On the 1st day of 2022, I took a giant leap into a new career. Against limitations, I secured a job by the 10th month. The key to my success? Goal setting. It was the first time I stepped into a new year with daylight clarity on what I wanted to achieve and a roadmap for achieving it. But guess what? I didn't realize this until last December when I was reflecting on how I spent 2023. Despite achieving some feats, seeing how I shot my arrows aimlessly made me know I would've done better if I had a goal. With 2024 in sight, goal setting became a no-brainer. To do this, I demystified my 2022 goal to find the elements that made it work. I also drew inspiration from some successful entrepreneurs. All of which I'm excited to share with you in this article. So, keep reading if, like me, you believe 2023 would've been better with a clearer focus, and you're ready to rewrite the narrative in 2024. 9 Elements of an Effective New Year Goal 1. Choose the Right Goal Choosing a goal is the first and fundamental step in goal setting. And so, deserves more thought than it often gets. This is because the wrong goal will collapse any hard work you build on it. Just as the Bible states, "If the foundations be destroyed, what shall the righteous do?". The telltale sign of a wrong goal is when you choose it based on necessity. Such goals stem from the "I can't be left out/I can't appear unserious" mindset. They're fueled by societal expectations rather than intrinsic motivation. As such, it will make it hard for you to stay resolute when the journey gets murky. The best way to choose a goal is based on—Needs. Because they emanate from genuine reason, which increases your likelihood of committing to them. 4 Steps to Choosing a New Year Goal Based on Needs: Identify your Most Crucial Needs (MCN) Step 1: If you already know what they are/it is, skip to the next step. Assign them a mark on a scale of 10 to identify the parts of your life you're performing the least. And prioritizing the ones with the most significant impact on your current stage in life. Choosing your MCN is important to ensure focus and optimum results. In 2022, my MCN was building a career that would give me creative expression and a high income. List out possible solutions to your crucial needs Step 2: If the solutions you already know don't seem good enough, research more. In my case, baking was the only solution I knew. I had to talk to someone who introduced me to skills like Google quality rating and content writing. Identify your Low-Hanging Solution (LHS) Step 3: Your LHS is the solution with the highest probability of meeting your needs using your existing resources (skill, money, people, energy, time). This involves choosing a solution not just based on its chance for success but also considering whether you have the resources to implement it. In my case, I went with content writing because it gave me the highest chance of creative expression and high income. For resources, I already had a basic knowledge in writing and I could commit the time needed to advance the skill. Note: If none of your listed solutions are low-hanging, be open-minded and do more research to discover better ideas. Define your goal Step 4: Match your most crucial need with your lowest-hanging solution to define your goal. Simply put: MCN + LHS = Goal My goal was—to gain creative expression and increase my income through content writing. 2. Assign Specific Timeframe The benefit of having a new year goal is that it gives you a natural start and end time. But that doesn't mean it must start on January 1st and run through the year. It's ok to know what you want to do and not be ready to start it till later in the year. Only ensure you set a specific start and end date to keep you accountable. When setting your end time, ensure it's neither overstretched nor too short and leave a margin of error. How do you leave a margin of error? Set a deadline earlier than the year's end to accommodate unforeseen situations. This increases your chance of achieving your goal before the year ends. For example, I set my 2024 goals to end in the 3rd quarter of the year. This way, I can handle spillovers in the last quarter. In the absence of any spillover, evaluate your goals and plan for the next year. 3. Set Specific Outcome The truth is that setting a specific outcome can be intimidating because it leaves you no choice but to succeed. But the flexibility of vague goals makes it hard to stay committed and focused, which increases the chance of failure. So, which do you choose? If you go with specificity, keep reading to learn how to set it. Renowned entrepreneur , recommends expressing clear outcomes in absolute numbers devoid of signs like - +>/ Vusi Thembekwayo This means you should be wary of expressions that make your goal appear vague and uncertain. Such expressions often appear as phrases like: Between X and Y I'm trying to I'd like to at least more Or Here are some examples of how to take your goals from vague and uncertain to specific and confident. ❌ I'd like to improve my presentation skills. ✅ I'll enhance my presentation skills by completing a public speaking course within the next two months. ❌ I plan to learn between 2 to 5 languages this year. ✅ I'll learn Spanish and Arabic by taking online language lessons 3x a week. ❌ Maintain at least a 90% customer satisfaction rate. ✅ Achieve a customer satisfaction rate of 90% by addressing feedback and implementing improvements. ❌ I want to visit more countries. ✅ I'll visit three new countries every two months starting in April to broaden my cultural experiences. Still need a reason to set specific outcomes? According to Vusi, it enables you to give a straightforward yes or no answer when evaluating the success of your goal. This makes it easy to know the next step to take. More about it in element 9 (goal evaluation). 4. Create an Action Plan If you know your destination but don't know the route that leads there, it’s certain you'll never get there. Your goal is the destination. Your action plan is the route to achieving it. To create an action plan, identify the elements you need to achieve the goal. These elements include resources, habits, milestones, contingency plans, and scheduling. If, for instance, you have the goal of reading 15 books in various genres over the next six months, an action plan example for you will be: A list of book names, highlighter, and jotter. Resources: Process: Find book recommendations on Amazon Buy them Read them Read 20 pages daily before going to bed, except on Sunday. Habit: Complete one book every month. Milestone: If I miss a day, I'll make it up the next day by reading 40 pages. Contingency plan: Block 1 hour before bedtime on my calendar. Scheduling: Note: Before creating an action plan, conduct adequate research to know what's achievable. For instance, in the example above, it's essential to check the total pages of your book to determine the daily reading target required to meet your deadline. 