Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 1, 2020

How to Set Goals in Life to Achieve the Success You Want

How to Set Goals in Life to Achieve the Success You Want

If you Google “goals in life”, you’ll get almost 3 billion results. Yes, you read that right. Billion.

There’s a good reason why. It’s widely recognized that having clear goals is essential to achieving success in all areas of your life; relationships, career, health, finances, spirituality, learning, growth, business, you name it.

    In fact, setting goals has many benefits:

    • They support you to live an exciting, fulfilling and meaningful life.
    • They give you something to focus on and work towards.
    • They help you identify what you want and what’s most important to you.
    • They show you where you’re going and how much progress you’re making.
    • They inform major decisions in your life and give you a North Star to stay grounded.
    • They provide direction in your life and clarity in decision-making.
    • They drive motivation and inspiration.
    • They accelerate your accomplishments and provides a sense of satisfaction.

    That’s why I make a habit of setting goals regularly and encourage my clients to do the same. In fact, for as long as I can remember, my husband and I sit down at the beginning of the year to set goals and intentions for the year ahead. When the kids became old enough to participate, they started joining us for this important ritual.

    Goals have power. Even if you have no idea how you’re going to achieve them, you know what you want to achieve, and this sets you up to find a way.

    Think about the last time you had a clear, compelling goal. How did you feel? What impact did that have on your happiness, energy, and success?

    So, if you’re feeling stuck, bored or unmotivated; or you’re looking for ways to accelerate your success and experience more fulfillment in all areas of your life, it’s time to start creating goals.

    People have been setting goals since the dawn of time. Then, the theory of goal setting was brought into the mainstream by Edwin A. Locke in the mid-1960s[1] and the first publication of SMART goals was released in 1981 in an issue of Management Review.[2] We’ve been obsessed with setting goals ever since.

    I’ve been wondering, what could I possibly tell you about goal-setting that’s not already been shared in the almost three billion resources you have at your fingertips? Absolutely nothing. I’d like to say I have some new methodology or innovative pearl of wisdom to share. But I don’t.

    The problem is not that there isn’t enough content or information out there about goal-setting. The problem is that we read articles, scroll through social media, listen to podcasts, watch videos on YouTube and then don’t take any action forward.

    It’s not enough to know goals are important or how to set a goal. You must identify your own goals, write them down and take action towards them.

    As a corporate trainer, coach and consultant, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how much knowledge or information someone has. In order to take their learning to the next level, they must apply it. That’s where the real value comes in.

    Advertising

    So today, rather than give you more content, I’m going to walk you through a process.

    My goal? That you take the time to walk through this process yourself and when you finish this article, you’ll have at least one goal that supports you to live the life of your dreams.

    Here’s your step-by-step guide on how to set goals in life, and actually achieve them. Grab a pencil and paper, or open the notes on your phone and get ready to take action.

    Step 1: Pick an Area of Your Life That Is Important to You.

    Think of a part of your life where you’d like to have more success or greater satisfaction. Focus on an area you feel is lacking and you’d like to make a change or improvement. This might include your career, finances, business, spirituality, personal growth, health, family, relationships, social life or attitude.

    Check out the wheel of life below if you need some help. On a scale of 1-10, rate your current level of satisfaction in each area:

      The closer you are to the center-line, the more you lack in that area; the closer to the outer line, the more successful and happy you feel in that part of your life.

      Got an area you’d like to focus on? Great! You can move on to step two.

      Step 2: Think About What You Want in This Area of Your Life

      If you don’t know what you want, how do you expect to get it?

      Imagine yourself 6 months from today. What needs to have happened for you to feel happy, successful or satisfied in that part of your life?

      Here are some ideas to get you started:

      • Career – Do you want to get the raise or promotion, find a new role, take on a big project, improve your leadership skills, make a career switch or retire?
      • Finances – Perhaps you want to have financial freedom, pay off debt, buy a house, make an investment or increase your income?
      • Personal Growth – Do you want to improve your self-awareness, build confidence or self-esteem, address old wounds or heal trauma? Or do you want to learn a new skill, get an advanced degree or go back to school?
      • Health – Do you want to have greater health and more energy? Perhaps you want to run a marathon, exercise more regularly, eat better, meditate or practice mindfulness.
      • Relationships – Do you want to be in a loving relationship, be a better parent, be more compassionate, increase your social circle, spend more time with your friends?

      Once you know what you want, you can move to step three.

      Step 3: Set a Goal

      There are all types of goals you can set for yourself.

