Published on July 12, 2021

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

What Is the Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals?

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of attending one of Tony Robbins’ seminars, you have likely heard him say, “successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” I’ve found that he was spot-on—questions reflect how we see the world. As a productivity consultant, one of the most important questions I ask my clients is, “what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?”

Every CEO, executive, manager, and entrepreneur knows the importance of setting goals, but not everyone understands how to set them properly. In fact, many people make the mistake of confusing goals with dreams.

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming. It’s often a great place to visit from time to time, but as Napoleon Hill said, “a goal is a dream with a deadline.” It gets the point across, but there’s a little more to it.

There is an art to setting goals. A vague idea in your head is not a goal, nor is a list of things you want to accomplish. There is a system to setting goals that will help increase your chances of success many times over. Failure to use a system for your goals reminds me of something Brian Tracy used to say: “failing to plan is planning to fail.”

For anyone serious about success, mastering the art of setting goals isn’t just important, it’s imperative. Thankfully, it’s not complicated. In fact, it’s just the opposite—it’s downright simple.


So, let’s take a look at how some people approach goal setting, and then we’ll be able to answer the question: what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?

1. The Ivy Lee Method

Ivy Lee is a name that CEOs, entrepreneurs, and managers should be familiar with. Back in 1918, he walked into the office of Charles M. Schwab, the president of the Bethlehem Steel Corporation, and shared with him a technique that Schwab later said was the more profitable advice he had ever received.

Inquiring minds would want to know what that advice was. After all, Lee ended up being paid $25,000 for it (the equivalent of $400,000 in 2016 dollars).

He asked Schwab to give him 15 minutes with each of his executives, this is what he taught them:

  • At the end of each workday, write down the six most important things you need to accomplish the following day.
  • Rewrite them in order of importance.
  • The following day, as soon as you arrive at work, work on only the first task. Do not stop working on it until you have it finished.
  • Repeat this process every working day.

The key here is two-fold. Limiting yourself to just six goals ensures that you ignore all non-essential goals and working on them one by one (in order of importance) means that you will succeed in finishing your most important goals first.


2. The Jim Rohn Method

Jim Rohn was the master of making things simple, and his goal-setting technique is a perfect example of that. It’s a simple four-step process:

  1. Decide what you want.
  2. Write them down on a piece of paper, and make a list.
  3. Add a date next to each goal when you expect you can finish it.
  4. Go to work and check things off your list.

It’s simplicity itself. The key element here is determining what exactly it is that you want.

3. The WOOP Technique

The acronym WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan.

  • Wish – Have goals that are exciting, challenging, and realistic
  • Outcome – Visualize yourself achieving the goal and how it would feel.
  • Obstacle – Identify any potential obstacles that could prevent you from achieving your goals.
  • Plan – Create a meticulous plan of action to deal with each obstacle.

Nothing ever goes according to plan, but the mistake many people make is assuming things will go off without a hitch. Things inevitably go wrong, and chaos ensues. That’s why the fourth stage of the technique is so critical. Having a plan in place to deal with any obstacles you might come across will save you countless hours of stress and headache.

4. The SMART Technique

This was the first goal-setting technique I was introduced to as a young entrepreneur. It actually originated from a management paper by George Doran, former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company, back in 1981.


It’s great for beginners as it’s easy to remember. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-bound.

  • Specific – You know exactly what your goal is.
  • Measurable – You can measure and track your goal.
  • Attainable – Your goal is realistic and achievable.
  • Relevant – Your goal inspires you.
  • Time-Bound – You have a clear deadline for your goal.

The key to this technique is setting goals that are within reach, that are specific, and can be measured. For example, you have to hand out flyers. Your goal should not be “to hand out 1000 flyers in two hours.” The reason is that you cannot control if people will take the flyers. As such, if you fail to reach your target, you will feel disappointed.

A more appropriate goal statement would be, “I will hand out flyers for two hours and greet people with a smile.” This is achievable because your attitude and the amount of time you spend on the task are entirely under your control.

