How to set an achievable goal for 2024

“Life is short, fragile and does not wait for anyone. There will never be a perfect time to pursue your dreams and goals. ” – Unknown.

Did you start 2024  with a goal? Eating more healthfully, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, learning a new skill, changing careers, buying a house?

If so, you’re not alone. Lots of us start a new year with lofty goals, wanting to start fresh. It’s like the first day of school when you’d open a brand new notebook, and it felt so bright and shiny with endless possibilities (aaah, new stationery 😉).

And we start on our path with gusto – we try new recipes, visit the Quit website, pull the walking shoes out of the cupboard. But then life interferes. A tough day at work leads to takeaway for dinner instead of cooking. You’re out with mates, and everyone’s smoking, so you do too. You wake up exhausted and toss your walking shoes back into the cupboard. The enthusiasm for achieving your goal wanes.

So why bother with goals? What’s the point if they can be hard to achieve?

Simply put, having goals gives us control in a world where so much is out of our control. They provide us with something to work towards, and give us the steps we need to get there.

So let’s look at some simple ways you can live your life and still achieve your goals.

First – let’s address the elephant in the room. It starts with ‘C’ and ends in ‘OVID’.

We’re living in a global pandemic, and we’re a little tired. Two years of pandemic fatigue, fear, stress, and worry mean our physical and mental energy levels are lower than they’ve ever been.

These feelings can’t be ignored or pushed aside in order to achieve your goals. They need to be acknowledged and factored into your goal setting.

Make your goals meaningful

When setting a goal, think of something important to you and not something you think you should do. You’re more likely to be successful if you aim to do something that makes you happy and has meaning. And you’ll be more likely to recover from stumbles or overcome obstacles if your goal is significant to you.

Start with small goals

When we set ourselves a goal we often begin with great excitement, but then something – pain, work, illness, family life, pandemic-life – gets in the way. However if we create small goals, we’re putting ourselves in a better position to succeed.

For example, say you want to read more books. Great! There are so many amazing books out there. But having the goal of reading a book a week may not be realistic (been there done that 😆).

A more feasible way to read more books is to read a chapter in the evening. Or read for 15 minutes in the morning. You’re still reading, but it’s a smaller, more realistic goal.

Be flexible

If you’re having difficulties achieving your goal, ask yourself why? If it has meaning for you and it’s realistic, what’s the barrier? If we use the reading example again, it could be that you can’t find the time to sit and read. Or your eyes are tired after staring at a computer screen all day.

A way to solve this problem could be to listen to audio books. You can do this while doing other things, and your tired eyes don’t have to focus on the words. You can access many titles free through your public library, or you can access a subscription service such as Audible.

The point is that if you’re flexible, there are ways you can still achieve your goal if the original plan didn’t work. Discuss it with family or friends if you can’t think of solutions. Talking through the issue can help you gain some clarity. And the support and advice from the people who care for us is invaluable.

Be kind

When working towards a goal, it’s realistic to expect that there’ll be some trips and stumbles along the way. When this happens, be kind to yourself. When things don’t go according to our plans, we can be very critical. So avoid berating yourself. Instead, look at the stumble as a chance to learn. What happened? Why did it happen? How can you avoid it happening again? Does your goal need some adjustment to make it more achievable?

Another thing to remember is that we’re all different. So don’t compare yourself with others. This can be tough when you’re surrounded by carefully curated, touched up and filtered images, stories and posts about people who seem to have it all together, while you feel like a red hot mess (hmm, that may be just me?). But comparing yourself to others won’t help you achieve your goal and can make you feel like you’re failing somehow. So avoid these comparisons, be kind to yourself and give yourself credit for doing your best.


A common acronym used for goal setting is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timeframe. It can help you create a goal that works for you and your life.

Be specific. What is it you’re aiming for? Ask yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, why. What do you want to accomplish? Why? When and where will you do this? Who can help you?

Let’s use meditation as an example to create a SMART goal. You enjoy meditating. It helps you manage your pain and deal with anxiety. So in 12 months, you’d like to be meditating for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

You need to be able to measure your goal so that you know when/if you’ve achieved it. Meditating more often isn’t a measurable goal, but committing to meditating for a specific amount of time in a day is.

Next, your goal needs to be achievable for you. It should challenge you and stretch you a little but still be attainable, especially considering the uncertainties of the world we’re living in.

