Effective Goal Setting for 2017 and Beyond

A new year is a great time to set new goals or reinvigorate old ones. The “New Year’s resolution” wouldn’t be such a cliché if there wasn’t something useful in it, right? Well, as it turns out, the majority of people aren’t always right.

In this first of a series of posts, I’ll discuss my thoughts on why we make New Year’s resolutions, types of goals, and good vs. bad goals.


The calendar is a cultural construct of sorts. There is no astronomical significance to the end/beginning of the year; no line crossed, no cosmic “ding” when the earth completes another turn around the sun. On the other hand, at least in the northern hemisphere, we are crossing into the winter months just days before the old year expires. There’s probably a numerology aspect in play here here too – humans love big round numbers. Nobody says “hey, 0.8743 of the year has passed – it’s time to make some changes!”


The combination of the turn of the page, the approaching months of cold and relative isolation indoors, and the recent memory of the various excesses of the holiday season makes the New Year a perfect time to re-prioritize and rededicate. Better to do it right away than after the period of hibernation ends!

Types of Goals

Your goals may be centered on work, family, personal relationships, spiritual development, or fitness.There are many types of goals, even if you narrow the field to running. Psychologically, your goals derive from various directions – what motivates you to run, your prior experience both good and bad, and peer interaction. Categories that seem touchy-feely at first blush may still have both objective and subjective measures. In any event, specific goals are more likely to produce the desired result (e.g. lose 10 pounds vs. lose weight). Goals with both short and long time horizons can be valuable – and while long range planning is important, it’s more effective when a long range goal is broken up into shorter goals that can be reached sooner.

“Good” vs. “Bad” Goals

This is value neutral – I’m not judging the goal itself. I’m talking about setting goals that have a better chance to succeed, not goals that have less or no chance of success. For example, don’t set unrealistic goals. For instance, if I set the goal of winning the Boston Marathon, that would be an unrealistic goal. My PR is a 3:09. These days you have to run around 2:10 or faster to win it. However, a realistic short term goal for me would be to PR at Boston. A realistic long range goal would be to run a sub 3:00 marathon. My motto, “Reach for what you cannot,” seems to run counter to this advice, but not really. I am always reaching just beyond what I’ve already achieved – that’s my take on that credo. Your goals should be difficult, but not impossibly difficult. Goals should be positive, e.g. “run under 3:10”  – not negative – “don’t run over 3:30.”

Next time I’ll cover planning to achieve your goals and prioritizing.

One comment on “Effective Goal Setting for 2017 and Beyond

  1. […] my previous post, I laid out why you should set goals, some different types, and “good” vs. […]

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