Goal-making is a notoriously common task you’re asked to do at the beginning of the year. There will always be at least one class that asks you to make yourself goals, only for it to be hopelessly neglected for the remainder of the year.

Making goals is good, we should do it. However, the overly-ambitious, wistful goals you make in you eager fever to make this year different from previous years is not gonna work.

Why? We’ll break that down, as well as how to make decent, sustainable goals that will carry you through the year and actually make a difference in the long-run.

The issue with goal-making

In theory, goal creation is a super positive thing that can springboard you into being the person you’ve always wanted to be.

In practice, it looks more like lofty goals that are soon abandoned because it’s too hard. 

While we’re encouraged to create goals, we’re not often taught how to make a decent, accomplishable goal. We tend to make super ambitious goals that sound good at first but have nothing concrete to work with to achieve it.

Writing down a goal on a piece of paper that lives at the bottom of your bag for the rest of the year is only the first step. What needs to be done next is figuring out how to action that goal and check-in with the progress you’ve made on it throughout the year.

Unfortunately, we typically only do the first step.

Goal-making can seem like a really useless task when we’re forced to do write a vague statement every year. However, when we go through all of the steps and treat it as a regular focus, rather than a one-off task, we’ll be in a much better position to make the progress that we want to make.

Making a goal

Okay, first things first, making a goal.

Consider the area in which you’re aiming to achieve or improve. Is it in a specific subject area? Some of your daily habits? Is it even school-related?

Something else to ask yourself once you’ve identified an area is whether or not it’s even something you want. This may sound silly, but we’re hugely influenced by our peers, teachers, and parents. It’s important that you’re creating goals that resonate with you because you’re going to be much more likely to stick to it. 

Think about how motivated you are to do something when you want to do it, versus when someone tells you to do it. Your brain loves to think that all of the good ideas you have are your own, so when someone else says something, there’s a little voice in the back of your head that wants to reject it because it wasn’t an original thought.

So, we encourage you to think about the things you want to achieve for your own sake. If they align with some of the things that those around you want, that’s great, but ultimately you’re the person this will affect the most so you should be at the top of the list of people to impress.

Next, is to think about the scale of your goal. Is it something that needs to be broken down? One of the most common issues we face when making goals is that they’re too large and difficult for us to get our head around. If you want to do something like endorsing your year of NCEA, that’s great! But that one little sentence isn’t going to tell you how to do it.

Goals don’t come with instructions, we gotta make them.

Lastly, when thinking of what you want to achieve, or set up for yourself, it’s important to be realistic. Are you asking something appropriate for yourself? Remember, the further away the goal is from where you are now, the more effort and time you will need to put in to ensure that goal is achieved.

This isn’t to mean you shouldn’t set your sights high, but it does mean that you won’t beat yourself up for not having completed a marathon after only a month of training and a bout of asthma. Setting goals that you want to achieve, and feel you can achieve within a good timeframe is key.

Break it down

So, we have a goal we’re pretty chuffed with, it relates to us, we actually want it, it’s not too big or too small, what next?

As we mentioned before, massive goals can be overwhelming and abstract, with nothing that actually tells you what kind of action you need to take.

Let’s take the example before: endorsing your year of NCEA.

This is a pretty far-stretching goal and will take a year to see the outcome. How can you ensure this is something you will continuously work on and not find a burden 3 months down the track?

Well, we can break it down into some more approachable steps.

You could start by having a look at all of your subjects, and the standards you will be taking throughout the year. From here, you can do some maths and see how many credits you have available to you, and the subjects you have them in.

You might want to bank a little bit more on your subjects you feel strongest in and set yourself some mini-goals about how many credits you want to achieve at a certain level.

You’ve had a look at your subjects and papers and you may discover that you feel your chances of getting 50 credits at merit or excellence are pretty good. 

However, you probably want to consider having a bit of a buffer zone. We can’t be putting all of our eggs in one basket and so we need to consider the very real possibility that it won’t all be smooth sailing.