Planning to meditate for 60 minutes every day probably isn’t achievable, especially if you’re just starting out. But committing to meditate 10 minutes a day, twice a week is. You can increase the amount of time and the number of days you meditate as you progress.

You need to be realistic, and your goal needs to be doable – for you and your own circumstances. Meditating 10 minutes a day, twice a week is realistic because you enjoy it, and it helps you relax. You’ve discussed it with your family, and they understand that they can’t interrupt you during this time. You’ve organised a quiet space to meditate, and you’ve downloaded a meditation app that you like. You’re committed, and you’ve put in place the things you need to make your goal possible. That makes your goal realistic.

Finally, your goal should have a timeframe. In this example, your goal is to meditate for 30 minutes, 5 days a week in 12 months. You’ll be starting at 10 minutes a day, twice a week increasing this over the coming 12 months. A timeframe gives you motivation and an endpoint to work towards.

Sticking to it

Once you’ve decided on your goal, write it down, along with the steps you need to get there. Stick it on your fridge, bathroom mirror or somewhere you’ll see it often. Refer to it regularly. And remember, if you have any hiccups along the way, that’s okay. Just don’t give up. Learn from what happened and move on.

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” —Neil Gaiman.


Originally written and published by Lisa Bywaters 19 January 2022.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available Monday to Thursday between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.

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January 1, the traditional date many of us resolve to make healthy changes in our lives, has come and gone. Exercise more regularly, add new recipes to the repertoire, meditate in the evenings … sound familiar? And many of us gave it a red hot go.

But as often happens when life gets in the way (or the continuing saga of the pandemic keeps on rolling 🤦), our goals can take a hit.

If you still want to make these changes but haven’t had much success so far, you may want to rethink your approach.

‘Start small’; ‘slow and steady wins the race’; ‘small changes eventually add up to huge results’. These clichés are plastered over Pinterest and motivational boards for a reason. When we start small or break our goals into smaller tasks or actions, they’re less overwhelming and more achievable.

Here are some tips to help you make small but deliberate changes that can have a big impact on your physical and mental health and wellbeing 😊.

First – take the time to reflect on what YOU want to achieve.

Now write it down. Try to be as clear as possible.

Next, consider using the SMART framework. It can help you achieve your goals by helping you clarify your ideas and focus your efforts. SMART stands for:

Specific. What are you trying to do? Losing weight isn’t a specific goal. But committing to a healthy eating plan and regular exercise with the aim to lose 10kg in 8 weeks is.

Measurable. You need to be able to measure your progress so that you know when/if you’ve achieved your goal. With the weight loss example, we’ve specified how we’ll go about losing weight and included a measurable target, i.e. 10kg in 8 weeks.

Achievable. The goal needs to be achievable for you. It should challenge you but still be attainable.

Realistic. You need to be realistic, and your goal needs to be doable – for you and your circumstances. For example, if you’re currently under a lot of stress and not sleeping well, it can be more challenging to lose weight. Aiming to lose weight over a longer period might be a better option. Take the time to think about what’s realistic for you now. By doing this, you’re not setting yourself up to fail.

Timeframe. The goal needs to have an end date that you’re working towards. This gives you the motivation to push yourself further.

Don’t feel that you have to change everything at once. Say you’ve decided you want to improve your health and fitness. You’ve identified that you need to lose weight, exercise more regularly, quit smoking, start meditating, get more sleep, reduce your alcohol intake and drink more water. That’s a lot!

And it’s not like you’re trying to do these things in a vacuum – you also have work/study, family life, social life and – oh yeah – managing a chronic condition or two.

So instead, start with what you’d like to achieve most – e.g. exercising more – and work on that for a week or two. Then include other elements, e.g. talking with your doctor about safe weight loss options. When you feel like you’re making progress there, move on to other things, such as quitting smoking or reducing alcohol.

You’ll still be making a change but in a more achievable, less overwhelming way. And remember that any healthy changes you make will impact other areas you want to improve; e.g. reducing alcohol will aid weight loss and help you sleep better, as will exercising regularly.

Be mindful and focus…on your eating, exercise, time with family, hobbies, etc. We often move through life at breakneck speed and rarely pay attention to the small details. But these things and moments in time add meaning and colour to our lives. So take the time to savour your meals, notice how your body moves and supports you when you exercise, what it feels like to be with your family, or the enjoyment you get from your hobbies. These are small but important things you can practice every day.

Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re tired, emotional or bored. Working from home and pandemic stress has led many of us to eat things, or at times, we usually wouldn’t. Before you eat something, take time to reflect on whether you’re hungry or not. And if you’re not hungry, what’s making you reach for that food? If you’re hungry, and it’s between meals, do you have healthy snacks close at hand? Will a glass of water help fill you up? Or do you need to look at your meals and whether they provide the nutrients you need to get you through to your next meal without hunger setting in? If you’re not sure how to make healthy changes to your diet, talk with your doctor and/or a dietitian.

Put the devices away for a while and detox from digital. Our preoccupation with our phones, TVs, computers, gaming consoles etc., can get in the way of being present in the moment. And when it comes down to it, how many cat videos, memes, or news stories do we really need to see 😹? Our devices can be a trap, and it’s easy to lose an hour or two before you know it. This could be time spent reading with your kids, cooking a delicious meal or relaxing so you can sleep well. So put them away for a bit and enjoy life offline.

Incorporate the outdoors. Go for a walk in the park or another green space, take deep breaths and inhale the cool, crisp air. Not only will this get you moving, but there are many other health benefits associated with getting outdoors. They include reducing stress, lowering blood pressure, improving your mood and clearing your mind. However, be careful in these wet, wintery months of potentially slippery paths, rug up against the cold and wear appropriate shoes.

You can also use pot plants to bring the outdoors in and enjoy the health benefits. Just be sure to check that they’re not toxic for you, your family or your furry housemates.

Put some physical distance between yourself and your phone. Many of us constantly check our phones to see what the latest beep, blip or alert was for. And most of the time, it wasn’t for anything important. It takes you out of the moment and shifts your focus and concentration. The next thing you know, you’ve zoned out on conversations or started doom-scrolling. So give yourself some space.

Another benefit is that having your phone in a place you need to get up to access it can add quite a bit of incidental exercise to your day. For example, if you use your phone as your morning alarm, moving it away from your immediate bedside area means you’ll have to get up to turn it off. This also means you’ll be less likely to hit snooze countless times 😉.

Make it achievable. Whether you’ve decided to use the SMART framework or not, always make sure the goals you’re setting are achievable; otherwise, it can be disheartening if you don’t reach your target. For example, say you want to drink more water but only manage a glass of water a day at the moment. Trying to immediately go from a glass to the ‘magic’ 2 litres a day will be challenging. So don’t go straight for the big guns; ease your way in and increase your quantity over time.

Take time to make decisions. We’re often quick to say yes when family and friends invite us to dinner or a party, or a colleague asks to collaborate on a project. But try to slow your reaction. A night out or working together on a project might sound great at the time, but take a moment to consider it properly. What’s your schedule like? How are you feeling? Are you able to add another thing to your calendar? Instead of an immediate yes, try saying, “That sounds great; I’ll let you know once I check my schedule”, or “I’ve got a big week ahead, so I’ll have to get back to you”.

Taking control of your time at the outset is better than falling in a heap after over-committing. And those who know you will understand that this is essential to self-care and managing a chronic condition.

Slow and steady wins the race. Do you get to the end of the week and find that you have piles of laundry, too many unread emails and a garden full of weeds? It’s exhausting to even think about! A good practice is to break these jobs into smaller tasks and deal with them methodically during your week. Set aside some time to do these mundane chores each day. It’s up to you how long you spend on this – but having some dedicated time to deal with it means it’s less likely to overwhelm you by the end of the week. Leaving you with more time for the fun stuff! 🕺

Enlist help. There’s lots of help available if you need it. Family, housemates and friends can help you get things done around the home – on a regular or occasional basis. Then there are the professional cleaning/gardening/meal services you can have on standby if you need some backup. You can also talk with your doctor about accessing healthcare services if you need help developing things like a safe exercise program or a healthy eating plan. All you need to do is reach out.

Write it down. How often do you think, “I’ll remember that”, and completely forget it moments later 😣? The name of a TV series someone recommended, a new recipe, the date of your healthcare appointments 😑. It’s so frustrating! But having a foggy brain, persistent pain, sleeplessness, busy lives, and pandemic-brain can make us lose track or forget things. So write it down. On your phone, notepad, fridge … whatever works for you.

