Colourful wooden direction arrow signs on a wooden pole

Planning goals and milestones you can stick to

New Year’s resolutions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, I find

In fact whenever I’ve made any, I’ve generally ground to a halt by the end of February, because they’re too hard to keep at. Which is why this year I didn’t make any. This year I made goals I can stick to.

I had some ambitions for this year that I wanted to aim for, and some habits I wanted to change. But rather than put a lot of pressure on myself to achieve these in a proscriptive, stressful way, I did some research into the best way to effect change in your life. And the overwhelming evidence across many sources shows that making smaller, incremental changes long-term is the way to go.

Setting goals

There’s little point starting any change in direction without knowing where you’re planning to end up. So begin at the beginning. Think about where you want to end up. And yes, maybe give yourself a few timelines to aim for. But go easy on yourself.

Goals like ‘lose a stone by the end of the month’ are going to make you miserable. How about ‘lose a stone by summer’ instead. And if it goes quicker than that, well, bonus!

So talking about weight…

It’s tempting to focus on weight when thinking about diet and health, but this year my focus is on health. Eating better, exercising more. And instead of concentrating in on what the scales say, I’m hoping that weightloss will be a byproduct of the healthier behaviour.

My decision is to reduce white carbs; eating less bread, white pasta, potatoes, white rice, and sugar is never going to be a bad idea. But less, not none, and I’ll swap in some wholewheat alternatives. I’m also planning to swap a few more meals each week for vegetarian options. Not only are they packed with nutrients, they’re also lighter on calories and good for the gut.

And I pledge to take the dog for a really decent walk once a day, come rain or shine. If I can get some other exercise in, like yoga and weight resistance, then I will.


…as soon as I completely ban myself from something, I just want it all the more


As for booze – I plan to cut it down, be a bit more mindful of regular drinking. I find it all too easy to end my day with a glass of wine, and it’s not a brilliant habit. But I know that as soon as I completely ban myself from something, whether it’s gin, cheese, or long lingering lunches with friends, I just want them all the more. So it’s all about mindfulness here. And I suspect, with these healthy swaps, I’ll find the weight will come off anyway, without too much hassle.

Read more: walking can reduce your risk of dementia

Work/life balance

I finished 2023 feeling utterly exhausted, and I need to learn from that. I launched a range of new products last year, and together with my regular work, it all completely consumed me. I genuinely crawled towards Christmas like it was a double marathon finishing line.

2024, I have decided, will include a lot more of the things I LOVE doing, and less of the stress. As the saying goes, nobody lies on their deathbed and wishes they’d worked more.

I’ve looked at ways I can change what I’m doing. I’ve let go of a couple of projects which, after two weeks’ holiday and time for reflection, are clearly not serving me well. I feel better already. It’s amazing what a bit of time off can do for seeing things more clearly. Note to self: spend more time working ON the business, and a bit less time working IN it.

Money plans

This one tends to go hand in hand with the work thing, but I am quite chaotic around money. I’m disorganised, and I don’t like dealing with planning and budgeting. So I’m just going to get some help with this. I have a lovely accountant who does my work books and accounting and she’s going to get me knocked into shape. In particular I’m looking to get my pensions sorted out.

And in fact she needs some copy writing for a new website, so we’re going to do a little support swap, which will save us both money. And help us both. I do like a double win!

Travel adventures

Over Christmas one of the requests I sent out into the universe was for the opportunity to travel more this year. And lo and behold, almost immediately I got invited on a crazy press trip to Sweden. The trip includes experiencing things I would never have booked for myself, such as riding Icelandic ponies through the snow, or taking a night train through Sweden in temperatures of about -20c. I’ve said yes, absolutely book me in!

And tempting though it is to go back to my favourite Greek island, which I’ve been going to since about 1990, I might even push the boat out and try somewhere different this summer. If the lockdowns taught me anything is that there’s a whole massive world out there that I want to see. So I’m committing to this in writing. Time to explore.

Time with family

In the last five years, I’ve had some seismic shifts in my life, one of which has been losing both my parents within a three-year period. To be clear, that’s my father and my stepmother. My birth mother died when I was 18. And it’s quite a wakeup call when you realise that you and your siblings are actually the ‘elders’ of the family now. I call myself an orphan, but I feel a bit like both things on different days.


Losing parents makes you feel, bone-deep, how important family is


Losing parents makes you feel, bone-deep, how important family is. For me anyway. I know not everyone will feel like that. But one of my goals is to ensure we stay close as a family, now that our familial ‘heads’ have gone. And to make time to spend with them all. Even if they annoy the hell out of me, I still love them.

Finally, hobbies and activities

Back to the work/life balance thing, I would very much like to pick up some creative habits. I have ADHD and I’m terribly guilty of thinking I’ll start an exciting new hobby, buying the gear, and then losing interest. I’m going to dig out the lino cutting kit, the embroidery kit, the paints and canvases, and see if I can actually do something with them.

I know from the times I HAVE actually managed to do a thing and finish it, like a painting, that I feel immense joy from that. So my focus is on making time for this sort of thing, and blocking it out like you might do with a diary meeting. Perhaps it will work, perhaps it won’t. But I am going to try, at least!

Giving a bit back

In recent years I’ve been really focused on work, on building a business and working all the hours god sends. Which is fine, except I feel like it’s time to stick something back in the karmic piggy bank.

I’ve volunteered to do some support work for a local community project, and I’ve also thrown my hat in the ring at the local food bank and kitchen if they need me. I have to be careful not to promise things I can’t deliver, but one of my goals this year is to give of myself, without expecting a return. I mean, nothing is entirely selfless, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy it and feel pretty happy about whatever I do. But you know what I mean.

So there you have it

Some of my goals this year. As you can see, they’re pretty loose, but I feel that doing it this way will mean I can stick at it, and win.

Time to be more tortoise, and less hare.

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Sam Harrington-Lowe

As editor at the Tonic, Sam works with an extraordinary array of...

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