or third month you can increase it to 3–4 days of physical activity, progressively building up to your goal. This way you are moving towards your goal in little chunks—a relaxed approach that makes things much more attainable!

3. Lean on your strengths

It's really motivating to sustain a pursuit once you've built up some initial momentum. Nothing saps energy like continuous work with no progress to show for it! I suggest relying on your strengths to manufacture an initial boost that will propel you forward. Maybe you’re great at planning, or coordinating with others; whatever your strengths, align it any current goals you are working towards, and give yourself an easy head-start! 

The enthusiasm of your strength can also help dilute the initial lack of motivation that comes with big personal adjustments, like setting new goals. The side effect will be excitement, rather than boredom.

You can think of the inertia of your strength as the rocket fuel for your ambitions. Use it and see how it helps you crush your goals in 2021!

4. Act now!

Once you've finished chunking and figured out ways to pair your strengths with your goals, it’s crucial to act right away. Building a solid momentum in the beginning can snowball quickly, and you want to capitalize on that. You also want to take advantage of the initial jolt of motivation that comes when you start something new.

Accomplishing a new goal might also require you to create some new habits, and habits are reinforced by repetition. This is also why you want to get moving on your goal-oriented tasks immediately. 

You have thought through your goal. Trust yourself that it is a worthy goal and go after it. Six months later you'll thank your current self for taking that first step and acting immediately. 

5. Join a friend or a community 

When you have chunked your goal, paired your strengths and sprung into action, it’s time to find a buddy who can join you on your journey for the long haul. 

Nothing is more fun or motivating than starting something new with a friend or a group of friends who share similar aspirations. I cannot stress this point enough! 

Finding a solid friend or a community who will reinforce what you are looking to accomplish can help you in so many ways. These people can…

  • Keep you accountable

  • Encourage you on days when you’re not feeling the greatest

  • Celebrate your wins with you (and you can celebrate theirs too!)

  • Instill a sense of belonging (which can be highly motivating)

Once you have achieved your goal, consider mentoring someone who wants to walk the same path. This is a way to keep you focused on maintaining your new habit while helping someone else at the same time!

And there you have it! Five simple tips to help you accomplish your goals. Once you figure out what you want to accomplish you: 

  1. Plant a Seed Habit

  2. Break your goals down into manageable chunks

  3. Lean on your strengths

  4. Act on your tasks right away 

  5. Bring along friends or join a community who are looking to accomplish similar things. 

I hope these simple steps will help you get closer to achieving your 2021 goals. Best of luck!

About Ishan

Ishan Dahal is Osmosis's health and wellness coach. When he's not working out with his Osmosis teammates or brushing up on health and wellness literature, he's spending time with his family, going on long walks with an audio-book, or contemplating what vegetables he will get next week.


Try Osmosis today! Access your free trial and find out why millions of  current and future clinicians and caregivers love learning with us.