Productive Club Helping you follow your dream
New Year Goals The PRO[Pessimistic, Realistic, Optimistic] Way

New Year Goals The PRO[Pessimistic, Realistic, Optimistic] Way

What comes to your mind when you realize the New Year is just around the corner? The first thought is, “Where do I party on New Year’s eve?”

The next thought? “What New Year resolutions shall I make for the upcoming year?”. Now that we’re only a few weeks away from 2021, it’s time we got started planning our new year goals.

Take a moment to recall your resolutions from the last year. How well do you think you fared? Most people set many tough goals and achieve none of them. If you’re one such person, don’t kick yourself.

What if you could keep working towards your resolutions throughout the year? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

That’s exactly what the PRO[Pessimistic, Optimistic, Realistic] goal setting technique will teach you.

For the upcoming year, I’ll guide you on how to write new year goals differently. This was the approach I used with my accountability partner, Bhanuprakash, last year.

new year goals

What is the PRO goal setting method?

In a normal scenario, your new year resolutions look like:

  • I will save 25000$ this year
  • I will workout 5 days a week
  • I will lose 25 pounds
  • I will read 24 books

When you set such goals that have only 1 measure of success, you face a high chance of overwhelming yourself. For example:

  • As soon you realize working out 5 days a week is hard, you stop exercising altogether
  • When you fail to save any money in Jan, you ignore the goal and don’t bother saving in Feb either
usual new year resolutions

Related article: Don’t chase fancy goals instead of your real goals

That’s where the PRO goal setting technique makes things interesting.

Instead of setting one tough goal, we’ll break each objective into 3 different targets – pessimistic, realistic, and optimistic. For example, your first two goals turn into:

  • Save money:
    • Pessimistic: Save 10K$
    • Realistic: Save 25$
    • Optimistic: Save 50K$
  • Cultivate a habit of working out:
    • Pessimistic: Workout 2 days a week for 30 min each
    • Realistic: Workout 3 days a week for 45 min each
    • Optimistic: Workout 5 days a week for 1 hour each

When you approach goals with such a mindset, you continue your effort even if the results fell below expectations. That’s because you would have at least stayed on track to achieve your pessimistic target.

By having different yardsticks to measure the same goal, you prevent yourself from getting demotivated.

new year resolution ideas using the PRO method

The exercise to set your new year goals the PRO way

We’ll use the PRO approach to define goals on 7 different aspects of life.

This is an exercise-based article, so you’ll need to open an excel sheet or pull out a pen and paper. You can download the excel template below and get started right away too.

Excel file template

Google Spreadsheet Template – Please note, the spreadsheet is view only. Go to File -> Make a copy to duplicate the content and use it for your goal setting.

Step 1: Define goals under 7 categories:

The purpose of having different categories is to pay attention to all important aspects of life. When you hear the word “goals”, your mind thinks in the direction of career, finance, and fitness at best. You often ignore that life entails more than just those areas.

The list here will help you recall aspects that make a difference to your well-being in the long run. You can add more categories or exclude the ones below based on your judgment. Feel free to pick the new year resolution ideas that suit you best.

Under each category, you can mention as many goals as you like. Be wary of setting way too many goals though, because you’ll only feel overwhelmed. You’re better off aiming for 4 and achieving all of them, than targeting 10 and achieving none.

Do not try to look up online for the best goals to chase. Only you can decide what are good goals for the new year for you, not some stranger who wrote an article.

So, let’s get started with the 7 categories.

1. Career goals:

Working girl

Let’s begin with the most obvious type – career goals for work. Write down what would you like to achieve in the year to come.

Here are some examples:

  • Change my job
  • Start a business
  • Earn a promotion
  • Create another source of income
  • Develop expertise in < a work-related field>

2. Finance/monetary goals


All goals related to money fall under this category. Examples below:

  • Save 500$ a month
  • Reach a net worth of 200K $
  • Increase my salary to …
  • Invest in a mixture of stocks, bonds, …
  • Clear pending loan amount of …

3. Relationship goals:

Family enjoying

This is among the areas people often ignore. Once you’re in a relationship, you take things for granted. But, when you take the time to care for your partner, your connection grows deeper.

