There’s something so refreshing about the thought of a new year – a way to start fresh; to revive ourselves; to set goal ideas and work towards the best life we can have.
This year, it’s probably more important than ever because 2020 basically sucked! 2021 is a year to look forward and make changes that will inspire you to live a happy and healthier life.
Why Set Goals?
Did you know that most people that set New Year’s Resolutions fail to follow through on them. Research says that anywhere between 50-90% of people have given up on their goals by the 6 month mark. Some even quit after the first 30 days.
While there are a lot of reasons for this, one of the biggest reasons that I’ve noticed is having goals that are ambiguous rather than specific.
For example, “I want to eat better” or “I’m going to exercise more”. These ideas are great ambitions, but are very broad. What does eat better even mean to you? How much more will you exercise? How will either fit into your life?
Make Your Goal Ideas Specific
Instead of broad resolutions, your goal ideas should be more specific. I’ve come up with a list of 15 goal ideas that you can use to make 2021 your best year ever.
Each of these goal ideas is quite specific, and I’ve tried to elaborate on all of them to get you thinking about the steps to put into place to make them happen.
They’re also broken down by category. I personally like choosing a goal from each of these categories, but you can also just choose one goal at a time to work on!
15 Goal Ideas to Make 2021 Your Best Year Ever
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an affiliate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
After the year we’ve had, improving mental health should be a top priority for everyone. These are some of my favorite goal ideas to help improve your mental well being.
1. Meditate each day
One of the best ways to take your stress level down a few notches is to practice daily meditation. I love how Headspace describes meditation:
“It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment.”
Meditation has several established benefits. Psychology Today lists many of these, which include:
- Better immune function
- Reduced depression and anxiety
- Decreased stress
- Increased focus and attention
Start setting aside 10 minutes each day. Don’t feel like the entire 10 minutes needs to be for meditation. It will take a while to stay focused for that amount of time. Use some of the time to go to a quiet and comfortable place. and get settled.
The goal is to focus on your breathing and let go of your thoughts. This can be challenging to do alone so try guided meditations with apps like Headspace or on YouTube.
2. Try Therapy
The stigma around mental health is getting better, but for many, it is still challenging to admit the need for health. Know that you are not alone. The National Alliance on Mental Illness states that 1 in 5 adults will experience mental illness in a given year. It was certainly worse in 2020.
Mental health counselors/therapists can help you to cope with anything you’re going through, whether it’s a severe issue or if you’ve just been feeling a bit blue lately.
Insurance plans provide varying degrees of mental health coverage, so check to see what yours offers. You can also look into alternative options, like paying out of pocket for a provider (many have sliding scales based on your budget). Tele-health is also a great option where you see a provider virtually.
3. Surround yourself with positivity
With so much negativity already going on in the world, try to weed out negative influences in your life. Surround yourself with good people and things that uplift and inspire you.
Positive thinking won’t make all of your problems disappear. What it will do is make problems seem more manageable and help you approach hardships in a more positive and productive way.
Spend time with positive people
Negativity and positivity have been shown to be contagious. Consider the people with whom you’re spending time. Have you noticed how someone in a bad mood can bring down almost everyone in a room? A positive person has the opposite effect on others.
Being around positive people has been shown to improve self-esteem and increase your chances of reaching goals. Surround yourself with people who will lift you up and help you see the bright side.
Practice positive self-talk
When you think about it, we tend to be the hardest on ourselves than anyone else in our lives. Over time, this can cause you to have a negative opinion of yourself. Research shows that positive self-talk can help turn a negative mindset around and regulate our feelings, thoughts, and behavior under stress.
Check out this post:
Affirmations for Self Love – Why and How to Use Them
4. Drink More Water
Studies show that approximately 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Did you know that having enough water each day can even make you feel sick?
Drinking more water can also improve your overall weight management. It can suppress your feelings of hunger because your body is often thirsty rather than in need of food.
