Goal setting is crucial for getting what you want, whether it’s in business or your personal life. There is simply no other way to produce real lasting change. Look closely at anything you’ve achieved in your life and you’ll discover that there was probably a thoroughly planned and well executed goal behind it.
Here are the reasons why goal setting is so important.
Goal setting gives you clarity about what you want. Most of us have vague
desires floating around in our heads. If you don’t set down in concrete
terms exactly what you want, you’ll end up spinning your wheels and
getting nothing done. You actually create your goals twice – once in your
mind and once later in reality. The clearer the vision in your mind, the
easier it is to formulate concrete steps that will get you there.
When you set down a goal and start working toward it, you give yourself a
sense of responsibility to see it through. You can easily understand that
whether or not you attain your goal has little to do with outside influence
and everything to do with your attitude and actions. You can no longer
blame others for your failure to get what you want. You become solely
If you set your goal well, it will give you a concrete action plan. Wishing for
things to happen doesn’t do this. You know that you have to get started
today and take small steps toward your eventual target. An important part
of the goal setting process is breaking up your goals into smaller goals and
a daily action plan that will get you there.
Without a goal, how do you stay on target, especially when things go
wrong? Making daily progress toward your goal through your action plan
gives you the motivation to keep going. You can see how far you’ve come
and you know that it would be a shame to turn back. For many people,
simply putting your goal into words and getting started is a great motivator.
Without laser-sharp focus, you’re unlikely to ever achieve great things in
your life. Having a goal and plan for achieving it keeps you completely
focused on what you need to do in order to get there. It’s much harder to
be distracted or led astray by shiny objects. If you set goals, you know
exactly where to put your energy each day to get it done.
One Goal at a Time
Goal setting is important but there’s a right and wrong way to do it. Like
any skill, it’s something you need to learn and practice. Most people don’t
learn from their goal-setting mistakes and they continually struggle to
attain the goals they desire. You’re motivated and you’ve got lots of
changes you want to make in your life or business, but slow down. Take it
one goal at a time. Choose which is most important to you and focus on it.
Let the others wait. Once you’re in the groove with the first goal, you can
think about adding something else. Most of us are too busy to tackle more
than one and there’s the risk of burning out.
Be SMART About Setting Your Goals
You can do just about anything if you know how to set goals, but most of us
don’t. It takes quite a bit of planning and if you’re not a planner, it can be
tough. That’s why we have the SMART method for setting goals. SMART
means that a goal should be:
- Realistic, and
Is your goal SMART? Let’s take a closer look at this method and what these
Being specific helps you focus on exactly how you’re going to reach your
goal. Start by creating a statement that explains what you’ll do. Use the
phrase ‘I will’. Now, ask yourself the what, why and how of this goal to
refine it. Make it as detailed as possible. This will help you generate the
sub-goals and steps that you need to take to get there.
There needs to be some way to know when you’ve reached your goal. The
results have to be measurable. If you want to make more money, for
example, choose a specific dollar amount that you’d like to be making per
year. The great thing about making goals measurable is that you can easily
see your progress and this keeps you motivated to work on it.
Without action, goals are never attained. Break your goals down into
smaller goals, and then specific actions you can take to make them happen.
Think about things you can do today that will bring you closer to achieving
your goal. Also plan actions you can take when things don’t go as planned.
During the course of working your way toward your goal’s attainment, set
aside time to reflect on your actions and assess the results. If you’re not
getting the results you want, make the necessary changes.
Goals only work when they’re realistic. What this really means is that you
can see the big picture of what you need to do. Ask yourself whether or not
this goal is something you can do – or even want to do. Take some time to
think about your strengths and weaknesses. Which parts are going to be
easy and which will be difficult? Develop a plan for the challenges you’re
going to face.
Set up a detailed timeframe for when your goal and all of your sub-goals
are going to be achieved. Since this is hard to estimate if you’ve never done
it before, make the best guess possible and change your timeframe slightly
if you need to. We often find that it takes longer than we planned. However,
you need to have a definite deadline to add urgency to it.
A great way to plan out your goal is to use mind maps. Mind maps are
visual tools used for brainstorming and setting out tasks. At the center is
your main goal and all of your sub-goals branch out from it. You can then
define timeframes and exactly how you’re going to reach all of your subgoals. Mind maps put goal planning in a visual format that makes it easy for
you to see the big picture.
Make Your Goals Specific and Action-Oriented
In order to be achievable, goals must be specific. How can you reach a goal
when you’re not sure exactly what it is? Goals need to be clear and as
detailed as possible. One way to clarify your goals is to ask yourself the
what, when, who, why and how.