Here are some examples:

  • Go out on a date every month
  • Spend X hours with my kids every day
  • Buy flowers for all special occasions
  • Get married
  • Spend more time with family
  • Have dinner together every Sunday

4. Learning goals:


Many people consider learning inconsequential. “What major difference does it make?” you ask. The answer – a whole lot.

If you’ve stopped learning since college, you’re losing an opportunity to grow into a better person. Successful people like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, and many others mention how they’ve cultivated a habit of lifelong learning.

Here are some examples to include in your learning goals:

  • Read 1 book every month
  • Improve my public speaking skills
  • Learn a new language
  • Take a course on better email writing skills
  • Work on my soft skills
  • Learn and implement a new <technology, skill, area of expertise>

Learning isn’t only for students to target as a goal, but for people of all ages.

Related article: How to learn using the Feynman Technique

5. Health and Fitness goals

Working out

Health and fitness is the category which most people aim for, but fail to follow.

Some ignore it completely and place career goals on the pedestal. If you’re one of them, ask yourself what’s the point of achieving massive results in your career when your health doesn’t permit you to relish them?

An important pointer for fitness goals is to begin slow. Don’t aim for ambitious targets like you do for other areas. Your body needs time to adapt to the change.

Here are examples of fitness goals:

  • Workout 4 days a week
  • Lift weights 2 days a week
  • Complete a 5K run
  • Eat healthy food 6 days a week
  • Cut down beer during parties
  • Stop smoking
  • No coffee post-lunch
  • Have a healthy drink each day

6. Recreational goals


Are you surprised to find recreation among your goals? Many people consider fun as an area to pay attention to if the schedule permits.

But taking the time to rejuvenate helps your body and mind perform better. Striking a work-life balance boosts all other aspects of your life such as health and relationships. After all, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

You can include fun, travel, vacations in this area.

Here are examples of recreational goals.

  • Travel to 2 destinations
  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Socialize with friends twice a month
  • Go on a long drive with family once a month
  • Attempt a new sport
  • Go on a trek
  • Attempt bungee jumping

7. Spiritual goals

Girl meditating

This is another area people pay little attention to. Spiritual goals do not always produce a tangible result because that’s their purpose. You’ll experience contentment, not materialistic rewards by pursuing such goals.

Even if you do not believe in such principles, I’d recommend including at least 2 goals to experience first hand how the feeling of accomplishing such targets is like.

Here are a few examples:

  • Meditate 5 minutes a day for 5 days a week
  • Once in 3 months help a person in need
  • Donate to charity once this year
  • Volunteer at a community service
  • Thank people more often no matter how small the act is

Once you’ve completed the exercise, your list will look similar to what’s shown below:

Goal sample

Step 2: Assigning pessimistic, realistic, and optimistic targets for each goal

This is where you’ll deviate from the usual style of making resolutions. You’ll have to assign 3 different measurements of success for each goal.

Related article: How to measure progress towards your goals



This is your target that you can achieve without any effort. Failing to meet the lowest benchmark implies something went wrong. Not achieving your pessimistic target should imply that you’re getting worse than you currently are.


  • Fitness goal – I will lose 15 pounds this year
    • Pessimistic: I will remain at the same weight
    • Failing to reach the target implies you put on even more weight
  • Finance goals: Save money every month
    • Pessimistic: Save 100$ a month
    • You must set a pessimistic target of 100$ a month if you’re already saving that amount right now. If you can’t maintain that, it implies you’ve increased your expenses.



Your realistic target is what you can achieve by putting in the extra effort. Set the measure such that it is neither too easy nor too difficult. Reaching the objective should give you a feeling of accomplishment.


  • Fitness goal – I will lose weight this year
    • Realistic: I will lose 15lbs this year
    • Depending on your current body weight, losing 15 pounds can range from an easy to a near-impossible goal. For a person weighing around the mark of 185lbs, losing 15 pounds will take a fair amount of effort.
  • Finance goals: Save money every month
    • Realistic: Save 300$ a month
    • If you’re saving 100$ a month currently, aiming to save a few hundred more seems realistic. You’ll have to find ways to cut down your expenses and not splurge on unnecessary purchases.

But, do consider your current income and expenses too. If you make over 5000$ a month and manage to save only a 100$ currently, stretching it to 300$ is more pessimistic than realistic.