5. The HARD Technique

HARD stands for heartfelt, animated, required, and difficult. Unlike SMART goals, which focus on realistic goals, HARD goals are meant to challenge you. They are meant to get you out of your comfort zone and push you to your limits.

As such, HARD goals may not be the best ones for goal-setting newbies. But once you have achieved some results using other methods and are ready to take things to the next level, these could be just the ticket.


  • Heartfelt – Each goal must have an emotional attachment.
  • Animated – See yourself as having achieved success and imagine vivid pictures of achieving each goal.
  • Required: – Build a sense of urgency into your goals.
  • Difficult – Have goals that stretch you and welcome the challenge.

6. The Brian Tracy Method

Brain Tracy breaks down goal setting into six steps.

  1. Take a clean sheet of paper and write the word “Goals” at the top of the page with today’s date.
  2. Write out at least ten goals you would like to accomplish in the year ahead.
  3. Each goal must begin with the word “I,” followed by an action verb.
  4. Describe all goals in the present tense as if they had already been achieved. For example: “I earn $100,000 by the end of this year.”
  5. They must be written in positive form. Don’t write, “I will stop eating chocolate.” Instead, write, “I eat healthy snacks.”
  6. Write goal lists for your work, personal life, finances, and health.

The Answer

It should come as no surprise that there is a lot of overlap between the techniques. So now, let’s answer the question, “what is the most important step in prioritizing goals?”

The best person to answer this would be the best-selling author and speaker Simon Sinek who, in his famous TED Talk, explains that it all starts with “why.” As he explained, “Martin Luther King, Jr. gave the “I have a dream” speech, not the “I have a plan” speech. Martin Luther King, Jr had a vision for the future and it inspired him to take the actions that changed a nation. His why was crystal clear not just to him, but also to everyone.

Regardless of which technique you choose to set goals, you must understand why you are doing it. As Friedrich Nietzche said, “He who has a strong enough why can bear almost any how.” Accomplishing big goals requires big effort which is why only a small percentage of people actually achieve them. They don’t have a strong enough “why” to motivate them to do the necessary work, to keep fighting for what they want.

Final Thoughts

Managers, entrepreneurs, and CEOs all understand the importance of setting goals, but not every one of them is actually taking the time to write them down on paper.


Ideas in our heads stay there. They only become real when they are right there in front of us in black and white. Once they are written down, they become real to us, and then we can figure out just which goals to prioritize and, most importantly, why.

More Tips on Prioritizing Goals

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Adrian Shepherd

Adrian is a productivity consultant and the CEO of iSucceed

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Last Updated on September 27, 2021

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

8 Reasons Why Goal Setting Is Important to a Fulfilling Life

The importance of effective goal setting cannot be overstated on our personal journeys towards success. This is why there are countless articles out there on how to set your own SMART goals and even why it’s a skill commonly taught to a small degree in classrooms.

Learning the importance of goal setting and the benefits of sticking to those goals can be the defining factor determining whether we truly embrace the importance of goal setting. The more willing we are to embrace this method, the more likely we become to reach our personal definitions of personal and professional success.

Thus, this article is going to walk you through some of the benefits you’ll see from learning to set goals for yourself and answer the question — why is goal setting important?

1. Goals Guide and Align Our Focus

It’s hard to get to where you want to be in life if you don’t know what you’re aiming for. Some people believe avoiding goals means living a more care-free life. How many times have you heard the phrase “If I have no expectations, then I can’t be disappointed”?

But is that really what our lives have come to? Living just to avoid disappointment? It doesn’t seem like an overly optimistic view in my opinion. And since you’re reading this article, I’m willing to bet that you agree with me.

Without goals, we lack a degree of direction and focus. Sure you may be able to avoid disappointment, but just avoiding disappointment doesn’t mean you are necessarily happy.