What’s Your Goal?
When you’re deciding what it is exactly that you want, make a statement
that includes all of the specifics. Instead of saying that you want to save
money, decide on a certain dollar amount. If you want to lose weight,
decide how many pounds. Take a simple statement like ‘I will have more
self-confidence’ and turn it into a detailed plan of action.
When Will You Reach It?
It’s equally important to make a specific timeframe. This is the deadline
when your goal will be completed. You should do this not only for the main
goal, but also for all of the little steps you need to take in order to get
there. Create a clear timeline and as you work toward your goal, reflect to
see if you’re keeping up. If you’re not, make a few adjustments until it’s
Who Do You Need to Help You?
There are very few goals that you can reach completely by yourself. You’ll
find that there are some people whose help, expertise, or support you’re
going to need. If you’re trying to quit smoking, you’re going to need support
and encouragement. If you want to become an online entrepreneur, you’ll
need mentors to learn from and assistants to handle tasks you can’t do
yourself. Decide who you need and reach out to them before you get
How Are You Going to Get There?
When you’re looking at a specific goal that you’ll reach on a certain date in
the future, you might be wondering how on earth you’re going to get from
here to there. The way people do it is to take their big goal and break it up
into smaller ones. If the smaller ones are still too big, break them up
further. In fact, it really helps to break your sub-goals into daily actions that
will get you closer to achieving them. After you’ve broken it all down into
small steps, you’ve got your roadmap for how to get there.
Why Do You Want It?
Ask yourself honestly why you want to attain this goal and make sure that
you understand the true reasons. Keep these reasons in your mind as you
work toward making it happen. They’ll give you motivation and inspiration,
which will really help you stay on track when things don’t go according to
A great way to discover the answers to these questions is to visualize.
Imagine yourself in the future after you’ve achieved your goal. Picture
yourself also taking the steps you need to take to get there. This will help
you come up with realistic answers to the questions above.
Staying on Track with Your Goals – How to Measure Your
One of the most important parts of goal setting is measuring your progress.
When you measure your progress you can see how you’re coming along,
and this is a powerful motivator to help you stick with it. It gives you a
realistic picture of the situation and lets you know when you need a change
of strategy. Here are some good ways to measure your progress.
Facts and Figures
No matter what type of goals you’ve set, find a way to quantify progress. If
you’re saving money or dieting, this is easy to do. You can keep track in
pounds lost or dollars saved. If your goal is something that’s not easily
quantifiable, like spending more time with your family, track it as a number
of hours. For example, ‘I spent 15 hours this week with my kids.’
Stay on Schedule
In order to reach a goal, you need to break it into sub-goals and put them
into some kind of timeframe. This is how you stay organized. It’s also a
great way to chart your progress. You can see if you’re hitting your targets
or not. Sticking to your schedule is important, but give yourself some
flexibility. The real point of setting these deadlines is to monitor progress.
Change them as you go if you need to.
Keep a Journal
When you decide on your goal and you have the specifics worked out, write
it down on the first page of a notebook. This notebook will be your goal
journal. Set aside a little bit of time each day to write about how it’s going.
Imagine that you’re writing a letter to your future self. Your journal entries
don’t have to be long or incredibly detailed. Just write about what you did
today and how you feel about it.
Another even easier idea than a journal is to keep a simple tick sheet. When
you complete a task, simply tick it off. You can create a tick sheet or find
one online that you can download. Using a calendar is another way to do it.
Tick sheets are great for marking off your daily tasks and sub-goals. They
give you a visual representation of how far you’ve come.
Ratings and Rankings
You can keep track of your progress by creating your own rating and
ranking system. Make a system that goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the
highest. If, for example, you want to become more confident, you can
monitor your confidence each day and rate it. A rating of 5 might mean
you’re ready to take on the world; 1 means that you want to crawl into bed
Who’s Got the Time?
All of the above suggestions take time out of your busy schedule. When
you’re working toward an important goal, you may feel that you don’t have
much to spare. However, the little bit of time that you take to measure your
progress benefits you considerably. The key is to decide how much time you
can devote to measuring goal progress and choose a system that fits it.
Actions Speak Louder Than Words – Goal Planning and Taking
How do you achieve your big goals in life? You break them up into smaller
goals that are easier to reach. How do you reach these smaller goals? By
breaking them up into action steps. These are things that you do to get
closer to achieving them. Goals are reached in stages, not all at once.
Turning Goals into Actions
When you’re breaking your goals into action steps, pick tangible targets.
