20 Personal & Work Goals to Set for 2021

20 Yearly Personal Goals to Set for 2021

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I was taken by surprise recently when I mentioned SMART goals in a meeting at work and several people didn’t know what I was talking about.

I thought that SMART goals had become somewhat of a buzzword in the professional arena, and certainly something that everyone was at least kind of familiar with. After implementing SMART goals into my own life, I have to wonder how people who don’t practice this know when they have reached their goal?

And then it occurred to me why new year’s resolutions are so often abandoned by February 1st (in fact, research shows that 80% of new year’s resolutions are forgotten by February 15th).  If you google: top five new year’s resolutions, you will find:

  1. Diet or eat healthier
  2. Exercise more
  3. Lose weight
  4. Save more money
  5. Learn a new skill

The problem with these goals is that not one of them is specific, which leaves you a lot of gray area to play around in (“I’ll splurge tonight on this ice cream sundae and start fresh tomorrow”, “I’ll just buy this one new electronic”).

They’re not measurable (Exercise how much more? One day per week? Twice a month?).

They’re not actionable (What steps will you take to lose weight? Are you going to sign up for a class to learn your new skill?).

They’re not realistic, simply because they’re so vague.

And finally, they’re not timely because there is no deadline to any of them.

So, you’ve lost one pound by January 20th. Does that mean you met your goal? You ate salads for a week. Was that the end of your diet?

Surely you see where I’m going with this. If you’re going to set goals in the new year, it is imperative to make them SMART goals in order to see the results that you’re looking for. Whatever your aspirations are, setting effective goals can help you get there.

Alternatively, having a poorly constructed goal can put an end to your motivation and make you feel defeated that you’re not getting anywhere. When you set an unreasonable goal, it's easy to throw in the towel when you don’t see results. The key to success is to make a plan and stick to it by creating SMART goals. (A good goal setting and tracking app can help you with this.)

In this article, I will talk a little about the goal setting process, then I will uncover the 7 areas of your life where you can set goals. Finally, I will give you 20 examples yearly goals that can help boost your personal development and improve your life.

Let’s start by reviewing how to set SMART goals.

(Side note: Another positive way to improve your life is to read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.)


How to Set Yearly SMART Goals

The first thing you need to do is to identify your goal, believe you can achieve it, and write it down. Writing down your goal will keep you accountable and studies in neuroscience have found you will be up to 1.4 times more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down.

When writing your goal down, use a SMART goal worksheet to help guide you through the process of ensuring that your goal will work by using language that is specific and achievable.

Start with an action verb to describe what you plan to do. Then specifically state what actions you will take.

For example, Participate in two networking events per month–but then you have to add in your why:

Participate in two networking events per month to make six new contacts in my industry by April 1st, 2021.

This goal leaves no questions about what you’re going to do to achieve your goal, how often you’re going to do it, and when you will know if you have been successful. (Did you know that those who created an intention for the implementation of their goal were more than twice as likely to achieve it?)

Once you meet your goal date, whether you achieved your goal or not, you will want to assess the goal itself. Was it too far fetched? Too easy? Reevaluate the goal and tweak it in a way that will allow you to start fresh and be more successful with your newly gained insight and perspective. The more experience you gain setting SMART goals, the better you will become at doing it.

RELATED: 21 Examples of SMART Goals

Want to set goals you can actually achieve? Then watch this video that provides a quick overview of SMART goals with 21 examples.

Let’s look at some areas of your life that it would be beneficial to set SMART goals.

7 Areas of Your Life for Setting Important Goals

Career Goals

You career is one of the major components of your life that will determine whether or not you feel fulfilled at the end of the day. Because of this, it is critical to make career goals that will allow you to feel successful and spend your days doing something that you’re passionate about.

Do you have a clear vision of what you want?

Start by determining your long-term career aspirations and the short-term tasks you need to do in order to achieve them. This will make up your career plan, but because your career will be a life-long journey, you will need to reevaluate your goals as necessary as time goes by.