Without goals, we will pointlessly waste our time, energy, and efforts. Listen to anybody who is the top of their field and they’ll tell you something like this,

“Yes talent is important, but often your success depends much more on what you decide to do with that talent.”

And what you will do with your talent largely depends on your focus.

Your goals give you direction. Your goals give you something to shoot for. This direction and target you create in your mind will help you to progress towards your main life goals rather than simply wander around aimlessly. These goals will help you align your actions and behaviors as you continue moving forward.


So, why is goal setting important? Because it gives you direction, alignment, and purpose!

2. Goals Help You Avoid ‘Shiny Object Syndrome’

Basically, shiny object syndrome is always being in pursuit of the next big thing, constantly switching your goals based on what you feel is most fun and interesting at the given moment, but never actually giving yourself time to accomplish any of those goals.

You don’t get anywhere because you continually change the direction you are heading in. This is one of the consequences that may result if you decide to live a life without goals.

Your goals can sometimes help you to create mental barriers, or blinders, that help you to remain focused on what you think is important and avoid the things that are second priority. When you outline goals for yourself, you are better able to avoid things that distract you from achieving and accomplishing those goals.

Setting goals helps you to step around the other shiny objects because you’ve taken the time to make some mental notes that remind you what it is that you want from your life. Your goals act as subconscious deterrents to anything less than your main priorities. This is what helps you to reach your personal definition of success.

So, why is goal setting important? Because not only do goals tell you what you want from life, but they also help you realize what you need to give up and avoid to achieve that.

3. Goals Turn Our Largest Goals into Manageable Steps

A lot of us have big hopes and dreams. It’s one of the things that make our lives exciting!

But a lot of us never take the time to figure out how we can effectively get from point A to point B. So, sadly, we never fully achieve those goals. We look at our dreams and convince ourselves that only a select few people ever achieve them, so we write ourselves off as people not meant to reach that level of success. Looking at the end product of a goal can be intimidating, daunting, and discourage us from even pursuing them.

Thankfully, goal setting helps us break large intimidating goals into smaller ones. These small steps and more achievable goals will help us to build momentum and will encourage us to keep working towards the next phase of our goal. The form the foundation from which we can begin building the life that we truly hope to have for ourselves, our families, and may even for our communities depending on how big your goals are!

Whenever I get talking about this aspect of goal setting, I can’t help but think about the mountain climbing analogy, and that the easiest way to climb a mountain is simply step by step.


So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting gives you a list of manageable steps that you can take in order to take your life from where it is now to where you want it to go both effectively and efficiently.

4. Goals Encourage You to Take Action

This builds on the last benefit of goal setting. Not only does effective goal setting help you break down your larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, but it also encourages you to actually begin taking action on those goals. After all, a plan is completely worthless if you aren’t willing to invest the effort required to execute it.

Setting your goals and putting your plan in place motivates you to begin taking action towards achieving them. These goals give you something to plan and work towards. Essentially, they help propel you forward.

What I like to do is write out and place my goals somewhere that I’ll regularly see them. This constantly serves as a reminder of my top priorities. It allows me to focus on taking small progressive actions towards achieving these goals daily.

This ensures that I don’t fall into the trap of setting a goal, beginning to work towards it for a while, but then having my motivation fade resulting in me falling off track. This is exactly what many people see happen when it comes to their “New Year’s Resolutions.”

If you want to learn about how to take action towards achieving your goal, here’s how: How To Take Action Towards Your Goals Right Now

So, why is goal setting important? Because goal setting actually motivates you to stop thinking about your goals and actually get out there and achieve them!

5. Goal Setting Helps You Continually Improve

This is something that a lot of personal development and self-improvement writers talk about, continual improvement. For those of you who are not aware of the term, continual improvement is exactly what it sounds like — taking small steps towards improvement as frequently as you can to develop into the person you want to become.

What’s the point in improving a little bit each day if you’re not improving in the areas that you want to improve in after all?