      Advertising

      • Short-term goals, long-term goals, lifetime goals.
      • Small, incremental goals and big hairy audacious goals (BHAG).
      • Skill goals (to learn to ride a skateboard or peak a new language)
      • Behavioral goals (to be more patient, kind or confident)

      There are goals around

      • Things you want to have (owning a house or car, making partner, finding a new job or career)
      • Things you want to do (skydiving, spending time with family, exercising, losing weight or traveling to Australia)
      • Experiences you want to enjoy (have you always wanted to skydive, run a marathon or take up painting?)
      • What you want to give or how you want to contribute. (Think about your time, talents energy or money). Studies prove that those who give are happier, so if you want to be happier, make more goals to give.

      And one that’s often not given enough time or attention… Who you want to BE? Happy, confident, successful, kind, loving, grateful, generous, fulfilled, settled, passionate, creative, fun?

      Last year, I wanted to be more relaxed – to stop stressing so much and go with the flow more. Our family made a goal to all be more observant, loving and helpful. One of my daughters wanted to be more patient, another to be more focused.

      What is a goal you’d like to set for yourself? Remember, there is no one right answer or one-size-fits-all approach. Write it down now. Then, move on to the next step.

      Step 4: Check Your Goal

      Make sure your goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely).

      You also must make sure you:

      • Identify your why: Why is your goal important to you? If you don’t know your why, you’re going to get distracted and lost along the way. Your goals must be meaningful and relevant.
      • Have a deep desire to achieve your goal. The keywords here being YOU and DESIRE. You must really want to achieve this. It can’t be for someone else. Ask yourself, “Does this goal support the life I’m trying to create?”
      • Believe it’s possible. You may not know how it’s going to happen, but in order to reach your goals, some part of you, deep down, needs to believe it’s possible. This is why it’s important to create goals that inspire and motivate you but aren’t so big that you don’t believe they’re possible.

      If you checked that your goals are SMART, know your why, have a deep desire to achieve your goal and truly believe it’s possible, you can move on to the next step.

      Step 5: Visualize the Outcome

      Clarity is key. We all know the power of visualization. Visualize yourself AS IF you have already achieved your goal.

      Take a moment to close your eyes and really imagine it. Step into that scene and feeling as much as possible. What do you notice? What do you see, hear or feel as a result of achieving this goal? Really put yourself in the power that you’ll feel when you’ve achieved your goal.

      Next, it’s time to create a plan of action.

      Step 6: Create a Plan to Achieve your Goal

      At the very least, create the first step. Actions lead to the achievement of your goals. Small actions eventually lead to big results.

      Create as much of a plan as you can to achieve your goal. The bigger the goal, the larger the plan. But keep it as simple as possible, too.

      Got your first step and a plan of action to achieve your goals? Great. You’re almost ready to get started. Before you do, you must identify your obstacles.

      Advertising

      Step 7: Anticipate Obstacles

      When you know what’s going to get in the way, you’re going to be much less likely to get thrown off track when things don’t go the way you expected (they never do).

      What could get in the way of you achieving your goal? Consider factors such as distraction, procrastination, loss of focus, your environment, underestimating time and resources.

      For example, if you want to exercise three days a week, maybe you can foresee that work travel is going to get in the way. How can you make alternative plans for those weeks? Maybe you want to go back to school, but you’re not sure if you can get the financial aid you need. Sort that out first or figure out your plan.

      Read the top 7 reasons why so many New Year’s Resolutions (and goal-setting) fail here.

      Once you have a sense of what’s going to get in the way and have a strategy in place for when that arises, it’s time to get started.

      Step 8: Take the First Step

      Remember that plan of action? What’s your first step? Take it.

      “A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided.” -Tony Robbins

      If you’re serious about achieving your goal, take action now. Today. Pick up your phone. Make the call. Send the email. Join the dating site. Start the job search. Join the gym. Call a friend. Schedule it in your calendar. Get started. There is no better time than the present.

        Step 9: Stay on Track

        In order to achieve your goals, you must stay on track. Think about a goal, resolution or commitment you made that you DID keep. What worked to keep you on track? Why did you keep it? What were the factors at play?

        In research conducted at the Dominican University of California, psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews concluded the following:[3]

        “My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals”

        Start by writing down your goals and placing them where you can see them. One statistic I read shared that 23% of people forgot their New Years’ resolutions. Forgot!