Instead, think of how you would get around these challenges or setbacks. We’re making a plan, but it’s good to have some back-ups. For example, aiming for more than 50 credits in case some of the standards you’d banked on doesn’t work out.

Big goals are all about slowly chipping away at things. You won’t see instant results, so strap in for the slow grind.


We’ve broken down the massive goal into some more appropriately sized mini-goals. Now, we have to consider how this plan is actually going to be actioned.

Taking the endorsement example, consider your own habits and if you feel you’re currently set up to achieve your goal.

If not, some change may need to happen. For example, doing a little bit of study after school 3-4 times a week.

Even just a bit of revision can make a massive difference in your knowledge retention and confidence (which is probably a bigger win than an endorsement tbh).

Other options could be asking your teachers for more specific help in tackling your internals, becoming more familiar with the achievement standards that tell you what is expected of you at each grade level, or even getting some extra resources to help you along the way.

Essentially, ask for help when you need it, and help yourself even more. Being proactive is one of the best things you can do for yourself in achieving anything. So, before you give up, ask yourself what you need, and how you can get that.

Depending on what your goals are, you’re going to have different kinds of action and different places that you can go to for help. The important thing is to think about all of these things and how they apply to you in your situation.

Staying motivated

It all sounds very inspirational having these goals and getting amongst in term 1, but ensuring that you’re working throughout the year to achieve your goals is the gamechanger. 

We all know that consistency is key, but it’s easier said than done.

A good start is to be reminding yourself of your goal, and why you want to achieve it. When we struggle to apply meaning to a task, we quickly lose interest, especially if it seems difficult.

When you’re feeling low on the motivation, or are just struggling to remember why you’re doing the extra study, or asking for help, try to take a moment to remind yourself why you wanted to achieve your big goal in the first place. Put yourself back into the shoes of when you made that goal and you can see why what you’re doing now is helping you.

In staying motivated, one of the things to consider is burnout. If you’ve set yourself a target that is going to make you sacrifice other parts of your life or your sanity, it’s probably not the best thing to pursue.

For example, telling yourself you’ll study every day after school for 2 hours. While you do have the time to do this on paper, it’s a lot and it’s going to make you hate to study and it’s going to feel like more of a burden than something that is going to make you happy.

Instead, you’re better off scaling it back so you’re pacing yourself and working within what you know your capabilities (and attention span) are.

Another example would be like starting going to the gym and deciding that you’re going to do high-intensity training every day. You’ll just get tired, sore, and run the risk of injuring yourself.

The trick to staying motivated, especially in the time-intensive goals, is to incorporate your actions into your lifestyle until they become a part of your routine, rather than an addition. To be able to make it part of your routine, it has to complement, rather than dominate your life.

At a point, it’s no longer a question whether or not you’re going to do the study, or the gym, or whatever your goals are. You just do it.


Lastly, in keeping up with long-term goals, it’s super important that we reflect and check-in with ourselves and our progress.

Lastly, in keeping up with long-term goals, it’s super important that we reflect and check-in with ourselves and our progress.

We often don’t recognise the small improvements we make on a regular basis, because they’re small. But, they add up.

The beauty of looking back on our past selves is that we’re much more easily able to recognise the larger strides we’ve made in amongst all those small steps. 

Think about the key areas you were wanting to improve or work towards and ask yourself:

  • Am I on track with where I want to be?
  • What has my greatest success been?
  • What’s been the greatest challenge? Have I overcome it? If not, how will I?
  • What am I able to do now that I wasn’t able to before?

Maybe you can now do a push up with one-hand, or you’ve finally cracked logarithms, maybe now you have the confidence to speak in front of a big group of people. Whatever it is, it’s important that we’re recognising our progress and achievements. This also acts as a great motivator because we see that we can, and are, getting better. It inspires us to keep going!

Round off

Making goals (and carrying them through) can be tough, and there’s more involved with achieving something than writing something down and really hoping for it to come into existence.

Instead, we have to work for it, challenge ourselves, but ultimately improve. The reward will outweigh the struggle.

Good luck, make good goals and absolutely smash them.