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How To Set Goals And Make Them Happen

If New Year's resolutions don’t work for you, you might find this article helpful.

January is an insane month for regular gym-goers because the rest of the world sets a not-so-interesting NY goal — start working out. But it goes a little bit like this 👇


I intentionally write this article a month later. By now most resolutionists would have fallen off the wagon and feel bad about themselves. That’s because their resolutions were too unrealistic or unmanageable.

I will start working out 5x a week, make 100k this year, or learn Spanish are good, but not realistic goals. Not because it’s not possible but because that’s not how our minds work.


The reason video games are so addicting is because they offer small rewards along the way says George Mack. Anyone we deem lazy can play video games for hours. Are they lazy or are real-life incentives boring?

Video game writers are the real psychologists. They set up a big goal (winning the game), but it requires overcoming increasingly difficult obstacles (advancing through levels) whilst also offering mini-rewards within each level (the enjoyment of a bad guy screaming as he falls from your shot).

Level 10 is more fun compared to level 1 because you experience increasing excitement, reward, challenge and meaning.

If you want to motivate humans, frequent rewards are more addicting than one-off rewards — George Mack

Start small. Set up small goals, incentives and rewards along the way to your desired goal. If you haven’t worked out properly don’t set out to hit the gym 5x a week. This may be the goal you’re aiming to achieve by the end of the year but start small.

One goal

Instead of choosing multiple goals, write down one goal for each area and only start with one goal at a time.

  • Health (sleep, exercise, nutrition)
  • Career/work (promotion, starting a business, career transition)
  • Finances (investing, passive income, salary)
  • Mental health (meditation, self-compassion, therapy)
  • Romantic Relationship (dating, more quality time w/your partner).
  • Learning (a new language, programming, knitting) etc.

You will not be able to implement the changes all at once. It’s too difficult to leave the comfort zone. But if you pick one and work on it for a month, it’ll become a habit. You’ll then have the bandwidth to tackle another goal.

For example, I’ve decided that in 2024 I’ll fix my posture. My scapulas are winging and I can’t do a single push-up. My upper back is weak which left me constantly aching. So on on the 2nd of December, I started following a daily routine.

  • The area of improvement: health
  • The big goal: be able to do 10 push-ups at the end of the year.
  • The small daily goal: targeted, 30 mins back exercises twice a day.
  • The rewards: taking pictures of my scapulas monthly to see progress, no more upper back pain (incredibly rewarding), improved breathing, and a sense of self-esteem in committing to my health daily.

By the time I reached the 30-day mark, upper back exercises became part of my routine. I’ve already seen progress and reaped rewards (less pain) to keep going so I can tackle another area now. Another not-so-unexpected outcome is that I exercise more. Once I’m done with my back routine, I want to keep going. Good habits feed off of each other.

P.S. The daily goal could be as small as your circumstances require. It could be doing 5 minutes of stretching if you’re a mom of three. Consistency is its own reward.

Moving from head to heart

This is a fancy way of explaining how to close the gap between what we know we should be doing and actually doing it.

This requires accepting a few basic things

  • You are a fallible human being and you will experience pain, failure and disappointment.
  • You have intrinsic worth but it becomes experiential when you can trust yourself. You earn self-trust with your actions (doing what you say you would).
  • Your feelings are not reality. They are not valid nor invalid — feelings just are and they’re often irrational.
  • You are an adult with power, agency and responsibility. Your ‘triggers’ are yours to fix.

Mental health tools to adopt

  • Develop an awareness of your emotional needs and responses. Learn to meet your own needs and self-soothe. If you’re hyper-independent, learn to ask for help and be vulnerable.
  • Be aware of how society’s conditions of worth impact self-esteem and behaviour. Recognize when you’re chasing ideals that don’t align with your true self due to societal or parental expectations.
  • Strive for unconditional positive self-regard, where self-worth is not dependent on meeting external conditions. Set your own standards.
  • Cultivate empathy and compassion for others: Understand that everyone is striving towards something and their ‘negative’ behaviours are often influenced by unmet needs, expectations and insecurities.
  • Perform acts of service. It’s the little things that count. Perhaps there’s a local cat that needs feeding. Or a lonely neighbour who would benefit from a 10-minute chat. Maybe you could cook for a friend who’s having a busy time at work. When we do good to others, we feel good about ourselves.
  • Good mental health is not a goal per se — it’s a foundation for fulfilling your goals.

To sum up

  1. Gamify your goals by setting small, incremental rewards along the way.
  2. Pick one goal, work on it daily until it becomes a habit and then move on to the next.
  3. Review and focus on your relationship with yourself.

Go easy on yourself,

Rima ♥️

P.S. This is from my newsletter, if you like to receive it directly in your inbox, go here.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash