Photo of a student writing down their goals in a small notebook with a blue and green watercolor overlay and the words "Mental health is...".

Whether you set New Year resolutions or not, goals play an important role in our lives. Over time, we may set different goals for our education, career, wellness, spirituality, family life or other important areas.

Setting goals can help us articulate the things that are important to us and help us develop our strengths. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you set successful goals this year and into the future.

Choosing the right goals for you

Start small

Sometimes, when we try to tackle large goals or too many goals all at once, it can feel overwhelming. Set yourself up for success by focusing on smaller goals that you can accomplish one at a time that will eventually help you work towards larger ones. It can also be helpful to start with goals that you know you can accomplish. Starting small can help you build confidence in your abilities and help you form habits long-term.

Here are a few examples of small goals that can help you build toward larger ones:


  • Use a planner to keep track of due dates, assignments and tests
  • Schedule study sessions for exams or homework assignments
  • Visit office hours regularly for support
  • Identify resources that can help along the way (e.g. tutoring, libraries, counseling, etc.)

Physical activity

  • Schedule 15-20 minutes each day for physical activity
  • Identify activities that you will enjoy long-term
  • Choose your outfit or prepare your gym bag the night before
  • Set an alarm to remind you to get moving
  • Carry a reusable water bottle with you each day


  • Review your current spending habits
  • Find areas where you can reduce your spending
  • Pick a reasonable amount to save each month (e.g. $15-100)
  • Set up a savings account for your goal
  • Make saving easier by setting up an automatic transfer each month

Be honest about your current habits

As you start narrowing down your goals, it can be helpful to reflect on your current habits and the things that may have prevented you from achieving your goals in the past.

For instance, if you’re not a morning person, it may be difficult to start jogging in the early mornings before class. Being honest with yourself will help you identify barriers and find ways to overcome them. For this example, it may be easier to jog in the afternoon between classes or in the evening before dinner.

Creating goals around habits or routines you already have in place will help you accomplish them with fewer setbacks.

Staying on track

Recruit a support system

It can be hard to stay motivated, especially if our goals span a longer period of time. When we get discouraged or feel like we’re not making progress, it can help to have a support system in place to keep us on track. Think about the people in your life who can encourage, motivate or hold you accountable. Recruit them to be part of your support system, and lean on them when you’re in need of encouragement. Spending time with people who are supportive of our goals and are willing to help us overcome challenges can make all the difference.

Use the SMART method

Sometimes we may find that the goals we set are too general or unrealistic. Setting SMART goals can help us set more specific and meaningful goals. Here are some things to consider when setting SMART goals:


Narrow down your goals to something clear and specific. 

Ask yourself: What am I specifically trying to accomplish?


Quantify your goal, so you can keep track of your progress.

Ask yourself: How will I know when I’ve made progress or reached my goal?


Make sure your goals are realistic and within your control.

Ask yourself: How confident am I that I can achieve this goal? Is it something I can influence or control?


Choose a goal that feels worthwhile, matches your efforts and sets you up for success long-term.

Ask yourself: Why do I want to achieve this goal?


Goals should be time-bound with a start and end date in mind to keep you on track.

Ask yourself: What can I accomplish in six months, six weeks, today, etc.?

Things to remember along the way

Practice flexibility

While being specific is important for setting goals, it’s also important to give ourselves permission to change course. As we work toward our goals, we may find that they aren’t a good fit or have become difficult to maintain. 

Sometimes this happens because the original goals we set for ourselves aren’t as realistic as we thought they would be. Other times, we may encounter setbacks that make it difficult to move forward or make progress.

Remember to check in with yourself and reassess your goals regularly. Evaluating your progress and making adjustments as needed can help avoid overextending yourself or feeling burnt out.

Celebrate small successes

Achieving our goals can give us a great sense of accomplishment. However, if we only focus on the end result, we may miss out on important milestones along the way. In fact, it’s important to recognize and reward smaller successes on the way to larger achievements. This can help keep us motivated and celebrate our progress.

Think through some milestones you may reach while working toward a larger goal. After you achieve each of your milestones, reward yourself with a feel-good activity. For instance, you could treat yourself to a fancy coffee, enjoy a celebratory dinner with friends, relax with an at-home spa day or make plans to do something you’ve been looking forward to.

Find support

You don’t have to do it alone. Support resources can help you set realistic goals, identify important steps along the way and stay on track if you feel overwhelmed. Here are a few support resources available on campus.

Peer Wellness Coaching

Meet one-on-one with a trained Peer Wellness Coach to set wellness goals and connect with campus resources. Coaches are available to help you create a plan to manage stress, time management, academics, sleep, relationships and more.

Let’s Talk

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides free drop-in services through Let’s Talk. Counselors are available in person and online to help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources related to academics, stress, anxiety, substance use, relationships and more.


Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides free virtual workshops to support all CU Boulder students. Workshops cover a variety of topics and can help you develop coping skills to manage stress, anxiety, painful emotions and more.

Weekly programs

Health and Wellness Services offers weekly programs to help you develop healthy habits, participate in self-care and take a break from academics. Programs are available throughout the week and are free to all CU Boulder students.

Adventure Resource Center

The Outdoor Program’s Adventure Resource Center (ARC) is available to help you plan your next adventure, big or small. The ARC provides a welcoming space where you can plan a trip or get assistance and recommendations from knowledgeable staff. 

Nutrition Services

Meet with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) for a variety of services, including nutrition assessments, food allergies or intolerances, sports nutrition, body composition analysis and more.

Personal training services

The Rec Center’s nationally certified personal trainers can help provide motivation, education, guidance and instruction to help you improve your overall fitness and achieve your goals. They are also here to support you through assessments that can help maximize your workout while minimizing risk of injury.

Collegiate Recovery Center (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides community, support and connection for students in recovery or seeking recovery from a wide range of behaviors. They will be hosting virtual recovery and support meetings weekly throughout winter break.

Physical Therapy

Medical Services has a team of certified physical therapists that specialize in college health. They can help identify and treat overuse syndromes, posture issues, trauma and athletic injuries to help you get back to your best self.

Looking for additional support or resources? Check out everything Student Affairs has to offer by visiting their website.

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