A Better Me” is a series that explores ways we can look inward and be the best possible version of ourselves. Worried you won’t fulfill your New Year’s resolutions? Here’s some expert advice on why setting goals is important and how to reward yourself when you reach them.

For many of us, the dawn of a new year is a time for taking stock of who we are and where we are in life. It’s also when we set goals for the next 12 months.

According to Statista, half of Americans started 2021 with pledges to exercise more and improve their fitness levels. Other top goals included saving more money (44%), pursuing a career ambition (21%), and spending more time with family (18%).

However, the numbers regarding how many people actually follow through on those objectives are more grim: Studies show that less than 10% of people who set goals for the new year, often called New Year’s resolutions, actually keep them. If setting goals is important — and academic research, such as this groundbreaking study by renowned American psychologist Edwin Locke, shows it is — then why are we so bad at achieving them? Or are we just setting the bar too high for ourselves?

“I feel that we often put too much pressure on ourselves with New Year’s resolutions,” says Alexa Darrow, a Portland, Oregon-based life enhancement and mindset coach. “We seem to have a need to set unrealistic goals for ourselves, and then when we get to a place when we haven’t met these goals, we feel guilty about it.”

Why Setting Goals Is Important: List

Darrow says she has recently changed her mindset about goal setting for both herself and her clients. “Instead of looking at goals as things I want to achieve, I look at them as things I want to manifest,” she explains.

Darrow encourages her clients to consider what will bring them greater joy and then think of the steps that will lead to that change in their lives. Using weight loss as an example, she says, “Instead of putting pressure on yourself to lose 30 pounds in a year, I ask my clients to break that down into smaller, achievable goals.”

She emphasizes the lifestyle changes that go into losing weight but asks clients to be wary of trying to do too much, too soon. “Maybe you can start with working out once a week or two to three times a week,” she suggests. “Or try to have two dinners at home each week instead of committing to five.”

What I’ve learned from this past year or so is to find the joy where you can. I encourage my clients to find the thing that fills their proverbial cup and then work toward having more of that in their life every day.

Alexa Darrow

Life enhancement and mindset coach

Our culture’s reliance on instant gratification also plays into the pressure we put on ourselves with goal setting. “Whether it’s losing weight or saving money for a house, we want to see results quickly,” Darrow says. “But these bigger goals take time. We need to have patience with ourselves. Achieving your goal may take two years, but if you take a step back, you can see that each day you are making progress.”

But what happens if you occasionally fall short? Darrow says that many of her clients struggle with self-criticism if they falter in the steps toward their goals. “A bad day doesn’t have to set you off course,” she says. “You can’t beat yourself up over it. You always have a new opportunity to get back on track.”

If anything positive has come out of the pandemic, Darrow says, it’s that it has caused us to look inward, and focus more on what is most important to us and makes us happiest.

“What I’ve learned from this past year or so is to find the joy where you can,” Darrow says. “I encourage my clients to find the thing that fills their proverbial cup and then work toward having more of that in their life every day.”

Four ways to reward yourself for your accomplishments

A great way to stay motivated as you work toward long-term goals is by rewarding yourself for achieving small milestones. Here are four ways to celebrate your success.

Keep a gratitude list

Darrow suggests writing down two or three things for which you are grateful each day. “Then take it one step further by adding in your achievements of the day,” she adds. “It’s really nice to read the small accomplishments you’ve made over a week.”

Do something relaxing

Why Setting Goals Is Important: Relaxing

Take a soothing bath or go on an invigorating hike. Don’t be afraid to do something for you.

Seek daily affirmations

Write inspiring quotes on sticky notes and place them where they will give you a boost of confidence.

Purchase small, meaningful gifts

These could run the gamut, from a special candle to a new kind of tea to a bouquet of fresh flowers.

Are you someone who recently met a challenging goal, or do you know someone who has? Then it’s time to celebrate! Here are four gift ideas to honor this potentially life-changing work.

You got that promotion at work? Bought that car you’ve had your eye on all this time? Good for you! Now, it’s time to party. This fun and festive cookie assortment features delicious buttercream frosted vanilla cut-out cookies and seven other flavors.

Congratulations Rose Plant

We know of no better way to congratulate yourself or someone else than with a gift of flowers and cookies. This lovely rose plant arrives in a colorful striped container along with a cheerful “Congrats” balloon. Add to the fun with a jar full of yummy chocolate chip cookies.

Congratulations! Deluxe Balsam Gift Basket

Meeting even small steps toward a new goal is worth acknowledging. This attractive hand-woven basket with the message “Congratulations” on the decorative ribbon is stuffed to the brim with delicious snacks, including Cheryl’s snickerdoodle and chocolate chip cookies, Harry & David pretzels and pastry, and goodies from The Popcorn Factory.

Star Succulents

Tell that special person (or yourself) that they shine like a star with this wooden, star-shaped planter brimming with easy-to-care-for succulents.


Tricia Drevets has over 15 years of experience as a freelance writer, specializing in topics of interest to small business owners. She also frequently writes about parenting, senior care, and healthy living. When she’s not at her keyboard, you might find her digging in her garden or hiking the trails of Southern Oregon with her golden retriever.

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