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Last Updated on February 22, 2022

A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

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A Complete Guide to Goal Setting for Personal Success

If there was a rule book of life, there would be one particular page that was highlighted, underlined, and titled as most important. It would be the one which told you that you need to master effective goal setting and have an aim in mind before you get on with the process. While there may not be an actual rule book of life, we do have this helpful goal setting tips to offer.

Yes, goal setting is important. In fact, it’s more important than achieving the goal itself. This is because it is the sense of direction that is needed for you to fulfill any task in life.

You don’t have to feel overwhelmed if this sounds new to you, as all the following information has you covered.

Today, you’ll find out all about the importance of goal setting, types of goals, and tips to define realistic goals for yourself!

What Are Goals?

To kick off our goal setting tips guide, you need to first recognize what goals are and how they are different from objectives, dreams, and expectations.

A goal is essentially your aim for the long-term future. It is the bigger umbrella, the main focus.

Objectives, on the other hand, fall under the umbrella of goals. They are the stepping stones that help you achieve your goals[1].

Objects vs goals for goal setting tips

    For example, you may decide you want to learn a new language. Your goal is to be fluent in the new language. Everything you do to achieve this goal, such as the daily tasks and monthly learning aims, are the objectives.

    Similarly, your expectations, visions, and dreams are not your goals. If you wish to learn a new language someday, that is your dream. If you see yourself fluently speaking multiple foreign languages, that is your vision. If you think you’re capable of learning a new language, that is your expectation.

    However, if you aim to fulfill these visions, dreams, and expectations practically, that is your goal.

    Why Is Goal Setting Important?

    Why should you bother with goal setting at all? Wouldn’t it be more convenient to just get on with your daily objectives, follow a dream or vision, and let life take you wherever?

    To understand this, you may want to look into the Goal Setting Theory and the Science Behind Goal Setting.

    While that road can feel exciting and spontaneous, if you actually want to tick off things from your list of goals to achieve, learning how to set goals is necessary.

    Being committed to a goal puts your brain to work in one specific direction. Believe it or not, by having a defined goal, your brain does its magic unconsciously, 24/7, with full efficiency, to achieve the desired results[2].

    Goal setting is important to shift your focus, boost your motivation, and give you a sense of direction. Without formally defining a particular aim that you want to reach, you won’t be able to keep your objectives in line.

    Hence, this one tiny step can end up saving you a lot of hassle and time while also encouraging your productivity.

    Types of Goals

    Before we move onto the technique of setting effective goals, we need to first take a look at all types of goals in this goal setting tips guide.

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    These categories will not just help you brainstorm new one for yourself, but it will also guide you to list them down in the right way.

    Time-Based

    One of the two broad categories of goals is based on time. These goals define how far in the future you want to achieve them.

    Daily

    There are certain smaller goals that you can easily achieve in a day or two. In fact, some of these daily goals can be recurring, too. For example, you may want to run for an hour every morning.

    Now, these daily goals can also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. You may be running every day because, in the long-term, you want to increase your stamina.

    Daily goals are highly effective for people who want to improve their mental wellbeing, time management skills, and stress management.

    Short-Term

    Next in line are short-term goals. As you would have already guessed, goal setting in this area is aimed at the near future.

    The great thing about these is that they are generally easier to achieve. This is because short-term goals are set for the foreseeable future. You are aware of the circumstances and have a general idea of how much the situation can change.

    Just like daily goals, short-term goals may also serve as objectives for a long-term goal. Your short-term goal may be to lose 5 pounds in one month. That could be a goal in itself, or maybe it is just one objective to fulfill your goal to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the next two years.

    Another example of a short-term goal is to fulfill the checklist for promotion within the next 6 months. Or, you may want to reduce your screen time within the coming week.

    Long-Term

    Lastly, we have long-term goals that are meant to be completed over a stretched period.

    Whatever you want to achieve in a later stage of life is a long-term goal. An insurance plan, for example, is a long-term goal.

    Some long-term goals don’t have any time frame at all. They are goals that you want to accomplish at some point in your life. So, something like traveling the whole world is a lifelong goal with no specific time constraint at all.

    There’s one thing about long-term goals that isn’t great.

    They are the hardest to keep up with since you’re not seeing any huge achievements regularly. This may take a toll on your motivation. To tackle this problem, it is best to divide a long-term goal into various, short-term and daily objectives so that you’re always tracking the progress you’re making.

    Life-Based

    Moving forward, you can also start goal setting based on the results you want to achieve instead of the time period.