This means making the action step something that you’ll know you’ve
finished. In other words, it has to be measurable. Each of these steps may
be a task that once completed gets you closer to the goal. Choose one or a
handful of actions to take each day.
You and Your Cluttered Garage
As an example, let’s say that you want to clean up all the random junk in
your garage. What sub-goals would you use? One tangible sub-goal with a
measurable outcome is to put everything away. Another sub-goal to having
the garage organized is to label your storage containers. Getting rid of extra
stuff you don’t need would be another.
You’d then break each of these sub-goals into action steps. Remember that
the end result has to be achievable. For the first sub-goal of putting things
away, you might break it into an action step for each area of the garage.
Divide the garage into smaller areas that can be de-cluttered within an
afternoon (or however much time you choose to designate to it).
The Devil’s in the Details
Tangible means something that can be measured. Depending on the type of
goal, you should use facts and figures. If you’re trying to lose weight,
decide on an exact number of pounds. If it’s money, break it down into
dollar amounts. Use action words to define your tasks. On your list of things
to do, don’t write ‘gym’ or ‘garage sale.’ Instead, write ‘go to the gym’ or
‘have a garage sale.’ The verb is important because it reminds you that this
is an action that needs to be taken.
Keep It Realistic
Don’t forget that the reason we break goals down into steps is to make
them more realistic. Any goal is achievable if you break it into bite-sized
chunks and affix realistic timeframes to these chunks. Goals that revolve
around learning a new skill are especially daunting, but when you break
them down in this way, they become possible.
If your action steps seem more like giant leaps, this doesn’t mean you
should give up. It just means you need to break them up into smaller
actions that are easier to achieve.
Monitor Your Progress
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Once you’re several
hundred miles on your way, it doesn’t seem so far at all. Monitor your
progress and log it in a journal or computer file. This shows you how far
you’ve come in working toward your goal and that adds more motivational
fuel to the fire.
How to Tell Whether Your Goals Are Realistic
You can make anything happen if you know how to set goals, but they need
to be realistic. This might seem like a contradiction – sort of like saying
dream big but not too big. When we talk about goals, being realistic simply
means looking at the big picture. With enough commitment, planning and
determination, you can achieve nearly anything.
The first step in creating realistic goals is to be as specific as possible.
There’s no way to reach a goal like ‘lose weight’ or ‘gain more self confidence.’ It needs to be something concrete and measurable. What would work is something like, ‘Lose X pounds so that I can fit into the swimwear I wore five years ago’ or ‘Gain enough self-confidence to get up in front of a group and speak without losing my mind completely.’
Evaluate Your Skills
Is your goal something that you’ve got the skills to achieve? For example,
let’s say that your goal is to become an online entrepreneur. Can you build
websites, do social media, create content, and network with other businesspeople?
If you don’t have all the skills it needs, that doesn’t mean
it’s impossible. What it means is that you’ve got skills to learn. Learning
these skills provide you with sub-goals that get you closer to reaching your
The Resources Your Need
Along with skills, do you have the resources you need to reach the goal in
question? If you want to get into better shape, you’re going to need a place
to do that. You may have to find information resources on how to eat better
if that’s what you want to do. First of all, brainstorm all the resources you’ll
need and take stock of what’s available. If you don’t have access to what
you need, make a plan for getting it.
When it comes to being realistic about goals, time is probably the biggest
consideration. All goals take time to reach. Do you have the time it’ll take?
A good way to figure this out is to read about it or talk to others who have
done what you’re getting ready to do. Use this information to create a
timeframe for yourself.
Research Your Roadblocks
There’s a chance that you’ll come across a roadblock that, no matter how
you try, you just can’t get over. It’s good to know about these before you
invest lots of time in reaching your goal. The best way to avoid this is to do
your homework before you get started.
Learn from the experience of others that have done this before. For example, if you want to become a lawyer, educate yourself well on what it takes to become one. Talking to others who have done it before also helps you find out whether or not it’s a goal that’s worth pursuing.
Deciding whether or not a goal is realistic is a test for you. What you’re
actually asking yourself is whether or not you’re able and willing to work for
it. Identify your natural strengths and weaknesses. Your strengths will make
it easier for you and your weaknesses will tell you what you need to work
on. That’s what being realistic is all about.