Benefits of drinking more water:
- Reduce headaches
- Improve skin health
- Improved cognitive energy
- Reduce the risk of UTIs
Women should aim for about 2.3 liters of water a day. When you are at home, fill a pitcher with enough water for your day. Every time you open your refrigerator, you’ll be reminded to refill and reach your daily goal.
When I’m on the go, I fill 3 800 ml water bottles and take them with me or take one out per errand. It’s another way to easily reach your goal.
Aim to finish by 7 or 8 pm so you don’t have to get up and pee all night.
Play around with what makes drinking water easiest for you. Try different temperatures, add citrus flavor or a small splash of fruit juice. If flat water just doesn’t cut it, you can use seltzer too.
Check out this post: 10 Detox Water Recipes – Find One for YOU!
5. Make half of your dinner plate veggies.
If there’s one simple goal idea to improve your health is to eat more veggies. Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help your body in a multitude of ways. Plus, they’re low in calories and high in fiber.
Ideally, you want half of most of your meals to be made up of veggies If that feels overwhelming, start by focusing on one meal at a time. Try dinners, for example.
Remember that frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh, so keep bags of them on stock to heat up whenever you need a quick, easy option. They are super easy to stir fry or throw them into a pasta recipe.
You might also like: Easy Meal Planning for Beginners
6. Add a polyphenol-rich food to every day.
I love nutrition habits that focus on adding something in, rather than taking something out – it’s so much more fun that way! In this case, all you’ll have to do is add one polyphenol-rich food to your day.
What are polyphenols? They’re a group of chemical compounds in many plant-based foods that have some awesome health benefits for our body – think anything from cardiovascular health to reduced risk of cancer to reducing inflammation.
The best part is that polyphenols are found in a lot of tasty foods that you probably already love – here are some ideas to incorporate regularly:
- Berries – raspberries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries
- Tea – black and green
- Dark chocolate, cocoa powder, and cacao powder (check out some awesome cacao powder recipes here)
- Soy products
- Wine – especially red (smaller amounts in white)
- Pomegranate arils and juice
7. Commit to a 30-day fitness challenge.
I love that this goal idea is so simple. Choose any exercise, and commit to doing it daily for 30 days. You can find ideas practically anywhere online. A few popular ones include 30 days of pushups or 30 days of planks.
The goal is to improve, even a tiny bit, each day. For example, if you did 10 pushups yesterday, see if you can do 11 today. I love the way a 30-day commitment helps you to stick with something.
Here are some other ideas:
- jumping jacks
- Walking on the treadmill
- Or any other exercise of your choice!
8. Try one new exercise class/activity.
If you’re not sure about a longer-term fitness goal, consider setting a goal to just try one new exercise class. The fact that it’s a very simple, one-time action (despite being a little scary stepping outside your comfort zone) makes it easier to complete.
While going to the gym may not be feasible for a while longer, there are a ton of great online options. You can find nearly all of these on YouTube.
Here are a few ideas for activities you might try:
You can also try a new outdoor activity like learning to snow shoe or cross-country ski.
Creating your best life
9. Read one book a month.
With all the screen time we have – televisions, computers, smart phones, video games – it’s easy to let reading slip away. But reading helps keep your brain sharp and allows continuous learning.
You can choose whatever types of books you’d like. Fiction books let you get lost in a bit of a fantasy land, clinging to characters and wondering what will happen next. Nonfiction allows you to learn more about people, history, business, or self-help – giving you a greater understanding of the world or yourself.
Try making a list of the 12 books you’d like to read over the course of the year. You can always switch one out later if a new bestseller hits the shelves. Having a list now will encourage you to stick to this goal.
10. Declutter your space
This is a big goal for many so don’t feel like you need to get this done in a weekend. Try setting a goal for one room a month or even one area that often gets overly cluttered in your house or workspace.
Clutter can actually contribute to anxiety in many people. It creates a feeling that we lack control of our surroundings. Check out this post on how clutter causes anxiety.