        Advertising

        My sister tells the story often about the goal she had for selling her business. She wrote the sale price and date on a post-it and taped it to her mirror where she could see it daily. It served as a constant reminder of her North Star and what was most important to her. It kept her focused and on track. Our family goals are pinned to a bulletin board in the kitchen in our house for this very reason.

        Next, let’s talk about accountability.

        Matthews found that more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than halfway there), compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

        Other studies have proven the same. Share your goals with others. Get an accountability partner to keep you on track or simply send weekly updates to a friend.[4]

        You can also create checkpoints. If you’ve ever participated in a long race, you know how important checkpoints are to keeping you on track. When you know where you are along the way to your goals, you can speed up, slow down or make changes.

        Lastly, always remember to celebrate your successes. Will you fail sometimes? Face setbacks or obstacles? Absolutely! But having a clear goal will get you further down the track.

        Create short term rewards for yourself and tie them to your checkpoints. For example, if you have a goal to lose 10 pounds by the end of the year, you might want to buy yourself a new pair of running shoes or treat yourself to a spa day when you’ve reached the half-way point.

        Summing It Up

          Bottom Line

          Congratulations, you did it! If you followed the step-by-step instructions above, you now have a clear, compelling goal that will improve some area of your life.

          If you didn’t go through the steps right now, you can schedule some time later today or this week to dedicate to this important process. I’m going to encourage you to schedule that now before you move on to the next thing!

          Then, it’s up to you to APPLY. Remember, knowledge is not power, action is.

          You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. — C.S. Lewis

          Finish this year strong and start the new year with clarity, focus, momentum and a sense of satisfaction knowing you’re one step closer to your goals.

          Advertising

          More About Goal Setting

          Featured photo credit: Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Tracy Kennedy

          Lifehack's Personal Development Expert, a results-driven coach dedicated to helping people achieve greater levels of happiness and success.

          12 Proven Ways To Increase Your Intellectual Wellness How to Build Self-Esteem: A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power How to Build Self Discipline to Excel in Life 10 Powerful Ways to Be More Confident 10 Strategies to Keep Moving Forward When Feeling Stuck

          Trending in Goal Getting

          1 What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal 2 How to Focus on Goals and Get Rid of Distractions 3 8 Simple and Effective Ways to Start Reaching Goals Today 4 Finally Reach Your Goal with the 6 A’s of Change 5 How to Achieve Goals and Increase Your Chance of Success

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on June 16, 2021

          What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

          What to Do If You Find Yourself Making Slow Progress Towards Your Goal

          If you are making slow progress on a goal you’ve set, maybe it is the wrong goal in the first place. Perhaps factors, including your attitude or environment, do not allow you to make your desired progress. However, it is easy to blame timing and luck; if you set a goal, you and only you are accountable for achieving it (read the achieve my goals guide). The question is, how?

          Start With Why

          On my career path, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to explore and learn things practically. After a successful corporate career, I spent two years trying to establish an entrepreneurial consultancy, only to realize marginal success.

          The consultancy formed based on my core values, candor, curiosity, and collaboration, but unfortunately, my customer base and projects were seemingly random and disjointed. While I understood I needed to establish a consistent and repeatable approach to content marketing to drive my clients’ results, that approach was not apparent in the brand I had built. Things got so rough that I had to resort to collecting unemployment at the onset of the pandemic.

          At the beginning of the pandemic, I delivered a webinar called earning trust in uncertain times: coronavirus edition. Afterward, I received an email from a participant. He shared some thoughts on a campaign for his jewelry company and asked for feedback. When I read his email, I realized I could quickly help him to gain clarity, so I sent him a note with an offer to get his message on track. He offered to pay me for my time, and I said to myself,

          “I am adding value, and I can charge for this!”

          This first client needed to shift my offerings from general marketing consulting to a more diversified career that focuses on personal brand building.

          It took a global pandemic to realize I needed to shift my goals to align with the change I was trying to make in the world, to a new business, coaching that applies my skills in an authentic way to me and valuable to prospects and customers.

          Advertising

          Start With Your Identity

          James Clear discusses identity-based habits as deeply rooted in a person’s outlook toward life.[1] As a businessperson, identity-based practices are what impact business goals and your approaches towards achieving them. Identity is what you believe in, and outcomes determine what you seek to achieve. A permanent change comes from transforming the who part of behavior—the character.

          Whether it is a coaching program I develop, a class I teach, or a marketing campaign I create, I always start identity. According to The Brookings Institute:[2]

          Identity is a unique, inherited collection of assets, history, traits, and culture that distinguishes it internally and externally and can unite people and places.