Attach a Timeframe to Your Goals and Make Them Happen
Have you ever heard of SMART goal planning? This stands for: Specific,
Measurable, Action-Oriented (or Achievable), Realistic, and Timely. The last
is probably the most important. Your goals need a timeframe because
without one, you can easily spin your wheels and never reach them. A
timeframe adds a sense of urgency to your goals and that’s just what they
How to Set Deadlines
Creating a timeframe is based on setting deadlines. Just like a deadline for
work or school, this is the day when you’ll reach that goal. The first step in
creating deadlines is to define the overall timeframe. Will this goal take a
few years, months, weeks, or days to reach? Choose a day in the future
that you think is realistic and don’t worry, you can go back and change it
Once you’ve got your deadline, break your goal into small action steps that
will get you closer to it. These should all be tasks that can be finished and
clearly defined. In other words, you know exactly when they’re done. You’ll
take these sub-goals and affix deadlines to them as well. These deadlines
will gradually get you to your big one.
Example – Eating Better
For example, your goal might be to eat better. You’d first decide exactly
what ‘eat better’ means – more veggies, less sugar, smaller portions of
meat, etc. To do this, take your overall goal and break it into these smaller
and more specific sub-goals.
You might choose to make one change per week. By Friday, you’ll be eating
three portions of green vegetables per day (remember that it has to be
specific). By the next Friday, you’ll be consuming half as much sugar per
day. You’ve now got an action plan and a solid timeframe for it.
How to Make Your Deadlines More Efficient
There are several ways to make your deadlines more efficient. First of all,
the key to success is to be realistic. Look at each of your sub-goals and ask
yourself if you can really reach it in that time. How do you know if it’s
realistic? At first, you don’t. But a safe way of guessing is to pad all of your
deadlines. Give each an extra day in case things don’t work out as planned
(and they rarely ever do).
You can also monitor along the way. Check your progress periodically and
see if you’re still on target for reaching that goal. For example, if your goal
is to save money, you should have a dollar amount and a deadline. Every
week, check your stash to see if it’s piling up the way it should be. If it’s
not, push your deadline back accordingly.
Do you see a common theme here? It’s flexibility. Deadlines help you get
things done and your timeframe gives it all a sense of urgency. But you
don’t want to put yourself in a perpetual state of panic. Flexibility means
that you’re willing to change course and adjust if needed, but not stray from
your overall dream. Life happens sometimes, so let it; but don’t let it stop
you from reaching your goals.
4 Surefire Ways to Fail at Reaching Your Goals
Napoleon Hill said, ‘A goal is a dream with a deadline.’ Are you great at
dreaming but not so good at attaining your goals? If so, something is
holding you back. Here are four of the most common reasons why people
fail to reach their goals.
The Reason Gets Away from You
It takes a long time to reach your goals. During that time, it’s easy to stray
from the real reason why you ever wanted to achieve it in the first place. In
fact, you may very well forget it entirely.
How do you keep from doing this? A great way is to write this reason down.
Ask yourself why you want to make this change and answer it as honestly
as possible. Take that piece of paper and keep it with you constantly.
You may also find your motivation to reach the goal waning, especially when
you encounter challenges along the way. Keeping a written statement of
why you want to achieve your goal keeps that initial excitement with you to
push you forward.
Too Much on Your Plate
The expression ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ applies to goal planning
as well as many other things in life. If you try to take on too many things at
once, you’ll be spending your energy all over the place. You won’t have the
focus that you need to reach even one, and you’ll most likely burn out
But what can you do if you’re an ambitious person with lots on your plate?
The solution is to make a huge list of goals and just pick one. Work on one
until you get comfortable with it and start seeing results. Then, you can add
the next goal to your already busy schedule.
Choking on Negativity
Often, we fall short of what we want because we focus too much on
negatives. You think about what you don’t want or where you don’t want to
be, instead of visualizing yourself in a good place in the future.
For example, if your goal is to get a better job, stop thinking about the
lousy one you have now. Sure, it may be a good motivator to get you job
hunting; but the negative thinking it’s causing you can stand in your way.
Instead, focus on the wonderful new job you’re going to get.
Kill the Fear
Many of us fail to make progress on our goals because of fear, which is
perfectly natural. If you’ve got a big goal you’re working toward, there’s a
good chance it’s something you’ve never done before, and that can be
When you’re afraid, it’s usually because you doubt your abilities. But with
proper planning, this isn’t an issue at all. If you break your goals down into
sub-goals and daily actions that will get you closer to them, it just becomes
a matter of logistics. A good plan with concrete steps helps you overcome
Take Action Today
Ultimately the main reason we fail at goals is that we fail to take action.
This could be because of the fear mentioned above or for other reasons, but
it’s essential to do something each day that gets you closer to your goals.
This helps you understand your own abilities and skills better, and it gives
you more confidence when you see yourself getting closer to getting what
What’s Stopping You from Setting Goals?