5. Make it Ambitious An ambitious goal stretches you beyond your limit and makes you feel more fulfilled. For instance, you usually save $50k annually, but this year, you decided to save $100k by streamlining your expenses. But, be careful not to mistake overambitious for ambitious goals. Over-ambitious goals are impossible to achieve. E.g. Aiming to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company within one year of starting your career. OK. This clearly looks over-ambitious, but sometimes they're not that easy to recognize. This is why you need a framework to determine the ambitiousness of your goal. The framework requires you to answer these three questions: Do you need to step out of your comfort zone or establish limits to achieve it? Yes - ambitious No - under-ambitious Despite difficulties, do you have a clear roadmap for achieving it? Yes - ambitious No - overambitious Is the reward worth the risk? Yes - ambitious No - overambitious Kindly note that the effectiveness of this framework is reliant on how well you did your research and the sincerity of your answers. 6. Develop an Adaptable Mindset After setting my 2024 career goal, I discussed it with an expert who found faults in my process and offered suggestions. It was a hard pill to swallow initially because I believed in my process. But after two days of thinking through it, I became convinced that adhering to her advice was the best decision. This underscores the importance of approaching your goal with an adaptable mindset. Certain things could distort the direction of your goal, such as: Expert advice, like in my case Unforeseen situations during implementation. Government regulations Environmental factors like the COVID pandemic It may be difficult to change your original idea if you have an affinity for it, invested efforts/resources in it, or the process of changing it is challenging. To make a rational decision, Don't settle for the first choice that comes to your mind. Instead, ponder on it. Weigh the risk of sticking with your existing plan and the advantages of adjusting it. If it's advice, like in my case, consider the person's experience and understand the reason for their suggestion. Get the opinion of a third party. Check in with your intuition. Does adaptability negate the importance of setting a specific timeframe and outcome for your goal? No! They complement each other. While the latter helps you stay committed and focused, the former keeps you attuned to reality. 7. Define Your "Why" Two months into my content writing career, I felt trapped in muddy ground. I hadn’t made a dime. I was feeling intimidated by other people's work. My family thought I was wasting my time. But I remained steadfast, and this is because I had a “why,” which is this: Writing gives me the joy of seeing my ideas breathe life. And it has the highest chance of giving me the money I need to live the life I want and make a social impact. This thought kept me motivated. This is the power of having a “why.” It motivates you to keep going, especially when the journey gets tough. Like kinetic energy is required to set an object in motion and sustain it, your "why" gives you the intrinsic energy to kick start your goal and keep the momentum. What is your "why"? It's the strongest benefit of achieving your goal. Emphasis on the word "strongest" because the stronger it is, the more steadfast you’ll be. If you choose your goal based on need, it'll be easy for you to define your "why.” When you do, keep it handy (in your subconscious mind or writing) so that you can easily refer to it when it's needed. 8. Keep it in Sight Out of sight is out of mind, they say. If you can't see your goals, there's a high chance of forgetting them. This goes beyond writing them down but embracing systems that make it easy to remember them. Tools for Keeping Your Goals in Sight: Design vision boards and hang them on prominent walls in your office or bedroom to provide motivation and help you maintain focus. Block dates in your calendar to remember what you plan to do at certain times. Establish review rituals, e.g., dedicate a day of the week or month to evaluate your progress. Write on sticky notes and place them in prominent places, such as your workspace or mirror, to serve as reminders. Share with others like friends, family, or colleagues who can provide support and hold you accountable. Use goal-tracking apps like Goals Wizard, Hatch, and Goalify for easy access, keeping track of your progress, setting reminders, and enriching your evaluation with analytics insight. 9. Evaluate Your Goal In the last quarter of the year, ask yourself this question: Did I achieve my goal? If you set a precise outcome, you should be able to answer… Yes or No If your answer is No. Don't feel bad, especially if you did your best. Rather, identify the milestones you achieved and celebrate them. And go further to assess why you couldn't hit the intended outcome. Did you choose the wrong goal? Was it overambitious? Was your action plan flawed? Were you not adaptive? Were you lazy? Did you procrastinate? Did you lose motivation? Did you forget it? I understand that it could involve a more nuanced problem. The point is for you to probe your process thoroughly to uncover mistakes and draw insights to set better goals for the next year. But if you achieved your goal, bravo 👏👏 So… What Next? There are three things you can do: Set another goal: If, after reaching this new height, you feel unsatisfied and believe there's a better chance of achieving more if you keep the momentum, set another goal. Just so you know, this is why I should have set a goal for 2023. Focus on another bucket: You can pick another bucket of your life that needs some love and set a goal for it. Don't set a goal at all: I understand that continuous goal setting can feel like an unending rat race. It's the reason the start of this article encourages you not to set goals based on necessity but on needs. So, if you feel satisfied with your current state in life, there is no pressure. Live unbound 🕊️ And know that you can always set a goal within the year if you find a need to do so.