New Year, Same Me: Setting Goals for Sustainable Change

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My seven year old niece came to visit around New Year’s Day. During her visit, we each began crafting goals for 2023. I wrote that I wanted to go camping three times, and she wrote the same, spurring a conversation about taking smaller steps, since she’s never been camping. Now, Laura Blake plans to go camping for the first time this year! 

Sometimes we make goals that are too ambitious for our current lifestyle, and maybe it’s time to reevaluate. When making goals for the new year, I center overall health and wellbeing, while creating small, actionable steps that fit into my daily life. Here are some goals that I’m working on; perhaps they’ll inspire you to check in on your goals! 

As a Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent, I often think about food, but I haven’t always. A few years ago, I was a selective eater who hadn’t spent time experimenting with food or trying new flavors, so my goal was to eat at least one vegetable a day. Fast forward to the present, and it’s a rare day when I don’t eat my recommended four to five servings of veggies without giving it a second thought. So, this year my goals are different. I’ll try at least two new recipes a month and eat at least one fruit per day. 

picture of child and adult making pasta

Make meals & mealtime an event.

I’ve also been trying to move naturally throughout the day and spend more time outdoors. I’ve always loved being outside, but this year I’m making it a daily priority. My goal is to spend at least seven hours a week outdoors. My dog loves it so far. He’s getting longer walks in the woods, and I’m getting exercise while de-stressing a bit. I also include time spent in my garden, with its natural movement while playing in the soil. 

picture of dog in woods

There is nothing better than a walk in the woods, Smokey agrees.

I’m also focusing on being mindful this year. Specifically, I want to be mindful of mealtime by making it more of an event, a time when the television is off while conversations, podcasts, or time with loved ones is paramount. I’m also working to decrease my screen time, with at least no screen time two nights a week. It’s been easier than anticipated, as I’ve used that time for reading or doing chores and projects around the house. It’s helped me work toward another of my goals: reading at least twenty-five books this year.

picture of children running happily at the beach

Proof that time = outside less stress.

To some of you that may seem like too few. To others, it may seem like a lofty goal! That’s okay! Your goals should be based on where you are and what makes sense for your life. Lastly, I have a mindfulness goal to take some quiet time to stretch daily. I’m still working on that one.

Morgan King is the Family & Consumer Sciences Agent for N.C. Cooperative Extension Center – New Hanover County Center located at the Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive. The gardens are free and open daily 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Reach her at or 910-798-7660.