Finance Goals

You need to set financial goals in order to become financially secure. Without having these goals, you are putting yourself at risk of spending frivolously and wasting money, which can lead to hardships if you face unexpected expenses or are ready to retire.

Reevaluating your financial goals every year and updating them as needed will allow you to track your progress and stay financially secure, which can reduce the stress that comes along with life’s unavoidable expenses.

Health Goals

Having health goals will help you live a long, enjoyable life. Evaluate your current state of health in all areas, including your diet, fitness, life balance, family health history, etc. and identify the areas that could use some improvement or attention. What are your current health statistics? Do you have any bad habits right now that could be further increasing your chances of developing a hereditary disease? Create goals to modify your lifestyle as needed to optimize your health.

Leisure Goals

When you think of your leisure time, you may automatically jump to the idea of having a free pass to sit around while doing nothing. However, your leisure time is a great opportunity to work on your personal development.

Identify some things you would like to learn. Your leisure time can be spent productively when you use it to gain new skills that will challenge you in some way. Having hobbies is a great way to reduce stress, explore your talents, and even bring in some extra income. So making goals in this arena is an important way to make the best use of your time in life.

Organizing Goals

You can’t be your most productive if you’re working or living in a chaotic environment. Set goals and expectations for yourself that you can realistically meet that will help you make your time and space more efficient.

Staying organized will help reduce the amount of stress in your life. By keeping up with your organizational goals, you can spend your time and energy focusing on the tasks that are truly important.

Relationship Goals

It’s hard work to maintain healthy relationships. When you’re in a relationship, your goals should be mutually agreed upon with your partner.  However, if you’re not currently in a relationship, the relationship that you should work on is the one with yourself. Until you’re happy with the person that you are, you may not be in a position to be the kind of partner that you want to be for someone else.

Spirituality Goals

Your spirituality goals will help you work toward a better life on your journey toward self-actualization. Setting goals in this domain will help you live in line with your values, which means that these goals will be highly individualized in nature. To start setting these goals, explore your beliefs and consider the big questions that you want answered, such as what is your why? Do some self-reflection and meditation to try to set yourself in the right direction in making these goals. There are also some tools and podcasts out there to help you explore your spirituality.

Keep in mind that your SMART goals should be so specific that you can’t really read someone else’s example of one and apply it directly to your life. You have your own unique career, health and financial needs, relationships, etc.–so your SMART goals will not be identical to anyone else’s. However, we can look at some examples of goals that you can set in the new year and tailor into SMART goals for your unique situation in these seven areas of your life to improve your wellbeing.

20 Examples of Goals to Set for 2021 to Improve Your Life

1. Take a 30 minute walk during your lunch break three times per week.

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Having a 30 minute walk during your lunch break can help you lose weight and give your mind a refreshing break.

If your goal is to improve your physical health and reduce stress, it could be beneficial to you to step away from your (possibly sedentary) job and get some fresh air and sunlight.

Walking during your lunch break can help you lose weight when coupled with other healthy habits, give your mind a refreshing break, and allow you to change your environment and return to work in the afternoon feeling better prepared to conquer the second half of your day.

2. Reach out to a distant family member once a month.

As families grow up and move away from each other, it is easy to lose touch and only talk on holidays and birthdays. Break this expectation by calling cousins, aunts, and uncles to just catch up throughout the year. This will help you maintain those connections–especially with the modern technology that allows us to keep in touch with loved ones around the world,

When you contact a family member, ask about their lives and share details about yours. Allowing other people to feel connected to you will help you sustain relationships with those who are going to be connected with you in some way for the rest of your life.

3. Purge one room in your house each month until you’ve finished the entire house.

And don’t necessarily stop there. Get rid of the things you don’t need or use anymore and organize the things that you do need. Once you’re able to declutter your living space, you will feel a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Also, you will spend less time looking for things among your accumulated belongings. Sell, donate, or throw away your unwanted items.