Do you have a goal that you want to achieve but something is standing in
the way? The first step is to set your goal and clarify it as specifically as
possible. If you’re having trouble doing that, here are some questions to ask
Are You Afraid?
Often, it’s fear that’s stopping you from getting started. In order to reach
your goal and make a big change in your life, you need to get out of your
comfort zone. You may also be afraid of failure. Surprisingly, many people
are afraid to succeed and attain their goals. The way to handle fear is to
plan well, stop negative self-talk, and focus on your past achievements
rather than what could happen in the future.
Do You Really Want It?
When you answer this question honestly, it can be an eye-opener. You may
discover that you’re not ready yet to make the change. Sometimes we like
the idea of attaining our goal better than the reality. The best way to find
out if this is the case is to realistically consider all that you’ll have to do to
achieve your goal. Listen to the stories of others who have done it and ask
yourself if it’s worth it to you.
Is It Somebody Else’s Goal?
Is the goal actually your own or is it someone else’s? It’s very common for
us to internalize the things others want for us. The other person may be a
family member, a romantic partner, or people at work. When the goal isn’t
really yours to begin with, it’s much easier to buckle under pressure when
things get tough. Ask yourself if it’s what you really want or what they
Are You Too Busy?
Do you really have the time to fit this goal into your life right now? Attaining
any worthwhile goal takes a considerable amount of time. Many of us are
‘time poor’ and just don’t have room for it. You can learn how to manage
your time better and shift your schedule around, but sometimes even that
doesn’t help. Set a realistic timeframe for your goal and figure out what
you’ll need to do each day in order to achieve it.
How to Get Started
Probably the biggest thing that stops people from starting on their goals is
that they don’t know where to start. Goal planning is a skill just like any
other and most of us aren’t good at it.
Start by clarifying what you want and then set a timeframe for when you
want to achieve it. Next, break your big goal into small sub-goals and make
a list for each of the actions you need to take to achieve them. Organize
your goal setting but leave some room for flexibility too because things
change along the way.
How to Stick to Your Goals and Stay Motivated
Have you ever been working your way toward a goal that you really wanted
to achieve, only to suddenly lose your way? How does that happen?
When you’re working toward a goal, it’s not enough to simply want it. Even
if it’s the attainment of your life’s dream, you have to keep yourself
constantly motivated or else you won’t stick with it. Here are some tips on
how to stay on course and make it happen.
Keep Your Momentum
An object at rest stays at rest. That’s what Isaac Newton discovered and it’s
just as true about human beings as it is with physical objects. It’s easy to
give up a goal when you take too long of a break from it. The momentum
you need to keep going comes from taking action toward your goal daily.
If you have a big goal, the fear of failure might be lurking somewhere in the
back of your mind. This can cause problems with your confidence that can
result in you falling out of step and giving up. The best way to keep your
confidence up is to remember your past successes and achievements. Write
these down and keep them handy in case you need them.
Consider the Evidence
In just the same way, it helps keep you moving when you can see how
much progress you’re making. Keep track of your progress and every time
you feel like giving up, look at the evidence. If you’re losing weight, keep
records of how much you’ve lost. If you’re saving money, look at the
growing pile of cash.
Make It Positive
Positivity is a much better motivator than negativity. If your goal is to get
out of your current job, quit smoking, or break your bad habits, try to put a
positive spin on it. For example, instead of saying you’ll quit smoking, make
your goal to become a non-smoker or to make healthier lifestyle choices.
Negative motivators can help, but it’s much better to make the main overall
goal a positive one.
Get Around Obstacles
There are always going to be roadblocks along the way and these obstacles
can stop you dead in your tracks. It’s easy to let them. But an obstacle is
really nothing more than a challenge. What it requires is a change of
strategy and that’s all. When you get stuck and feel that you can’t move
forward, review your goal and the process you’ve created for getting there.
Brainstorm some small changes that you can try out.
Learn from Mistakes
When you mess up and make a mistake (or you’re weak and let yourself
slip), don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, separate yourself from the
situation and look at it objectively. Why did the mistake happen? Where did
it come from? Look closely at it and use it as a learning experience.
Ask for Help
Lots of people try to do everything themselves and avoid asking for help
even when they need it. It’s incredibly hard to achieve a goal without any
support whatsoever. When you first get started, identify some people who
can help you. When you have tough times, turn to them.
Don’t forget as you work your way to the attainment of your goals that you
need rewards. It’s not enough to always anticipate the big day when the
goal is reached. Schedule rewards for yourself after you complete your
tasks or reach your sub-goals. Rewards are the best motivators. Besides,
you deserve them.