    Career

    Like most people, you will likely want to succeed and excel in your career. Anything that has to do with this intention, regardless of the time frame, is a career goal. These are usually measurable goals, such as receiving a promotion within two years, finding a job at a certain company within the next six months, etc.

    You can learn more about how to set successful career goals here.

    Personal

    The past few years have all been about emphasizing your personal health. So, when it comes to goals, how can we forget the ones that have to do with our personal gains?

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    From health to finances to relationships, everything that brings you happiness and composure as a person is a personal goal. It’s important that these are realistic and attainable goals for your life.

    Whether you want to get rid of your debt, quit smoking, start a side hustle, have children, or travel the world, all of these goals are personal and very important to have on your list.

    How to Set Goals (The Essential Principles)

    The best way to guarantee the fulfillment of goals is to set them the right way.

    1. Develop and Write Down Your Core Values

    Also known as personal values, understanding what you value is important to goal setting. What you value the most is what structures your habits, processes, and the goals that you set.

    When you’re not aligned with your core values, chances are you’re not motivated to achieve them at any capacity, even if those goals are inherently good for you like losing weight or being a better partner. If you don’t have core values in those areas, then chances are your willingness to improve isn’t going to be much.

    And that’s okay. Because that often means you are more focused on other things that are more important to you. You won’t know what that is until you put together your core values.

    There are many examples of core values. Some of these are:[3]

    • Authority
    • Competency
    • Determination
    • Leadership
    • Love
    • And many more

    You can do this in two ways: either write your goals and find core values after or find core values you associate with and set goals around those.

    2. Use SMART Goals

    Every goal you define has to be SMART[4].

    SMART stands for:

    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Relevant
    • Time-Bound

    In summary, your specific goals should be very well defined. They shouldn’t be generic or broad, and every detail should be clarified as you’re goal setting. 

    If you want to start running, how often do you want to do it? How long will each session be? For how long will you continue this habit?

    There has to be a connection between your goals and beliefs or you’ll never be able to achieve the results you want. Most importantly, do not be unrealistic. You cannot learn to fly, and forcing yourself to try is only going to demotivate and stress you out.

    You can also make use of these Effective Goal-Setting Templates to help you set goals.

    3. Align Your Goals With Your Purpose

    Several studies have pointed out that people tend to get to achieve their goals when those goals have roots in their life purpose.[5] A life purpose is something that your entire life is designed to achieve. It is the thing that drives and motivates you to get out of bed every day and hit the ground running.

    If you have not yet identified the purpose of your life, then your first priority is to discover that purpose.

    When you have discovered your purpose, then align your goals with the purpose. Your personal, career, financial, and family goals, etc. should actually stem out of your purpose. Everything should fit into the ultimate agenda for your life.

    It’s just like building a house. Every unit is placed together to bring out the beauty of a masterpiece called a building.

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    4. Prioritize Your Goals

    As you’re looking into how to write goals for the next month or year, it’s likely you’ll come up with more than one. In this case, it’s important to prioritize which are the most important or the ones that have the tightest deadline. This is going to be subjective, as only you know which goals will have the most impact on your life.

    What this refers to are the goals that make you feel good but aren’t driving you to pursue them.

    One example is how most people use vision boards. People are quick to putting together a large vision board and filling it with all kinds of goals. While there is a feel-good feeling, a lot of it is filler and things that would be nice to have but aren’t actual needs. I’m referring to the massive houses and the “expensive cars”-type of goals.

    These are good goals to have as it suggests making more money and working hard and smart financially. That said, they’re big distractions from the goals that play a bigger role in your life. Maybe you’re having relationship issues and one of your core values is to fix it and make amends however you can.

    The more goals you have means the more opportunities there are for distractions. As much as goals are important, it’s key that you have a narrow focus on the goals that you set and a narrower one on goals that you are working on.

    One way to help you focus on goals is after you’ve written down your list, create another list. One list ought to have the five most important goals for you at this moment. The second list has any other goals that you may have or come to mind.

    The list of five or fewer goals is your “must-do” list, while the other is the “avoid all of them” list. Instill in your mind to only focus on the most important goals.

    You may also want to pick a life aspect to focus on.

    5. Break Down Your Goal Into Milestones

    Achieving your goal will be significantly easier if you learn to focus on smaller units of the goal rather than the whole goal itself. This means that you can break down your goals into smaller units that you can complete in the short-term.

