3 Quick Tips for Setting Goals and Establishing Healthy Habits 

Mid-semester can be a great time to check in with yourself, reflect on your wants and needs, and set goals. There’s never a bad time to prioritize your health and wellness! Whether you want to maintain your current habits or start new ones, check out these tips for setting and meeting your goals. 

1. Define your goals 

Reflect on any aspects of your life you would like to maintain, improve, or change. It doesn’t have to be a major life change. Maybe you want to start volunteering, join a club, or find a new job. Maybe you want to make more time for rest, time with loved ones, and self-care. Maybe you want to improve your time management – or something else entirely. It doesn’t matter what the goal is – what matters is that the goal is meaningful and relevant for you. If you find it helpful, you can create an accountability plan by writing down your goals, or even telling a friend or loved one about your goals. 

2. Identify your “why” 

Finding the motivation for your goals can help you stick to them. For example, maybe you want to join a student organization to get more involved on campus and meet new people. Maybe you want to start meditating to increase your mindfulness, manage stress, and expand your sense of connectedness. Think about why you want to change something, and what your life would be like with the change. What would it mean for you to reach your goal? 

If it helps, create a reward system for yourself for making progress. Positive reinforcement can help you stay on track. For example, maybe you watch an episode of your favorite TV show after studying for a big exam or ask a friend to go for a walk with you to encourage you to move your body in a way that feels good for you. James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recommends making habits obvious, attractive, simple, and satisfying. 

3. Start out “small” 

If you are looking to start a new habit or change something in your routine, don’t feel pressured to do it all at once. Sometimes a drastic, immediate change can be overwhelming and if you don’t reach your goal it may lead to shame or frustration. Think about creating the change you want to see in terms of consistency rather than intensity.  

For example, if you want to start waking up earlier in the morning, start out by setting your alarm five minutes earlier and gradually adjust over time. If you want to start exercising more, move your body for just a few minutes each day. Maybe you walk around the block or do one rep of an exercise each day. If you want to start meditating, you can start with short, guided meditations for a minute or two each day. Starting out “small” can help you build sustainable habits while preventing you from burning out or pushing yourself too hard too fast. You can always increase intensity over time. In the long-run, the changes that seem “small” at first can actually be very powerful.  

If you are looking to set new goals but aren’t sure where to start or would like some extra support, the Student Wellness Center has several free resources that can help. The Student Wellness Center offers individual and group wellness coaching to provide peer support and help students set goals relating to the Nine Dimensions of Wellness. Looking to set specific goals related to nutrition or finances? Check out the Student Wellness Center’s financial coaching and nutrition coaching services. 


-Lucy Hennon, Graduate Student Assistant