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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

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

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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.

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    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.

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      • 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.

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      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!

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        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.

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          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

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          1 What Are Process Goals? (With Examples) 2 8 Simple and Effective Ways to Start Reaching Goals Today 3 How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals 4 20 Excuses Most People Make That Stop Them From Reaching Their Dreams 5 Goals vs Objectives: What Are Their Differences?

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          Published on September 16, 2021

          What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

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          What Are Process Goals? (With Examples)

          Ready. Set. Go. For years, this was my three-step mindset when it came to goals. I would reach for the moon and hope to land among the stars without feeling the pain of the fall. This approach was all or nothing, and as a result, I experienced loads of burnout and almost zero productivity. In short, my task list was filled with high-level intentions, but I hadn’t taken the time to create a map to reach the destinations. I was lost in the planning stages because I didn’t understand process goals or have any examples to follow.

          Since then, I’ve learned how to embrace the journey and break my outcome goals into smaller and more manageable process goals. This approach has improved my focus and reduced frustration because I’m now working towards a surefire strategy that will take me where I want to go––I’m creating a plan of action with achievable daily targets (a process goal).

          What Is a Process Goal?

          A process goal is not a destination, it’s the path you plan on taking to get there. For example, if you want to become better at writing, your process goal would be to post one blog article per week and learn from the feedback you receive. The destination is a monthly goal of 12 articles.

          This distinction is important because it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that these types of goals are not all or nothing. Think about it. You’ve heard it said: it’s not about working hard but working smart.

          Well, a process goal is an actionable target with what we call SMART criteria:

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          • Specific – The more detailed your goal, the better. For example, instead of “I want to be fit,” you would say, “I want to lose five pounds.” Make sure your goal is crystal clear.
          • Measurable – You need a way to measure progress and success, so it needs to be quantifiable. This is where you decide what “fit” actually means for you (more on this later).
          • Achievable – If your goal isn’t challenging, then it’s not going to be motivating. On the other hand, there must be a steeper mountain to climb if you want substantial results.
          • Realistic – “I want to run a marathon” is not practical for most people. Ensure you have the time, energy, and resources (e.g., training program) required to achieve your goal.
          • Time-Bound – Your goal needs an assigned deadline or it’s just a pipe dream. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but what happens when the fantasy ends?

          To summarize, these are the essential components of any process goal: specific, measurable, achievable within a certain time frame, and realistic.

          What Is a Destination Goal?

          A destination goal is a point in time when you plan to be at a particular destination. For example, if your goal is to get to represent your country at the 2025 Summer Olympics, you right need to focus on smaller increments to attain that success. On your way to that goal, you need to focus on smaller destinations. First, make the national team. Then, compete in a few events and so forth.

          If you try to make it to the Olympics from the very start without any milestones along the way, it would be too daunting. On the other hand, if you focus on each milestone as a destination goal, it will all seem possible and achievable.

          Process Goal Template

          Let’s say you want to become a better cook. Here is one way of writing the process goal: “I will save $100 per week by cooking all my meals at home for 12 weeks.” This would be your destination (monthly), and the steps required to achieve this goal (weekly) would be:

          1. Spend one hour on Sunday planning my meals for the week.
          2. Shop for groceries after work on Monday and Tuesday nights.
          3. Cook all meals at home on Wednesdays through Sundays.
          4. Pack my lunch for work on Mondays and Tuesdays.
          5. Save $100 per week in cash by cooking at home.

          This process goal will help you become a better cook by teaching you to save money through planning, shopping, cooking, packing your own lunch, and trying new recipes. It also includes a weekly reward (saving $100 in cash) that will help you stay motivated.

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          Process goals encourage you to reach your ultimate goals. When you feel like you can accomplish smaller goals along the way, you gain sustainability and confidence to move forward.

          In many ways, process goals are a lot like faith. Each accomplishment brings you closer to seeing the fullness of the life that you desire––it breaks through the fog and makes things clearer.

          What Questions Helped Me Find My Process Goals?

          After several years of setting lofty goals and becoming increasingly frustrated when I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, I decided to take a closer look at my approach.

          Now, there are many ways you can do this, but here’s how I went about it. Last year, I asked myself the following questions:

          • What am I doing right now?
          • How can I get better at this?
          • Is this process goal leading me closer to my ultimate goals?

          The choices I made from the answers to these questions became my process goals. They were the driving force that kept me motivated and moving forward when I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. Since then, I’ve been able to accomplish lifelong goals that I had given up on years ago. For example, I’ve been able to obtain a publishing contract, create more digital products for my business, and enjoy the moment.

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          Before I broke down my goals into smaller ones, I was struggling to just get out of bed. The thought of my endless list kept me stagnant. Now, I look forward to each morning and taking on smaller projects to reach profitable outcomes.

          What Are Some Process Goals You Can Try?

          So, now that you understand the importance of process goals, let’s get you started with some examples that you can utilize this week:

          • Sign up for a new class.
          • Complete one portion of your project by Thursday.
          • Start walking around the block instead of running a mile.
          • Improve your writing by spending 30 minutes everyday journaling.
          • Practice your interview skills.
          • Read at least one book from the library this week.
          • Do ten push-ups each day before you leave for work.

          You get the idea. These process goals don’t have to be complicated. If anything, you want to break down your plans to the point of them feeling easy or at least doable without needing a week’s vacation. By breaking your goals down into smaller pieces, you can accomplish a lot more in a shorter period. You’ll also feel more confident that you’re able to accomplish something within the moment.

          It isn’t easy to continue towards your goal if achievement feels too far away. You need to celebrate the small things and embrace the process.

          What Do You Need for Process Goals?

          Think about how much time and money you’ve spent on new clothes, books, technology, etc. Many of us want to keep up with the latest trends and purchase the best gadgets from Apple or Microsoft. But all of these extra investments come at a steep price.

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          To find your process goals, you may have to face some difficult emotions or situations bravely and confront them head-on. You might need to forgo the new outfit or the latest Mac book to meet your overall objectives.[1] Remember, process goals not only protect you from feeling overwhelmed, but they also keep you from being distracted.

          Final Thoughts

          You may feel overwhelmed at first when trying to set a process goal. Sometimes, just thinking about change triggers stress hormones, which only leads to more worries and anxious feelings. However, if you keep yourself focused and take small steps in the right direction, you’ll soon realize that goals don’t have to be complicated.

          You can achieve your process goals one day at a time, and you can start today by breaking down your larger goal into smaller steps. It doesn’t matter if the process takes a week or six months, what matters most is that you’re moving forward and doing something to make yourself better.

          Now, go on out there and achieve one of your process goals!

          Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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          Reference

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