    For example, if you have the goal to self publish a book in a year, you can break your goal into milestones to make it achievable. This includes activities like creating and researching your book idea, creating the outlines, researching the potential content, writing the manuscript, getting someone to edit it, peer review and endorsements, graphics design, publishing and marketing, etc.[6].

    Each of your milestones should have a timeframe within which they should be completed.

    6. Think of Those Around You

    As you’re working on goal setting, keep your loved ones in mind. You may have a partner, children, or employees that depend on you, and you should take them into consideration with your goals. For example, if you set a goal to travel to 10 different countries in the next two years, how will this affect your children?

    If you want to lose 30 pounds this year, is there something your partner can do to support you? S/he will need to be made aware of this before you set off on your weight loss journey.

    7. Take Action

    Setting goals is the first step, but in order to be successful, you have to follow this with action. If you set goals but never act on them, they become dreams. Create an action plan laying out the steps you need to take each day or week in order to achieve your big and small goals.

    The biggest thing is that an action plan allows you to break down your goals into smaller pieces. Often, people feel overwhelmed when looking at a big goal. Furthermore, people are more motivated if it’s a smaller task.

    For example, what sounds easier to do: losing 25 pounds in three months or working out at the gym for three hours per week?

    Most would go for the second option as it builds up habits. Best of all, you can put it into your action plan and schedule it into your routine.

    In the end, an action plan can be made however you like, but it has to outline actions you can do every day. If you put down daily actions, it puts into perspective that goals are habits you work on regularly.

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    8. Don’t Forget the Bigger Picture

    Most people refer to the big picture as their vision. Whether it is the long-term result or the connection of the goal with your desire, keep it in mind to keep yourself from getting distracted.

    Developing a strong goal setting mindset with these steps can help you too.

    I also recommend you to watch this video to learn 7 strategies to set goals effectively:

    How to Reach Your Goals

    You can ensure your progress by following some foolproof tactics. The use of relevant helpful tools can also keep you on the right track.

    Tactics

    One rookie mistake that most people make is that they work on too many goals simultaneously. Create an action plan and focus on one thing at a time.

    Divide your goal into smaller, easily achievable tasks. Taking it one step at a time makes it much easier. However, do not break them down too much. For example, for long-term goals, you should go for weekly checkpoints instead of daily ones.

    Also, keep track of your progress. This will keep you motivated to work harder.

    Create the Right Environment

    Being in the right state of mind and in the right physical environment are essential to achieving your goals. You need to be in a place and around people that will inspire you and support your dreams. This also includes making time for your goals, a time free from other distractions.

    Make Use of Motivational Techniques for Optimum Performance

    Whatever you set out to achieve, you will need to get motivated for optimum performance. There are different motivational techniques that you can adopt for this. An example is having a vision board, a collection of images and text that points in the direction of your goal and motivates you to take action every day. You can also have a collection of texts and quotes written by you or someone else and use them as affirmative words to speak positively about achieving your goals.

    Ask Someone to Help You Be Accountable

    Another way to keep yourself on track to achieve your goals is to have someone to be accountable for you. This person is someone who believes in your dream and is happy to see you achieve your goals.

    To start, share your goals, plans, and your timeline with the person. Then, have a regular schedule of discussing your progress with the person.

    Celebrate Small Wins

    Success, they say, begets success. If you win small, you have the tendency to win big. One of the ways to keep focused and stay motivated is by celebrating small wins and rewards.

    First, you have to learn to identify the small wins. This can be the completion of a task or a milestone. Do not wait until you win big to applaud yourself. Celebrate the small wins and it will inspire you to do something greater and better.

    Tools

    Re-evaluate your goals often (at least twice a year) to ensure that your goals fit the SMART framework and to ensure you are still on target [7].

    Remember, you won’t be the same person in a year or two as you are now, and you may find that your defined goals are no longer working for the kind of life you envision. In that case, take a step back and rethink things before moving forward again. This is what evaluations are for.

    But with so many categories of goals and so many aims, it is almost impossible to remember, let alone work, on all of them.

    Luckily, numerous goal tracker apps will help you keep track of your goals, as well as your plan to achieve every single one. Have at least one installed in your smartphone so that your plan is always within reach.

    The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, using a goal setting tips guide is not rocket science. All that it takes is strong will power along with all the knowledge that you’ve learned so far.

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    Try out the tactics and goals setting tips mentioned above to be able to set successful goals so that you can achieve the life that you want!

    Featured photo credit: Danielle MacInnes via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Leon Ho

    Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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