New Month New Goals: The Complete Guide

I think we all have heard a version of “new month, new goals” every time a month is about to end. 

A new month comes along and we set 20 new goals, and by the end of the month we weren’t able to stick to most of them.

Maybe we set ourselves to “work out at the gym every day”, “get up at 5 a.m. every single day”, or “meditate, do yoga, and stretch”. All of this while still having to manage the usual workload at home and at your job. Sounds familiar?

There is nothing wrong with big goals, but we have to take into consideration the fact that we cannot do them all at once. Also, in order to set a goal we have to know where we are at now.

So, in this list you’ll find the complete step-by-step guide to create realistic, successful monthly goals (but honestly, this applies to any time frame! Even daily or weekly goals).

Let’s start!

Why Goal Setting?

Goal setting usually happens for two main reasons. The first one is because we are going through a big change in our lives that makes us want a fresh start. Something new to look forward to. 

Maybe you are in a stage of your life with new beginnings: you moved to another town, got a new job, started college, had a child, or simply New Years is a few days ahead!

But most of the time, big changes don’t happen often. So, a second reason is to set recurrent goals (such as monthly goals). This can give us some extra spice during the week, additional structure, and a new mindset to keep us sharp and creative.

Setting New Goals: The Basics

In this section, you will learn all the basics to ensure maximum success when setting your new monthly goals. Some of the content may take you back to your high school or college days, but it is worth it. I promise.

SMART Goals – But Let’s Focus on Habits Instead

Maybe you read about SMART goals in school or college, or maybe even at work. I personally learned about it in my nutrition counseling courses. As dietitians, we can help our clients/patients set SMART goals to achieve their desired nutritional goals.

This acronym refers to Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timebound. But I have a love-hate relationship with this system. Let’s cover why.

To be very honest, when I first learned about this method I felt like it was a little antiquated. Not only that, I have tried setting goals using this system and it has not always been so successful. 

So, as I was writing this post, I got curious to see if there was any research suggesting if they even worked in the first place. And the answer is yes but no. 

Why SMART Goals Work

The biggest mistake we make when setting goals is to make them so abstract that we don’t even know which actions to take in order to achieve them. 

Let’s do this with an example I see extremely often as a personal trainer. It is common to hear things like “I want to workout” or “I want to gain muscle”. While it is perfectly fine to want to achieve this, it is so easy for these goals to flop!

What type of workout? What are you planning on doing to get there? In what time frame? 

This is why the SMART framework is a great guide. It allows us to create realistic goals that can be measured, so we will know when we have actually achieved our goals (1). 

An example could be:

  • I want to become more active by going to a gym class 2x a week (W and F) for the next 4 weeks. 

Why SMART Goals DON’T Work

As this INC article states, the problem with SMART goals is that they “can be motivating for some people, but ironically, they can make others feel like failures”.

We can become anxious when we do not complete our SMART goals to a T. 

What if we could only partially complete our task? What if you got sick, or if there was an emergency? Does that still count?

The Middle Ground – Small Habits

So, instead of focusing on achieving something, we can focus on the process (and progress) instead. The process includes all of the little habits that will eventually lead us to the desired goal.

In other words, the goal will simply be our inspiration, but we should focus on the habits instead.

The extremely famous book Atomic Habits defines a habit as “regular practice or routine that is not only small and easy to do, but is also the source of incredible power; a component of the system of compound growth”.

Habits are similar to SMART goals in the sense that they are specific things we are doing in our day. Habits can be measurable, attainable, and relevant too! 

So, let’s learn how to set monthly goals by focusing on changing our habits (or creating new ones).

New Month New Goals: Let’s Set New Habits

Step 1 – What Do You Want to Work on?

The current month is about to end, and we tell ourselves “new month new goals“. Fantastic. But where do you start? 

Let’s start broad. Don’t focus on the details yet. As we said before, the broad goals will be our inspiration, and from there we will focus on the habits. 

This step is completely personal. There are no good monthly goals or bad ones. 

Option 1: Prompts to Help You Find a Goal

I suggest you write down the answers to these questions on paper or maybe type them in a document: 

  • Start by reflecting on what is something you have been wanting to achieve lately (or even for a long time)
  • Or maybe think about something you have been wanting to change for a while 
  • Take a look at your previous month and identify if there is something you could improve

Option 2: Focus on an Area of Life

If you are drawing a blank, you can also determine if there is an area of life you would want to focus on.