          But this logic also applies to personal goals. If losing weight is your goal, your focus is on an outcome rather than an identity-based plan, and you may lose motivation. Think, “Why am I trying to lose weight?”

          • Is it to be more healthy?
          • Did you get some lousy test results at the doctor?
          • Are you at risk of severe health problems?

          It may help reframe your goal around a positive statement like, I am working to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Motivation has to come from a place of confidence and belief in yourself. You know what they say about the air mask on the airplane – put it on yourself first.

          It is ok to set goals for others; for example, “I am losing weight so I can live for my kids;” however, if you don’t set goals around themes that you can own, and you don’t do it for yourself first, then the people in your life will not receive any benefit.

          Think about what you achieve from your efforts — the outcomes. The reality that you are looking at right now must also allude to the fact you promise to create for your clientele, and that is not possible unless you believe in it and make it believable for others.

          Advertising

          Be Specific About What, How, and When

          Your values need to align with other people and systems to engage in meeting your desired outcome, so make sure to put in place a process that accounts for what motivates you, that you can reliably complete until you achieve your goal.

          If you are not specific and clear about how many pounds you are trying to lose and when you will lose then, then how will you know if you met your goal in the first place?

          BJ FOGG, the author of Tiny Habits, suggests that you start small. In the Tiny Habits method, you always start with a tiny behavior. Some examples:

          • Floss one tooth
          • Read one sentence in a book.
          • Take one deep breath.

          According to Fogg, an excellent tiny behavior has these qualities:

          • takes less than 30 seconds (even better: just 5 seconds)
          • requires no real effort
          • doesn’t create pain or destructive emotions

          Make sure it’s a habit you want to have in your life. Don’t pick something that’s a “should,” choose new behaviors you wish to.

          The next thing to learn is where to place the further tiny action in your life. Just like planting a seed, you want the right spot for it, a place where it fits naturally and where it can thrive.

          Be flexible and adaptable. We are in a complicated and volatile world, and things change on a dime, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you need to change how you go about achieving your goal or even what goals you are trying to accomplish first place.

          Advertising

          Be aware of bias. As you set out to achieve your goals, it is critical to be aware of the bias that can sneak in and sabotage your thinking. Yes, it is essential to collaborate with others to achieve your goals, but you need to understand yourself and make sure you are not getting in your way before doing that. Here are some common forms of bias.

          • Confirmation bias: People tend to listen more often to information that confirms the beliefs they already have.
          • Selection bias: Selecting individuals, groups that do not provide diverse perspectives for you to consider.
          • Self-serving bias: People tend to give themselves credit for successes but blame failures on external causes.

          What about serendipity? Many of us believe that the great turning points and opportunities in our lives happen by chance, that they’re out of our control.

          Dr. Christian Busch, author of The Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck, spent a decade exploring how, if acted upon, unexpected encounters can expand our random social encounters can enhance our worldview, expand our social circles, and create new professional opportunities.

          Serendipity is usually about connecting dots that have previously remained elusive. Busch’s findings suggest that Good luck isn’t just chance—it can be learned and leveraged. When you are perceptive, curious, open-minded, and eager to see opportunities, others might see only negatively. If you notice something unusual but can connect that bit of information with something else, you are in the right mindset for achieving serendipity.

          Motivation and a Realistic Plan

          Only you can choose the goals you set. Motivation is critical in meeting your goals. But choosing goals is not enough; you need to select the right goals and define a plan that keeps you accountable for meeting your goals.

          Author Gabriele Oettingen defined a methodology you can use to get better at achieving your hopes and dreams. It’s called WOOMP![3]

          WOOP stands for:

          Advertising

          • W = Wish
          • O = Outcome
          • O = Obstacle
          • P = Plan

          WOOMP, there it is! WOOMP will force you to be hyper-realistic about your goals and be action-minded in your approach to achieving them.

          Show up Consistently

          In order to turn your vision into reality, you will have to regularly show up by consistently organizing, leading, and building to get to your goals.

          “Some people show up when they need something. Some people show up before they need something, knowing that it will pay off later when they need something. And some people merely show up. Not needing anything, not in anticipation of needing something, but merely because they can.” — Seth Godin

          Final Thoughts

          While I would be happy to be your trusted advisor and coach, the answer has to start with you. My process will help you to define and document an ownable set of values and marketing frameworks that will make you more appealing to clients/ employers, especially on LinkedIn. These values will translate beyond work, as well.

          More on Making Progress

          Featured photo credit: Aj Alao via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next