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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully

At the beginning of every year, many of us create New Year’s resolutions. We think about what we did or didn’t accomplish last year. And create new hopes and dreams for the coming year.

Unfortunately, not everyone knows the difference between a resolution and a goal. And few people understand how to set goals and achieve them successfully. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 9.2% of all people ever feel that they are successful in achieving their New Year’s resolution. And 42% give up after the first month.

But there is a way. If you’re looking to save money this year, or achieve some level of self improvement, like so many of us are. We can turn those resolutions into goals and achieve them successfully. Here is how to do it.

Learn how to set goals and achieve them successfully in this article.

What Is a Goal (And What Isn’t)?

A goal can be a lot of different things. But what a goal is not is a dream, or a hope. I dream of owning my own home. I hope to take better care of my health. Those are great and admirable dreams. But they are not goals.

A goal is specific. It’s measurable. Reframing those dreams into goals looks like this: I will save $40,000 in the next five years and have enough money for a down payment on a home. Or, I will lose 10 pounds in the next 3 months.

For something to truly be a goal, you need to know when you get there. When you reach it. Those are the kinds of goals that set you up for success.

How to Set Goals: Dream Big but Start Small

One of the best ways to set a goal is to pick a small, tangible milestone.

If your dream is to save money for a home in the long term, then your first goal could be to save $1,000 in the next three months. If your dream is to feel healthier, decide what that means for you. Maybe it means eating 2 servings of vegetables every day for the next month. Or going on a walk 5 times per week.

Dream big, but start with a goal of reaching one, realistic step that will take you closer.

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Setting an actual goal should be small and tangible. Once you hit the first one, you can set another goal that brings you further down the path to your dream.

How to Achieve Your Goals

1. Tackle Your Scary Thoughts

Let’s get real for a minute. Your goal is scary. You doubt yourself. You don’t know if you can do it. You’ve tried before and failed. Also, what if it gets uncomfortable? What if you have to do things you’ve never done before?

Be realistic about what is going on in your mind. When you sit down to create your goal, also write down your scary thoughts. Take a look at them. And pick one, tiny, realistic thought that will help you reframe what that negative voice is telling you.

If the voice is telling you “I’m not good with money,” think about that sentence: Is it really true? What does a blanket statement like that mean? Maybe you haven’t always reached your goals in the past, but you’ve made some steps in your journey.

So instead, reframe that negative thought. You could try thinking: “Sometimes I have managed my money .” Or, “It’s possible that I can learn to manage my money.”

Because if your body is going in one direction and your mind is going in another, you’ll never get where you want to go.

2. Break down All the Steps to Get There

Let’s revisit the goal of saving $1,000 in the next three months. How will you do that? There are actually a lot of steps. Let’s break down an example of how you could approach it:

  • Write down/figure out all the places that you spend money over the course of a month (or several months)
  • Write down exactly how much money you earn each month, after taxes
  • In order to save $1,000 in three months, you will need to save $333 per month.
  • Look at all the places you spend money, and figure out where you can spend less
  • If it’s possible, determine if there are ways that you could earn more money in the next few months

The list might feel overwhelming, but remember, you don’t have to tackle every task at once.

3. Schedule the Time to Do All the Tasks

Once you have your full list, consult your calendar. Find some time, and schedule each task. On Tuesday at 2pm you will look at your spending. On Thursday at 7pm you will look at your sources of income. Work your way through the list, one step at a time.

Scheduling each task is a great way to manage that giant list. When 2pm on Tuesday comes around, all you have to do is that one thing. You don’t have to worry about all the other steps. You’ve already planned when you will do each one.

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Scheduling each step toward your goal is critical to achieving them successfully. And after all that analysis, the actual method of reaching your goal could come down to one, small change in your habits:

You realize that every weekday, you run out of your office and get coffee from Starbucks. You usually do this twice a day, and sometimes buy a treat to go with it.

When you add it up, it turns out you spend $15 every weekday buying 2 coffees and some treats at Starbucks. That’s $300 a month right there.

If you made one change and brought coffee from home every morning, you could make substantial headway toward that goal.