The areas you can work on include:

  • Finance
  • Career
  • Attitude
  • Health (fitness, nutrition)
  • Social life (family, friends, romantic)
  • Personal growth
  • Spiritual 
  • Fun and recreation

Goals Ideas

In case you need some guidance, here you will find a list of sample monthly goals ideas: 

  • Start to workout
  • Travel more
  • Save more money
  • Focus on self-care
  • Meditate
  • Be more mindful
  • Go out more with your partner
  • Get a promotion
  • Start journaling 
  • Spend more quality time with your family/friends
  • Eat healthier

Step 2 – Select the Most Relevant Goals

Most likely you have a list with a few goals. You can choose multiple things to work on at a time, but the more goals you set, the more habits you will need to include/change, and the harder it will be to succeed. 

My recommendation is not to choose more than 2-3 goals at a time. 

How to Choose?

Prioritize what is most important to you: for example, let’s say that your goals are “get a side job, get a promotion, and focus on self-care”. But for the past few months you have been extremely stressed, tired and exhausted. 

If mental and physical health are more important to you, maybe focus on self-care first. If getting a new job is of extreme importance, maybe focus on applying to new jobs while still dedicating some time to self-care.

There is no right or wrong. Choose what works best for YOU.

Step 3 – Select the Habits

For each goal you selected, think of one habit you could include in your schedule that would help you reach your goal. Remember, a habit is an action that can be repeated on a daily basis.

The most important thing to keep in mind is to be realistic. But how?

What Are Your Current Habits?

In order for habits to work, they have to be based on what your current habits are. We have to be very honest with ourselves and accept that setting habits that are way too advanced is not going to be useful.

For example, let’s say your goal is to be more active. If you currently don’t do any type of physical activity, setting up the habit of going for a 5k mile every day may be a little too much. 

Identify what your current habits are related to your goals, such as:

  • I currently save $… every month
  • I spend quality time with my family once a week
  • I take a 15-min walk twice a week

Incremental Changes You Can Enjoy

Based on your current habits, identify what you can ADD to those OR a small new habit you can include in your schedule. 

But the condition is that it has to be something you can enjoy (if possible). 

But how?

  1. Identify what barriers prevent you from doing more of that habit
  2. Determine how you could structure more your current habits
  3. Select a REALISTIC, small, and incremental change you could add to your habit OR select a new small habit altogether

Example

Let’s do a summary of a goal so far:

  • Goal: I want to focus on self-care
  • Current habits: I read my favorite book whenever I have a chance throughout the day and I take a 1-hr hike once or twice a month
  • Barriers: I prioritize work so I forget to read. I don’t like going alone on hikes, so I only go whenever my friend can go with me
  • Structure current habit: since hikes are unplanned, my friend cannot always go with me because she has plans already. Maybe I could set a day and a time frame (Saturday mornings). Instead of randomly reading during the day, I can read before bedtime. 
  • Incremental habit/new habit: Set hikes for Saturday mornings (~30 mins) and confirm with my friend on the day before. If she can’t, I will contact X and Y and ask them if they want to come with me; I will have my book on my nightstand and I will read for 15 minutes before bedtime.

And, voilà! You finished setting your goals and habits. 

Step 4 – Forgive Yourself

One of the most important things of living a mindful life is to forgive yourself. We are not perfect. 

It is true that in order to achieve success we need to be consistent, and sometimes the work may not be as enjoyable. So, yes, let’s try to complete our habits as much as we can.

But please, please, please, do not punish yourself for not doing one of your habits once in a while. 

If you were not able to do it (or didn’t feel like it) for a day it is fine. Don’t overwork, restrict, or punish yourself because of it. Just move on and let’s keep working on those habits. 

Tiny Tips for Success

This section is to give you some extra motivation for whenever you feel like giving up. You don’t have to do all of these ideas, choose the ones you think will work for you:

  • Vision boards (of your goals)
  • Post-it notes with reminders 
  • Goal journaling (write about your current goal journey)
  • Make goals with others

And most importantly, save and share this image with a quick summary of how to create your goals and habits. Short and sweet!

Infographic summarizing the 4 steps to setting goals and habits: 1) What do you want to work on? 2) Select the most relevant goals 3) Select the habits 4) Forgive yourself

Summary

We all need some new-month motivation once in a while. Setting our goal of the month (or goals) can inspire us, give us some structure, and create a new mindset to keep us sharp and creative.

Setting goals is an in-between of SMART goals AND focusing on incremental changes to our current habits. 

To set your goals, identify what you want to work on, choose the most relevant goals, and select the habits you are going to do to achieve those goals. Most importantly, forgive yourself in the journey. ♥

Comment below what are your new goals of the month!

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As a passionate advocate for well-being, Irene Mejia seamlessly combines the nutrition expertise of a registered dietitian, the fitness knowledge and motivation of a personal trainer, and her experience in mindfulness to guide busy individuals on their journey to a healthier lifestyle.

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