Set Realistic Goals for 2015Did you know that, every year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg selects a personal goal to improve his life? In 2010, it was to learn Mandarin Chinese, a talent he unveiled last year to a surprised audience.

This first week of the year is a perfect time for such goal setting, a.k.a. “New Year’s resolutions.” As you think about what it is you want to accomplish in 2015–whether it’s to lose a few pounds, change careers, go on an amazing trip, or earn a professional  credential–here are some tips to help you set realistic goals.

1. Pick Goals that Inspire

To set realistic goals, you have to ensure they are important to YOU, and there is clear value in achieving them. Don’t let someone else define or set your goals for you.  This way, you can avoid the “I must do this” attitude. “I want to do this” should be your drive.


2. Set SMART Goals

This nice acronym stands for: “Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Relevant. Timed.” And it’s a great way to set realistic goals.

Simply makes sure your goals are:

Specific — “Lose weight” or “make more money” is simply too vague. To give your goal value, you need to make it specific.

Measurable — OK, this sounds similar to specific, but it really means is that you have to start somewhere. So take an audit of your life as it relates to your goal. Where are you now? Where/how far do you want to go? What does success look like?

Attainable — Similar to having a starting point, you need to pick an endpoint for your goal and it needs to be attainable and tangible.

Relevant — In Mr. Zuckerberg’s case, being able to speak Chinese is relevant to both his business (he wants to grow Facebook in China) and his personal life (his wife’s family speaks Chinese). You too should pick set realistic goals that are relevant to your everyday life.

Timed — If you put a time limit on your goal, you’re more likely to start working toward achieving it sooner.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: “I will pass all four parts of the CPA Exam by December 2015 by devoting 10 hours a week to studying using Wiley CPAexcel.” (Ha, see what we did there?)

3. Put It in Writing

We would also add “tell everyone you know” to this one. If you make your goal tangible, you’re more likely to stick to your plan.

4. Make a Plan

Speaking of plans, after you set realistic goals, you need to make a road map of how you’ll achieve them. In terms of passing the CPA, CMA or CFA Exam, that means meeting the requirements, setting your exam date, mapping out your study schedule, etc. (We did it again!)

5. Stick to the Plan!

Even if you stumble here and there, come back to your schedule and your plan. It will require diligence and some work ethic but you can achieve your goals in 2015.

So, how do you set realistic goals? What’s your big (or small) goal for 2015?