4. Practice active listening in your meetings at work to improve your relationships with co-workers.

Active listening is an interpersonal communication skill that will allow people to feel closer to you because they will notice that you’re taking an interest in what they say. Helping people feel heard is one of the best ways of developing a trusting relationship and connection with them.

This will also help you prevent conflicts with co-workers because it will help you develop empathy for them and learn how to take on another person’s point of view.

5. Take 20 minutes once a week to reflect on your successes or achievements for that week.

Part of this is remembering to celebrate the small wins, but another part of it is to consciously recognize what you’re doing things right. So often, we focus on the things we do wrong and dwell on our mistakes, but if you counter that with some time each week to realize everything that you did well, it can help negate some of that self-talk.

6. Learn a new skill or hobby by the end of March.

Maybe you won’t be able to master the skill, but you can certainly get a good start in three months. What is something that you’ve always been interested in but have never pursued? Set a date to get involved with this activity and stick to it. You can learn to master any skill that you put your mind to.

7. Make vegetables half of your dinner every night.

This is a very specific goal that can help overhaul your physical health. Start replacing some of the junk food that you tend to eat for dinner (mashed potatoes, fried chicken, macaroni and cheese) with whole foods that your body can use for clean energy. This is a goal that can easily be turned into a habit that will benefit you greatly for the rest of your life.

8. Meditate for 10 minutes per day.

Meditation has a lot of health benefits, from improving your immune system to increasing your ability to focus. Learn how to observe your thoughts without passing judgment on them. This will help reduce your anxiety and increase your resilience to stress.

Meditation can help you find your inner peace and discover your ultimate purpose in life as you shut out all of the external factors going on and concentrate only on your mind-body connection.

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Meditation has a lot of health benefits, from improving your immune system to increasing your ability to focus.

You can also do some meditative journaling to help you do self-reflection. Meditation can look like a lot of different things, as long as you’re taking the time to pay attention to your body and your surroundings.

9. Leave your phone somewhere else when you’re with someone.

Whether you’re on a day trip with your immediate family or you’re out having coffee with a friend, put your phone away and give all of your attention to the people (and the moment) at hand.

Disconnecting yourself from technology when you’re in the presence of others will help you nourish the relationships that are truly meaningful in your life at the end of the day. If you haven’t already, you will eventually discover that you miss more when you ignore those around you than when you ignore your phone.

10. Build an emergency fund with 6 months’ worth of expenses.

If you’ve already done this, double it. You can really never have too much money in your emergency fund, as no one truly knows what the future holds.

Know what your expenses are and how much it would cost for you to maintain your current quality of life if you lost your income. Prepare for that as if it is imminent. It is much better to be ready if that situation presents itself than to be left panicking because you can’t pay your bills.

11. Read one new book every month.

Live the life of a continuous learner by reading a new book every month. Whether it is fiction or nonfiction, not only will reading help expand your level of knowledge, it will also keep your vocabulary sharp, improve your writing skills, and make you a better problem solver.

Find the topics that interest you the most and pick up books that relate to them. Chances are, you won’t want to put down a book that is talking about something you’re passionate about.

12. Write in a gratitude journal every night.

Reflect on the things you’re thankful for in your life. Doing so will help you live a happier life and feel more content with your current circumstances. Your gratitude journal entries don’t have to be long–they can simply be bullet lists of the things that you’re especially thankful for in the moment. Even if this is one very small thing, maintaining a gratitude journal will improve your mental health.

13. Travel somewhere new this year.

Expand your horizons by travelling somewhere you’ve never been before, Bonus points if you travel alone so you can do exactly what you want to do, see what you want to see, and learn what you want to learn. This will help you gain independence and discover an appreciation for how other people live in this world. And bonus point if you keep a travel journal!