4. Ask Yourself: What Will You Do When Life Gets in the Way?

Dr. Peter Gollwitzer is a Psychology professor at NYU. He has done fascinating research on the power of planning for obstacles. He calls it creating “if-then plans.” He found that people are much more likely to reach a goal if they plan in advance for what to do when things go wrong.

And the reality is, life is going to get in the way.

You committed to the new habit of bringing your coffee from home every morning. Then one morning, your son spills your to-go cup all over the kitchen counter as you are scrambling to head out the door and drop him off on the way to work. No time to re-make your coffee. But coffee is what you desperately need, now more than ever. What will you do?

There are several options. You could figure out a coffee place with less expensive coffee that is also on your way to work. Or you could wait it out and drink your first cup once you get to the office – there is a coffee maker in the break room.

But you are not going to want to think of these options in the heat of the moment. And you’ll be even less likely to actually do them.

That’s why you need to make a plan for when life gets in the way, in advance.

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Pick one option for times when you can’t bring your coffee with you. You know it will happen. So why not plan for it?

Then in the heat of the moment, you don’t have to think. You don’t have to get frustrated and exasperated. You know the plan. You just have to follow it. And you will keep moving closer to your goal.

5. Reward Yourself for Your Efforts

You realized that the key to reaching your goal of saving $1,000 over three months is one, small habit change. A change in the place you get your coffee.

But research shows that you are more likely to reach your goal if you reward yourself for that habit change along the way.

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power Of Habit, talks about what is called a habit loop. There are three steps to the loop:

  1. The cue
  2. The routine
  3. The reward

In this instance, the cue is morning. The routine that you are trying to create is to bring your coffee from home. But in order to truly solidify the new routine, you need to make this new habit satisfying. You need to provide a reward.

Maybe your reward is to drink a special flavor of coffee from home. Or to use a travel mug that you really like. Maybe you top off that mug with a little more coffee than you’d drink if you got it from Starbucks.

The choice is yours. But the research is clear. You’ll have more success reaching your larger goals if you find the right reward for the smaller steps.

Learn about how to build or break a habit effectively from this guide:

How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop

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6. Don’t Beat Yourself up If You “Fall off the Wagon” a Few Times

Habit changes are hard. It’s difficult to reach new goals. You’re asking yourself to stretch, to grow, to try new things.

Of course, there will be times when you take a step back. Afternoons when you just want your favorite Starbucks coffee and nothing else will do. But if you are kind to yourself and realize that no one is perfect, you are more likely to keep moving forward and ultimately get where you want to go.

Then celebrate when you do!

Final Thoughts

“In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high.” – Henry David Thoreau


Instead of simply drifting along reacting to what life brings you, take proactive steps to go out and create the future you want. While we can’t control everything that happens to us, we can control ourselves by setting goals to achieve our big dreams.

More Goals Getting Tips

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

More by this author

Deb Knobelman, PhD

Neuroscientist and C-Suite business executive who writes about the intersection of mindset, productivity, entrepreneurship and how to reach goals.

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them Successfully How to Start a Small Business From the Ground Up That Thrives How to Change Habits When You Feel Stuck in a Rut How to Measure Your Team’s Productivity Effectively

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Published on February 23, 2021

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

What Are Vision Boards And Why They Work

We hear people saying that vision boards are a fad, that they are not worth doing, and that they should be forgotten. However, this is simply not true. Vision boards can be very useful, and they are definitely worth taking the time to create. That is why so many celebrities and notable figures in the world are choosing to create and use them.

Beyonce has been known to use vision boards to help her with her future goals, as has Oprah Winfrey and if they work for these two incredibly powerful and talented women, then it makes sense that anyone can benefit from them.

But what are they? Rather than simply being a collection of images, vision boards are so much more than that.

To help you to learn more, I have put together our guide to what they are, how they can be made in four steps, and why you should make an effort to make a vision board for yourself.

What Is a Vision Board?

We all have visions and goals that we want to achieve. They may be in our personal lives, or they may be in our careers and businesses. While we may know what it is that we want to achieve, this doesn’t mean that it is always easy to focus on our goals.

The idea of a vision board is that it is a visual representation of what we want to achieve. We can use it to show our end goal and where we see ourselves being in the future. Not only this, but a vision board will also help you show the process of how you envisage getting to these end goals.