If you haven’t read anything by Marie Kondo or seen her specials on Netflix, I highly recommend checking her out. At the heart of her approach is getting rid of anything that doesn’t bring you joy. I just LOVE this idea. She also has ideas for how to let go of things. For me, her organization tips are a bit extreme to maintain, but I have incorporated them in many ways.
Related: How to start decluttering today.
11. Take a cooking class or work through a cookbook
One of the reasons people often say they don’t eat better is because they perceive healthy food to taste worse. On the contrary, nutritious meals can taste amazing!
If you feel like your lack of kitchen skills is preventing you from eating better, set a goal to take a cooking class this year. Not only will you treat yourself with a fun day out, but you’ll learn invaluable skills that will help you for life.
If you can’t find a class near you, there are a variety of online options. You can almost always find something on YouTube for free.
Another option is to grab a healthy eating cookbook and challenge yourself to work through it! Choose one new recipe a week to test out. I’ve got some fun recipes you can try too.
- 20 Vegan Cakes, Chocolate and More Out of this World Desserts
- 25 Drool-Worthy Dairy Free Ice Cream Recipes
- 15 Amazing Weight Watchers Recipes for The New Year
12. Start a gratitude journal.
When people focus on what they are thankful for, they tend to feel happier and more content. It’s far too easy these days to focus on what we’re lacking; to complain about minute annoyances. Instead, this goal idea will have you shifting the focus and starting to reflect each day on what you’re grateful for.
A gratitude journal doesn’t have to be a long, comprehensive description of each day. Instead, you can aim to write down 3 things (or even start with 1!) that you were grateful for that day. Just make it a practice to incorporate this into your routine daily.
13. Travel to a new place.
There should be a lot more flexibility for travel toward the end of 2021. It doesn’t have to be an expensive trip. You can consider something simple like a road trip to an area in your state that you’ve never visited. Anything that’s new to you counts!
Exploring new places will not only bring joy to you, but it provides an opportunity to bond in a unique way with your family (or friends).
Also, don’t just wait for the “right” time to arrive – start planning your day/weekend/week trip now. Research shows people have more enjoyment when they can plan for and get excited about a trip in advance! Plus, if you plan it, you know it will actually happen. A few of my favorite travel posts:
- Utah National Parks Road Trip – See the Best in 6 Days
- 25 Wyoming National Parks and Monuments You Can’t Miss
- Family Travel Guide: A Day of Exploration at Discovery Cove
14. Avoid your “trigger store” for one month.
Do you have a store that you walk into or visit online where you always spend more money than your planned?
For me, it’s Amazon. I visit the website to buy some new batteries and before I know it, my cart is filled with items that I never meant to buy, and I often don’t really need.
If there’s a similar store that elicits this response for you, consider putting that location/URL on hiatus for a month. You might be surprised at how much you can save when you avoid the place(s) you tend to spend the most!
15. Build an emergency fund
If you didn’t have an emergency fund, 2020 was likely a very tough year. Even if you had one, it might have been wiped out. Use 2021 to try to either build yours back up or create one if you never have in the past.
For example, the Financial data from the Federal Reserve indicates…
- 4 in 10 adults would struggle to cover an unexpected expense of $400, requiring them to either sell something or borrow money.
- 1 in 5 adults are not able to pay all their monthly bills.
- 1 in 4 adults skipped medical care because they were unable to afford the cost.
One way to prepare for these situations is to start building up an emergency fund. Just like it sounds, this is money that is set aside in savings and only used for an emergency. Ideally you want 3-6 months of living expenses set aside, but if that seems too overwhelming – aim to start with a goal of $1000.
Here are a few ideas for getting that emergency fund into place:
- Have an automatic percentage of your paycheck diverted into a savings account.
- Pick up one-time opportunities for extra income, like working a brand’s booth at a expo event or participating in a focus group.
- Take on a second job (like waiting tables a few nights a week) or a gig-type job (like delivering for Instant Cart or driving for Uber).
- Sell things around the house that you don’t need using Facebook marketplace or Craigslist.
- Cut unnecessary expenses from the budget, like cable for example – then divert that money to your savings.