It is important to get out of your daily routine every now and then to gain some perspective and get a reminder that the world isn’t as small as you probably imagine on an everyday basis.

14. Start meal planning.

Meal planning can help you in the organizational arena of your life as well as the health domain. Plan your meals ahead of time each week to save yourself time after work and eliminate the dreaded question of “What’s for dinner?”

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Meal planning can make a big difference in sticking to a healthy diet, it can also save you a lot of time.

There are a lot of good resources to help teach you how to meal plan and there are some tools and apps that can help save you time and make it easy. While frontloading the work at the end of the weekend may seem cumbersome, you will be thanking yourself for the rest of the week by adopting this habit.

15. Ask for a raise at work by May 31st.

You will likely have some sort of performance review in the next six months. Prior to this, make a list of everything of value that you’re adding to the organization. Document your successes between now and your next performance review so you can go into it with a strong argument as to why you deserve it.

While your boss likely knows that you do a good job, they probably aren’t paying attention to the ins and outs of what you do every day, and they may not realize the extent to which you’re working to be successful. Take the time during your review to brag about yourself and be upfront about asking for more money.

16. Take time for your spouse or partner every day.

Maybe you meet for a quick lunch mid-day or you’re able to sit down and talk at the end of the night. Reconnecting with your partner is so important is maintaining that good relationship, staying involved in each other’s lives, and sharing any problems that one of you is facing. Relationships take continuous work to be successful, so take the time to nourish yours every day in some sort of way.

17. Create a work/life balance.

You want to be able to fit your career into your life, not fit your life into your career. So many sources have cited that one of the top five wishes of people who are near death is that they wish they had not worked as hard during their life and had instead spent that time with their family. If you have a choice to not stay late at work so you can eat dinner with your family, take those opportunities to do so. You should work to live, not live to work.

18. Complete a 30-day challenge.

30-day challenges are great because there is always an end in sight and you get to try out a new habit for a month to see if it ends up working for you. If it does, you can continue the habit and make it a part of your everyday routine.  30 day challenges can trick your mind into forming a new habit by making it seem almost like a game at first, but then realizing all of the benefits you’re gaining from it.

There are many types of 30-day challenges to try. Check out this post for 129 ideas for 30 day challenges.

19. Join a club.

Consider your interests or hobbies and find a local club or organization where like-minded people come together to engage in that activity. This will help you develop more relationships in your area with people who share your interests. Clubs are a great way to make new friends and have some more fun during your leisure time.

20. Sign up for a 5k (or 10k, half-marathon, or marathon).

Signing up is the first step to starting your training. You can’t avoid becoming physically fit when you’re trying to get ready for a big race such as one of these. Also, when you’re out running, you can take some time off to free your mind, have some fun, and enjoy the alone time. Choose a race depending upon your current level of fitness and if you have run a few of these before, make a goal of setting a personal record.

Final Thoughts on Yearly 2021 Goals

You still have some time to come up with your SMART goals for 2021, but hopefully this list inspired you in some way to make a positive change in your life. Even if you don’t really know what you want for your future, making goals will help you feel like you’re making progress in some way.

Things can dramatically change over the course of one year, and the truth is, if you know what you want to go for, you don’t need to wait until January 1st. Start today on just one thing that you feel like you can really focus on.

Remember that your goals may change over time, and reevaluating and adjusting them is a big part of ultimately being successful. (Using a good goal setting planner can help you keep track of these adjustments.)

Personal growth doesn’t happen in one big surge of effort. It happens slowly over time by keeping up with your realistic goals and making small–but effective–changes to your life.

Finally, if you want another positive way to improve your life, then read and learn something new every day. A great tool to do this is to join over 1 million others and start your day with the latest FREE, informative news from this website.


Connie Stemmle is a professional editor, freelance writer and ghostwriter. She holds a BS in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her 4-year-old daughter, running, or making efforts in her community to promote social justice.

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20 Yearly Personal Goals to Set for 2021