Focus on your breathing. Most of us take breathing for granted. It’s just an unconscious thing we do. But your breathing can become shallow if you’re in pain or anxious. However, you can reduce your pain and anxiety by focusing on breathing more deeply. Deep breathing increases feelings of calmness and relaxation and improves your focus and concentration.

Making changes to improve your health and wellbeing is admirable, but it can be challenging. That’s why starting small, building on your progress and asking for help are important. Talk with your family, doctor or the nurses on our Help Line for information and support. Because you can do this … one step at a time.

Contact our free national Help Line

Call our nurses if you have questions about managing your painmusculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.

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Staying active in winter

I love the idea of winter… cosy evenings on the couch reading a book, lying in bed on a Sunday morning listening to the rain, hearty soups for lunch with scrummy bread. Love, love, love. The reality however…well, that kind of sucks at times.

Trying to stay warm without energy bills skyrocketing. Trying to maintain a healthy weight range when I’m cooking lots of comfort foods. And the big one – keeping up the momentum when it comes to exercising.

It can be tough when it’s cold, dark and wet to brave the elements for a walk. Or to head out to the gym when a perfectly good couch is sitting there all warm and snug.

But we need to exercise. It’s vital in the management of our musculoskeletal conditions, our pain levels and our weight. Being active every day helps us get better quality sleep, and it improves our mood. It also helps us manage our other health conditions. And it gets us out of the house so we can connect with others – our friends, teammates, gym buddies, and other people walking their dog in the park.

Knowing all of that doesn’t make it easy though, so here are some strategies to help you get out there:

Dress the part

Your warm-weather exercise gear may not cut it when it comes to exercising in winter. You need to think layers. The clothes closest to your skin should draw moisture away from the skin (known as wicking) so that your skin doesn’t stay damp. It should also dry quickly. Look on the labels for mention of wicking or polypropylene, not cotton.

Then add an insulating layer of fleece or wool to keep you warm. Finally, add a layer that will resist wind and rain. The beauty of layers is you can take them off and put them back on if/when you need to. Choose bright colours so you’ll be seen even on the dullest, greyest days, through the fog and rain.

Next, you need to wear appropriate socks and footwear for the activity you’re doing – hiking boots, running shoes, walking shoes, gym shoes – they’re often not interchangeable.

It’s preferable for shoes you’ll be wearing outdoors to be waterproof or dry quickly. And make sure they have good traction – it can get very slippery out there! If you’ve got old shoes from last winter, check the soles to ensure they’re still ok.

It’s also a good idea to wear sock liners when hiking to wick moisture away from the skin and prevent blisters.

Finally, protect your extremities. Wear gloves (this is a must if you have Raynaud’s), a hat that covers your ears, sunglasses and sunscreen. Even in winter, your skin can be damaged by the sun’s rays.

Oh – and depending on your activity – don’t forget to take a lightweight backpack or bag for your water bottle and to store any of the layers you remove.

And one last thing – have a warm shower and get changed out of wet, damp clothes as soon as you get home, so you don’t become chilled. This can very quickly cause tense muscles, leading to pain. And no one wants that!

Stretch it out

Don’t just rush out the door if you’re in a hurry to get your exercise over and done with. Take time to warm up your muscles, and loosen up. Especially if you’re already feeling stiff. This will help prevent muscle strain and pain. Read ‘Effective winter warm up exercises’ from Diabetes NSW for more info.

Be careful of surfaces

Slips, trips and falls are enemies of anyone with a musculoskeletal condition. So we need to take care out there. Uneven surfaces, wet leaves or mud on footpaths and trails, slick tiles at the shopping centre or gym – they can all be treacherous. So be aware of the surfaces you’re walking, running, skipping or jumping on, and take care.

Choose activities you enjoy

It’s much easier to be active – whatever the weather – if you’re doing something you enjoy.

And mix it up

Trying new activities is fun and challenging all at the same time. And who knows? You may discover a new activity that you love. There’s so much out there to try:

  • bushwalking
  • rock climbing
  • dancing
  • Frisbee/football in the park with the kids/dog/friends
  • kayaking
  • joining a sports team – e.g. basketball, netball, footy, calisthenics
  • golf
  • gardening
  • yoga
  • swimming/water aerobics
  • boxing
  • cycling
  • skiing
  • trampolining.

