Goal setting is a huge part of our development, both when we’re young and as we grow up – it’s essential for pursuing our chosen career, growing our finances and chasing our passions. The New Year is prime time for goal setting and naturopath, author and speaker Nicky Wise has some tips to do it right.

When we think about the moon landing, we think of ‘one small step for man, and one giant leap of mankind’. What you may not think about, however, is how the journey didn’t go as planned. But despite complications and the inherent dangers of the mission, the crew achieved their goal. The elation, relief and celebration were palpable.

“That initial feeling of setting a goal is something I like to call the ‘Launch of the Excitement Rocket’,” Nicky explains. “Your goal will likely be a lot less risky than landing on the moon, but the chemistry your body produces is very similar.

“Knowing that you have set a plan towards a new frontier can be both exciting and daunting, and those feelings are incredibly beneficial for your psychological wellbeing – no matter how old you are.”

Having something to look forward to can trigger a surge of dopamine, your reward hormone, and serotonin, the hormone that helps with sleep and relieves pain and bad moods. Many of us use food or alcohol to trigger these hormones, but when we feel them in response to setting, projecting and reaching new goals, we feel successful, capable, confident and relaxed.

“When you are goal-oriented, you develop a more resilient emotional version of yourself,” says Nicky. “But as we move into a slower, less demanding phase of our lives, not having a time-orientated deadline to work to can feel foreign and, for some, downright disorienting.”

The benefits of setting goals are manifold: it can bring a sense of purpose or connection, prevent regression into despondency, depression and disconnection and keep things interesting and engaging.

“Matching your goals to suit your lifestyle is important,” Nicky says. “You may need to set goals that will keep you busy with moderate time expectations, or your goals may focus on improving your personal health and wellbeing.”

However, Nicky does recommend that everyone set goals that include a balance of jobs and ‘to do’s, and physical, emotional or mental wellbeing. And, if you are with a partner or goal-setting as a family, consider setting both individual and group goals to stay accountable. Some examples could include: increasing your exercise from once per week to three times per week in a certain time frame, leaving for your dream trip by a certain date, learning a new instrument by a certain date or trying a new hobby or new form of exercise.

“Science tells us that our life satisfaction increases when you have a purpose,” Nicky says. “Setting and achieving your goals helps you find that purpose.”

Nicky’s top five tips for goal setting

  1. Set SMART goals – ‘Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely’.
  2. Write your goals down and display them where you can see them.
  3. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t achieve your goal on the first try, or your first attempt doesn’t go to plan – you have time to reset and review, which is vital to goal setting success.
  4. Set a goal that involves learning something new or attempting something you’ve never tried before.
  5. Write a free form list of all the things you’ve always wanted to do, try, visit, experience, see, listen to, know about and explore – not a bucket list, but rather a ‘lazy Susan’ of what you can still do for the fun and pleasure of it. Use this as a master list to draw your specific goals from.