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A vision board can be made from a variety of images. What you choose will really depend on you. However, you need to make sure that it reminds you of what your goal is and what it means to you. They should be something that you want to display and that is as eye-catching as possible.

Colour and texture are key parts of any vision board. However, how you use them is entirely down to you and you alone.

How To Create a Vision Board?

Making a vision board may sound straightforward, however, it can be more complicated than you realize. There are plenty of things that you need to think about along the way.

While the way that you make your vision board will really depend on you, there are 4 steps that you should follow to make sure that it is clear and useful for you in the long run.

Step 1: Define Your Goals

The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you define your goals. To do this, you need to list the areas of your life that you consider to be most important to you. We can’t tell you what these are since they are a personal choice. However, some of the most common examples of these areas include your family, relationship, hobbies, friends, fitness, well-being, and finances.

When you have identified what areas of your life are most important to you right now, then you can start to drill down even further into them and identify what goals you have within them.

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If you focus on sports and fitness, then maybe you want to teach yoga or train in a sport. If travel is important to you, then maybe plan a trip around the world. If you want to expand your mind, you could identify an instrument or language that you want to learn and if you are thinking about your career (and maybe your finances, too), then starting a business could be a key goal for you.

You shouldn’t spend too much time on this, else there is a chance that you may overthink things rather than letting them come to you. Only spend around 10 minutes on this step. Make sure that you write down anything that comes to mind as you can use these things later on.

Step 2: Gather Your Inspiration

Once you know what your goals are, then you need to start thinking about how you can create a visual representation of these goals. Think about words and images that match in with what you want to achieve.

Of course, the most obvious place to look for these images is in magazines, but you shouldn’t limit yourself to only magazines. Other great places that you can use for inspiration for your vision board include:

  • Postcards
  • Stickers
  • Wrapper paper
  • Materials
  • Things from nature
  • Online searches

When you see something that works for you, then cut it out or even rip it out and place it on one side. You may be surprised by just where you can find your inspiration, and you shouldn’t discount something just because it doesn’t fit in with what you think should inspire you.

This step will take a little longer than the last. So, you might want to make sure that you have a nice cup of your favorite hot drink—ready to browse through and find your inspiration.

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Step 3: Map Out How You Want Your Board to Look

Now, we have got to the point where you can start thinking about what your vision board is going to look like. You will need to grab some things for this step. You will need some cardboard (the bigger the better), scissors, glue sticks, markers, fabric, decorate tape, stickers, gems, or sequins.

To start, you just want to lay your images out on your board. You don’t want to glue anything until you know how you want them to be arranged. The last thing that you want is to stick things down, commit to that setup, and then find out that you want to change them.

Once you are happy with how things look, then you can stick it all down. You may want to use some of the added decorative things that you have put together, such as decorative tape, sequins, stickers or simply use different pens or paints to add color.

The main thing to remember is that your vision board is all about you, so what you create should be appealing to you. You can look online for help on how to put things together and make up your board but, ultimately, you need to focus on it being a representation of you.

Step 4: Make It Happen

The last thing on the list is to make sure that you bring your vision board to life. First, you need to make sure that you display it in a place where you will be able to see it. After all, that is the main reason for taking the time to make your vision board in the first place.

Display it in a place that you go to every single day. This could be a home office, your bedroom, or perhaps in a hallway before you leave the house every day. Having it there will remind you that you need to follow those dreams and achieve those goals and will also show you how you can do it.

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Then, it is down to you. Do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Push yourself and focus on what you want to achieve. You may make excuses and you may sometimes think that you just can’t do it, but I promise you that you can—that you will one day get there. Of course, your vision board is just a part of the process, and really, it is down to you to make it happen. So, do it!

Why Do They Work?

We know that vision boards sound like they are a lot of work, but the truth is, they are as hard as you make them. Not only this, but they are well worth putting all that effort into to create them.

With a vision board, you will able to see what it is that you want in the future and identify how you can get there. When you can see it, there, in front of you, then you are going to want to get there, and you are going to feel much more motivated to work towards these goals. Not only this, but the process of making a vision board is more fun than you may realize. This means that you can look forward to doing it rather than ignoring those goals and stopping yourself from achieving what you want in the future.

More Tips on Creating Vision Boards

Featured photo credit: Andy Art via unsplash.com

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