The goals that you define for yourself will inevitably shape you into the person who you want to become. They’ll shape your character. Your goals can help you measure your progress as you strive for this type of development.


Essentially, having goals helps you determine where you started, where you are now, and how much further you need to go. In this manner, your goal setting can serve as milestones and benchmarks that help you determine how well you’re progressing towards your most important goals!

So, why is goal setting important? Goal setting helps you make improvements each day that will slowly transition you into the person you want to become.

6. Goal Setting Keeps You Accountable

Not only does setting goals help you measure your progress, but it also is a means through which you can keep yourself accountable. Too many goals fail because they lack this crucial aspect of outlining accountability.

For example, if I have the goal to do 50 push-ups, that’s great. Most people would support that goal. However, this goal lacks accountability. When do I want to accomplish this goal by and what steps do I take to get there? These are important questions that the original goal leaves unanswered.

A much more descriptive and specific goal could be to do 50 push-ups within the next 3 months by starting at 5 push-ups, and then adding 5 each week. This goal outlines the deadline as well as the steps I’m going to take to achieve it. This plan will keep me accountable because if I fail to retain my progression schedule, I will know that I’m not going to achieve the goal on time.

Additionally, it can serve as a marker helping to signify when something is impeding my progress that I may not have initially accounted for. This tells me that I need to re-evaluate what I’m doing and figure out what adjustments I can make to facilitate my success.

So, why is goal setting important? Setting goals is key to keeping ourselves accountable and on-track towards accomplishing our goals according to the schedules and deadlines we set for ourselves.

7. Goals Make You Feel Good

Trust me, the progress you feel as you set and achieve goals can become super motivating and super addicting (in a good way)! The dopamine release you get from achieving your goals is like a little reward for our brains that continually motivates us to try and hit that next goal!

Having some clearly defined goals will help you to feel better about yourself and your life in general, especially when you stick to those goals, actively work towards achieving them, and end up accomplishing and surpassing your initial expectations. I’m not the oldest book on the shelf myself, but I can attest that there are not many feelings quite like the one you experience when you truly get on a roll!

Additionally, our goals give us an endpoint to shoot for. Rather than progress for progress’s sake, you can actually see where you’re heading! That’s so much more rewarding. Think about a long car trip as a kid. You ask “if you’re there yet?” ever 20 minutes. It seems like the drive drags on forever.


If you don’t know where you’re going, you risk the journey becoming tedious. It doesn’t tend to be much fun wandering around aimlessly. Goals make us feel good about where we’re directing ourselves.

So, why is goal setting important? Because setting goals and accomplishing them plain and simply make us feel better about ourselves and our lives!

8. Goals Help You Live Your Best Life

I’ve talked a lot in this article about how goal setting helps us progress towards our top priorities and live the way we truly want to live. So I think it’s fit to end the article with this goal because, in the end, I feel it’s the most important one.

Setting your goals and clearly defining what they mean to you will help you live a life that is tailored to your beliefs and values. Your life will become directed towards the things that you most want to achieve.

Life is a tricky game and only in very rare circumstances are things handed to us on a silver platter. Often it takes a great degree of work, planning, and effortful execution of both.

There is no point clinging on to things in your life if they don’t bring you happiness or help you accomplish something that, in some way, aligns with your goals.

Simply put, setting goals helps us live a life that allows us to pursue the challenges and rewards that we truly want to achieve.

So, why is goal setting important? Because our time is always limited, and setting clearly defined goals can help ensure that you make the most of your life and live to the fullest! Find out more here: How to Use SMART Goal to Become Highly Successful in Life

Final Thoughts

These are just a few of the benefits of goal setting that outline why it truly is so important. If you take a moment or two, I bet that you can even think of a few more benefits yourself that you could add to this list.

If I could leave you with something, it would be this:


Goal setting has the potential to take us to some amazing places in life because we all have talent and ambitions. To achieve your biggest dreams, you need to be willing to sit down and create a life design uniquely tailored to you that will help you achieve them!

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