Setting Goals and Creating Sustainable Habits in 2024: A Psychological Approach

It’s a New Year, which is a great chance to reflect on the last year and make some changes to improve your mental health and wellbeing going forward. We aren’t talking about the dreaded new year’s resolutions, which tend to last a month and fizzle out for us to revisit the following year and achieve the same outcome.

We want to talk about setting achievable goals to create sustainable, life-changing habits to improve your mental health and wellbeing long-term. Most articles and self-help books ignore the psychological factors involved in making goals stick; and that’s what we’re going to delve into in this article. Let’s dive in!

1. Understand your ‘why’.

Before scribbling down your goals, pause and reflect on why these goals matter to you. According to Simon Sinek's golden circle theory, starting with 'why' provides a deeper, more emotionally resonant motivation for our actions. This emotional connection is key to maintaining long-term commitment to our goals.

2. Set ‘identity-based’ goals

Move beyond the traditional S.M.A.R.T goals and set 'identity-based' goals. As James Clear highlights in his book "Atomic Habits," focus on who you wish to become, not just what you want to achieve. This shift in perspective fundamentally changes how we approach our goals, making them more integrated with our self-perception and values.

3. Start with micro-habits

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither are sustainable habits. Micro-habits are tiny, manageable behaviors that gradually lead to significant change. A study in the British Journal of General Practice showed that small, incremental changes are more sustainable and effective in the long term (Gardner et al., 2014).

4. Visualise success

Visualisation isn't just a self-help buzzword. Spend a few minutes daily visualising not just the achievement of your goal, but the steps you take to get there.

5. Have self-compassion

The road to achieving goals is often littered with setbacks. Instead of being hard on yourself, practice self-compassion. Dr. Kristin Neff's research shows that self-compassion leads to greater resilience and emotional well-being (Neff, 2003). Remember, being kind to yourself is not a setback; it's a step forward.

6. Create a supportive environment

Your environment plays a crucial role in habit formation. Our environment can trigger both good and bad habits. Modify your environment to make good habits easier and bad habits harder. Surround yourself with people who want to lift you up, not bring you down.

7. Regularly monitor your progress

Consider keeping a habit tracker or journal. Writing down your progress not only keeps you accountable but also provides tangible proof of your journey and allows you to reflect on how far you’ve come. When we see progress, our motivation increases, making these habits more sustainable.


Setting goals and building sustainable habits can be made simpler with these tips. It's about understanding and aligning with our values, creating an environment conducive to our goals, and embracing the journey with self-compassion and resilience.

As you step into 2024, which small but significant change are you willing to commit to for a happier, healthier you?