Take your circumstances into account and decide what’s appropriate for you. Only you can determine what’s realistic for each goal you have in mind.



These are targets that require a massive change to materialize. Some call them BHAG(Big Hairy Audacious Goals).

The mindset behind optimistic targets is to motivate you to step out of the ordinary. Meeting such goals implies you’ve achieved exceptional results that surpassed your expectations. But if you fail to achieve them you shouldn’t be disappointed because you set a benchmark beyond normal limits anyway.


  • Fitness goal – I will lose weight this year
    • Realistic: I will lose 30lb this year
    • For a person weighing around the mark of 185lbs, losing 30 pounds implies a transition from a thick layer of belly fat to shredded abs.
  • Finance goals: Save money every month
    • Realistic: Save 3000$ a month
    • If you’re earning 5000$ a month currently, saving 3000$ is downright impossible. To achieve such a target, you’ll either have to find a higher paying job or create another source of income. You’d have to step out of the ordinary to achieve that goal.

Pointers for using the PRO goal setting technique effectively

1. Don’t make pessimistic goals too difficult(or realistic ones too easy)

Setting goals gives a dopamine rush where you already feel a sense of accomplishment before even taking the first step. Triggered by that excitement, you might want to make your pessimistic goals difficult to challenge yourself. Don’t make that mistake. Your pessimistic goals should be exactly like the name suggests – pessimistic.

The same logic applies to realistic and optimistic benchmarks too. Setting optimistic goals that are easy so that you feel a sense of contentment serves no purpose either.

2. Don’t focus on one area alone

Everyone has their favorite category to focus on. I love my career goals just like my wife prefers travel plans and my neighbor enjoys fitness objectives.

Though you can have more goals in your favorite category, do not blatantly ignore the others. Add at least one goal in each area. If that seems too much add a very simple objective for the areas you most despise.

3. Aim to achieve your goals stepwise

Trying to achieve your optimistic goals right from day 1 is overwhelming for many. Instead of going all guns blazing from the first month, ensure you stick to your pessimistic goals first. Once you do, step it up and attempt the realistic target. While you’re at it, keep thinking of ways to achieve your optimistic goals too.

4. Revisit every month

If you make a list of your goals, pat yourself on the back and then forget about them altogether, your dreams will forever remain dreams. Set a reminder to look at your goal sheet once a month to remind yourself how far you’ve come. Make a self-assessment on whether you’re at pessimistic, optimistic, and realistic levels for each goal.

Often, some of the goals you planned go out of date due to circumstances. For example, my wife and I planned to start a cloud kitchen early this year. Some of my last year’s PRO goal setting included goals around the business. But after our market research, we dropped the idea altogether making those goals meaningless.

When your goals are no longer the right aim for you, improvise and revise them. You do not have to wait for the next new year to come up with another plan. Every day marks the start of a new year without the pomp and show of new year’s eve.

At the same time, do not change a goal because you’re lazy to put an effort to achieve it. Only stop chasing a goal when it no longer makes sense to pursue it.


The PRO goal setting method helps you stay on track throughout the year. They also serve as a reminder for everything you want to achieve.

The 3 segregations of each of your new year goals offer the right catalyst for all kinds of people. If you’re lacking motivation, the pessimistic targets stop you from giving up. For the overachievers, the optimistic goals provide an adrenaline rush to push harder.

Finally, when you look at your year in December, you’ll realize how effectively you’ve spent the 12 months that went by.

The PRO new year resolutions are powerful and useful. If you set them right you can make 2021 the best year of your life. The question isn’t, can you? The question is, will you?


Gregory, Alyssa. “What’s Your BHAG? How to Create a Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” SitePoint, SitePoint, 17 Sept. 2009,

“Common Marketing Mistakes: Setting Unrealistic Goals.” Radius, 11 Dec. 2018,

new year resolutions goal setting

My goal is to help people 1 million people pursue their dreams. Share the article and help me with this mission.

You don't need a reward to join the Productive Club, do you?

Plain and simple. Did you find what you just read useful? Great, then get more of such tips to sky rocket your productivity. Join the Productive Club.

Join the discussion

Productive Club

The website has been created to inspire, influence and infect people with positivity and help people begin their journey of chasing their dream goals. The target is to help 1 million people pursue their dream while having a full time job. Will you be one among them?