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Moving toward your dreams or just moving? Yearly goals can help

August 12, 2022 - 14 min read


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What are yearly goals?

6 reasons you should set yearly goals

How to set and achieve yearly goals

21 examples of yearly goals

Final thoughts

New year, new me? 


We all know the excitement that comes with January and a shiny set of New Year’s resolutions. And we definitely know how quickly we give up. 

By February most resolutions are toast. By July, we forget what or who we had intended to become. Let’s talk about yearly goals that aren’t tied to January. Let’s talk about yearly goals that work.

Most of our yearly goals are made up on-the-spot, usually in late December, when someone asks about our resolutions. Then we convince ourselves that we’ll somehow achieve them without a real plan.

Life usually takes over. Work, friendships, and travel all happen, and our goals fall by the wayside.

You aren’t alone in this. A 2020 study found most Americans abandon their New Year’s resolutions after the first month. And we understand. Goal setting is complicated. 

But with better planning, you can set targets that are more suited to you and your needs. Let’s go over some yearly goals examples and how you can achieve them.

What are yearly goals?

Yearly goals are precisely what the name suggests: targets you hope to achieve within the next 12 months. This puts them in the category of “short-term goals.” If they’re any longer, they become medium-term goals (two to five years), long-term goals (up to ten years), or life goals. 

New Year’s is undoubtedly the most popular time to set your annual target.

From a psychological standpoint, it makes sense. The holiday offers a clear breaking point from the previous 12 months. It gives a sense of new beginnings, opening the door to more possibilities. 

But you can find all sorts of reasons for a fresh start throughout the year, and they don’t come with the baggage of years worth of discarded resolutions. So, call it to spring cleaning, embrace the new summer, and lean into the school rhythm with a fresh start in Fall. Whatever it is, don’t wait.

You can pursue your ambitions at any point — you just need to make a plan and set realistic goals.

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Types of yearly goals

You can set annual goals for any and every category of your life. Here are some of the targets you might wish to pursue:

  1. Academic. You don’t have to limit yourself to college courses here. Think about your continuous learning outside of school, too. What do you want to learn this year?
  2. Career. Whether you’re gunning for a promotion or boosting your productivity, career and development goals can help you get there.
  3. Personal development. There’s more to life than hard work. You can set goals aimed at improving your overall well-being. 
  4. Personal health. Counting your steps is just as valid as running a marathon. Whatever it takes to improve your physical wellness matters.
  5. Financial. Make plans for your money. This can help you achieve anything from financial independence to a comfortable retirement.
  6. Spiritual goals. These can help you connect more deeply with your faith or spirituality.
  7. Relationship. From finding love to reconnecting with old friends, these goals can help you strengthen your connections.

Depending on your situation, you might prioritize some types of goals over others. But it’s important to set goals for your self-development.

If you need help getting started, try working with BetterUp. Our coaches can help you identify what’s important to you, make an action plan, and motivate you to achieve your goals.

6 reasons you should set yearly goals

It’s tempting not to bother with setting annual goals. But they come with many benefits. Here are a few to consider before you rule them out.

1. They give you direction

If you’ve ever felt stuck, goals are a way to pull yourself out. The best yearly goals give you something to strive for, pointing you toward success.


2. They allow you to track your progress

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re always learning and moving forward. But you won’t notice your progress if you’re not paying attention. Goals give you a way to see how far you’ve come.

3. They help you stay accountable

How many times have you told yourself, “I should really work out more.” Great! Let’s hold you to that. When you create goals, your lofty dreams become real. The next logical step is to take action. Looking at an unchecked “workout” box on your to-do list will remind you to keep working.

4. They keep you motivated

Every time you achieve a goal, it’s a win. That deserves celebration. And every time you reward yourself, you boost your energy and build your motivation to keep going.

5. They halt procrastination

A goal has a clear deadline. This forces you to plan accordingly and take the necessary steps to succeed.


6. They help you figure out what you want

Without a clear target, it’s easy to never commit to a project. Setting a goal forces you to focus on what’s important.

How to set and achieve yearly goals

Are you convinced yet? Yes? Good! 

Now, let’s talk about how you can set yourself up for success. Whether you’re creating yearly goals for work or your personal life, here are some tips.

1. Think about what you want

Be specific with what you want to accomplish. As you think about it, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I want out of life?
  • What kind of family life do I imagine?
  • What are my career aspirations?
  • What would I regret not doing before I die?

These types of questions will point you in the right direction. They will help you visualize your ideal life to start striving for it.

2. Be SMART about achieving your goals

Now that you have a direction, make SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for targets that are:

  • Specific: you know exactly what you want to accomplish
  • Measurable: you have a clear metric for measuring success
  • Achievable: you’re able to accomplish your goal with your current skills and resources
  • Relevant: your goal connects to your wider lifetime ambitions
  • Time-bound: you have a clear time frame for achieving your goal

Once you know how to use it, this method will help with everything from team goals to your personal development goals.

3. Start small

Set smaller milestones that inch you toward your larger goal. Each should have clear deadlines to stay on task throughout the year. If you can’t accomplish it within the year, split it into several short-term goals.

4. Tell your loved ones about your ambitions

You don’t need to broadcast your goals to the world. But if you tell even a handful of people, they’ll feel much more real. Also, if you’re ever feeling lost, they can remind you why you took on this challenge in the first place. They can also provide valuable feedback on how you’re doing.

5. Re-evaluate your goals often

A lot can change in a year. A few months from now, you may want very different things than you do currently. Re-evaluating your goals will help ensure you’re always heading in the right direction.

6. Reward yourself at each step

This means finding your “carrot” — an external motivator — to celebrate a milestone. It could be a chocolate bar after a run or a day off after writing. Every time you reward yourself, you reinforce the habit of achieving your goals.


7. Put your goals somewhere visible

Stick your list of goals to your bathroom mirror. Set them as your phone wallpaper. Tattoo them on your arm (okay, maybe don’t do this one). Whatever it is, make sure you can see and remind yourself of your goals every day.

8. Believe in yourself

There will be bumps on your journey. But, as with most things in life, they’ll pass. It’s important to believe in your ability to overcome obstacles. Trust that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.

21 examples of yearly goals

So what are good goals to set? Here are some goal ideas for every area of your life.

Academic goals

  1. Achieve an A in your college course
  2. Apply to a Ph.D. program
  3. Read a nonfiction book every month

Career goals

  1. Improve your work-life balance

  2. Apply for a promotion to become a manager

  3. Master your time-management

Personal goals

  1. Spend less time on social media
  2. Define your personal beliefs and values
  3. Start a new hobby

Personal health goals

  1. Wake up earlier
  2. Exercise three times a week
  3. Bike to work instead of drive


Financial goals

  1. Start a retirement savings account
  2. Build an emergency fund
  3. Pay off your student debt

Spiritual goals

  1. Read the central texts of your religion
  2. Meditate for 20 minutes every day
  3. Take part in your religious community

Relationship goals

  1. Learn a new skill together
  2. Go on more frequent dates
  3. Spend more time with your friends

Final thoughts

Pursuing a yearly goal is difficult. That’s a fact. But with a bit of planning, you can set yourself up for success. 

Doing so will pay you back in dividends. You’ll set yourself on a path of personal growth and find new motivation every step of the way. 

Hopefully, the above yearly goals examples inspire you to make changes this year.  For more help setting goals, understanding your motivations, or for other career and life changes, try working with BetterUp. Our professional coaches can help you on your path to your full potential.

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Published August 12, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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