The sky’s the limit!

Check with the Bureau of Meteorology

Before you head out, check with BOM to find out the weather forecast. And don’t forget to check the rain radar. That’ll help you dress appropriately and may also affect your timing. If you like walking in the rain, you may decide to head out regardless. But if you’re not a fan, the radar will give you an idea of when to go (just don’t forget your umbrella – just in case ☔).

Exercise indoors

If you’re not a fan of exercising in cold and wet weather, there are lots of ways you can exercise indoors. Join a gym, follow exercise classes online in the comfort of your lounge, do laps around your shopping centre, dance in your lounge room, jump rope, use a hula hoop, chase the kids, hit the indoor swimming pool, clean the house. There are many options for being active indoors.

Play some tunes…

Or podcasts to keep you motivated. Listening to upbeat, fast-paced music will help you move at a quicker pace, giving you a better workout. And podcasts can capture your attention and help you keep going. Especially if you’re hooked, and you’re bingeing one! Then it’s a matter of making sure you don’t overdo it (speaking from experience on this one!).

Drink water

Even though you may not be sweating as much as you would be on a hot day, your body is still losing water through your sweat and breathing. Take a water bottle with you and drink when you need to.

Set yourself a goal

If you’re still finding it hard to get motivated, set yourself a goal. It may be something like losing a certain amount of weight, being able to walk a certain distance without being out of breath or taking part in an upcoming fun run/walk. Choose something that matters to you, and make sure it’s a SMART goal – that is, it’s Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and has a Timeframe. Read more about goal setting.

Reward yourself

When you’ve committed to exercising, and you’re actually doing it, congratulate yourself. It’s no small thing! Especially when it’s not only cold and miserable out, but you live with a chronic, often painful condition. So treat yourself. Give yourself a massage (or better still, have someone else massage you), have a warm bath or soak your feet, see a movie you’ve been wanting to see. Choose something that makes you feel good, and be proud of your achievements.

Contact our free national Help Line

If you have questions about managing your pain, your musculoskeletal condition, treatment options, mental health issues, COVID-19, telehealth, or accessing services be sure to call our nurses. They’re available weekdays between 9am-5pm on 1800 263 265; email ( or via Messenger.

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And stay focused and motivated

It’s important to have goals in life. Whether it’s a goal involving travel, a new career, financial security or a goal relating to your health and fitness, having a clear goal – or an endpoint – gives you something to aim for.

But if you find it hard setting goals, and putting in place the steps you need to achieve them, you’re not alone. Here are a few pointers for setting a goal. I’ve used a weight loss goal as an example:

Be as clear as possible about what it is that you want to achieve, and how you’ll do it.

A common acronym used for goal setting is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time frame.

Be specific. What is it you’re aiming for? Ask yourself the 5 W’s – who, what, when, where, why. What do you want to accomplish? Why? Who will be involved to help you? When and where will you do this?

You need to be able to measure your goal so that you know when/if you’ve achieved it. Losing weight is not a measurable goal, but losing 5kgs in 8 weeks is. You’re able to track your weight loss and the time frame.

Your goal needs to be something that’s achievable for you. It should challenge you and stretch you a little, but should be something that’s attainable, e.g. losing 20kgs in 2 weeks isn’t achievable, however, losing 5kgs in 8 weeks is.

You need to be realistic – your goal needs to be doable – for you and for your own circumstances. Losing 5kgs in 8 weeks is realistic for you because you’ve discussed it with your doctor, you’re committed (you know it’ll help ease your pain), you’ve enrolled in a weight loss class for information and support and you’ve joined a water exercise class so that you can exercise without making your knees more painful.

Your goal should have a time frame. Losing weight someday is not a timed goal. Having a time frame, e.g. 8 weeks, gives you motivation and helps keep you on track.

Using the SMART system, write down your goal and the steps you need to get there. Stick it on your fridge, bathroom mirror or someplace you’ll see it often. Refer to it regularly. If you have any hiccups along the way, that’s okay, don’t give up. Just refer back to your goal and move on.

Now that you know how to set a goal, it’s time to think of one of your own. What is it that you want to do or achieve?

Remember to think SMART and you’ll get there in the end! Good luck.

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