Many people view the ringing in of a new year as an opportunity to make positive changes in their lives and plan for future goals. While the truth is that we are not dependent on a calendar date to set new beginnings for ourselves, it is not a bad idea to take the excitement that accompanies new year celebrations and channel it towards something positive. To that end, here are three suggestions for setting successful goals and moving in the direction of a brighter future.

1. Know yourself

In goal setting, it is important to know your own strengths and limitations. Don’t aim so high that the goal is impossible; that would only bring disappointment when it is not achieved.

Goals that lie outside the bounds of what is possible for your current life situation are not worth the investment of time or energy. It is better to set numerous attainable smaller goals than to set one major unrealistic one.

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There are several ways of gaining better self-understanding, such as journaling, travelling, trying new hobbies or activities, meditation, yoga, and professional counselling.

2. Set SMART goals

SMART is an acronym that stands for: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based. Keep these buzz words in mind when planning new beginnings.

The more specific you are in defining a goal and limiting its timeframe for accomplishment, the greater your chances of achieving success. Measurable goals allow you to observe and notice progress along the way which encourages you to keep going.

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3. Be gentle with yourself

While new beginnings provide an opportunity for success and accomplishment, it is important to keep in mind that we are only human and not every plan we make is going to be triumphant. This is okay.

Instead of viewing failure as a major disappointment, we can make friends with it and look at what it offers to teach us. Oftentimes, failure is merely an opportunity in disguise, pointing us in a direction of growth and new challenges. So, if you fall short of a goal, take a deep breath and know that you’ll be just fine.

Remember that life gives numerous opportunities for new beginnings. They do not come along only during new year celebrations, but can arise any day at any time. Each rising sun, after all, brings a new day and can be an opportunity to hit the reset button.

Dr. Michael Eason is a registered psychologist with MindnLife in Hong Kong.

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