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Goal Setting: The Ultimate Guide to Achieving Your Goals

Self improvement is a continual process of personal development, and one of the most important areas within this field is the subject of goal setting and having personal goals.

Having a personal goal simply means that you have something in your life that you would like to do, have or achieve.

For example, you can have a personal goal related to your health, such as trying to lose a certain amount of weight, related to your career, such as advancing within a company and reaching a certain position, or related to your personal finances, such as earning a certain amount of money each month or year.

In fact, you can have a personal goal related to virtually anything in your life that is important to you, and most successful people will have several personal goals for multiple areas of their life which they are working towards at any one point in time.

list of goals

Goals are the things you want to do. Goal setting is the process of achieving those things.

Goal setting on the other hand, deals with the things that you must do in order to reach your aim or objective. Typically, it involves writing down your goals, planning a course of action and then following your plan until you finally accomplish what you have set out to do.

For some goals, this may take as little as a few hours or days and you will be able to quickly complete your goal. For other goals, however, it may take you months or even years before you are able to finish all the things that you need to do to complete your goal.

girl revising with books

You must be prepared to work long and hard to achieve your goals.

As you might imagine, those who continually work towards the attainment of their personal goals tend to be amongst the highest paid and most successful people in society, because they focus their energy on doing the activities which provide long-term benefit to their life and so are rewarded as a result of their hard work and effort.

Focusing on success

If you have ever read a self-help book before or a book on how to improve your life, then you are probably already familiar with what a personal goal is. After all, the concept itself is extremely simple, as all a personal goal really is, is something that you desire to have in life.

But what not everyone is aware of, is exactly why it’s important to have personal goals. As a result, even though having them may seem like a good idea, most people soon forget about them and quickly go back to their old way of doing things. They then wonder why their life hasn’t changed.

man sitting alone

Without setting and achieving goals you are unlikely to experience much satisfaction and fulfilment in life.

You, are obviously very different, because you have taken the time and invested the energy to read about the importance of personal goals, which, to be honest, is something that the large majority of people in our society will never bother to do.

This already sets you head and shoulders above those other people, because it shows that your mind is focused on issues of real importance, rather than on distractions or time wasters which don’t really matter to your life at all.

Why is Having a Personal Goal Important?

One of the most important reasons for having personal goals is that they help you to focus your mind on the things which will benefit your life and off the things which won’t.

For example, if you strongly desire to lose weight, then you are likely to take steps to help you achieve that aim.

As a result, you will probably start exercising, eating healthy foods and staying away from junk food because you know that those are the things which you must do to achieve your aim.

woman taking picture of herself

Personal goals allow you to focus on the most important thing, yourself.

Without a personal goal however, you are likely to spend the majority of your time doing what is fun and easy with little or no regard for the long-term potential consequences of your actions, because all you are concerned about, is the here and now and the satisfaction of your immediate short-term needs.

Such individuals tend to be amongst the least successful people in society, and usually end up suffering from poor health, financial difficulties and a diminished sense of emotional stability later on in life. Sure, they may have fun for a while, but boy do they end up paying for it in the long run!

And this is exactly why having personal goals are so important. They help to give you a long-term time perspective by encouraging you to think about the things that you want in the future, rather than just on the things that you want right now at this very moment.

man looking into crystal ball

One of the defining characteristics of successful people is having a long-term time perspective.

This is a crucial distinction to understand, because in virtually all cases, satisfying your long-term needs will be much more beneficial to your life than if you only satisfy your short-term immediate needs.

Giving your life direction & purpose

Another reason why goals are important, is because they help to give your life direction and purpose. This means that you can then steer your life in the direction you want it to go, rather than just drifting aimlessly from day-to-day and hoping that things will work out for the best.

A good way to understand this point is with an analogy.

Imagine for a moment that you are sitting in a small boat, by yourself, in the middle of the open sea. You look around and all you see is blue water in every direction.

What do you do? Where do you go?

If you go north you might reach land, but then again, you might not. You don’t know what lies east, south or west either, so which direction you go in really doesn’t matter because all you want to do is to get to dry land.

What do you think your chances of making it are before you die of thirst under the blazing hot sun above you?

But now suppose that in your desperation you suddenly find a compass and map, it has been under your seat all this time! Looking at the map, you decide where you want to go and then use your compass to guide you in the right direction.

ship at sea

Once you know what you want to do with your life, you can then take action to steer it in that direction.

Life is a lot like sailing, if you don’t know where you are going you won’t go anywhere and anywhere will do. In the real world, going “anywhere” usually means living a life full of failure, disappointment and wasted opportunities.

Having a personal goal is like having a compass on board a ship, it points you in the direction towards the achievement of your goals and objectives.

If you combine this with goal setting, which is your map that shows you the route towards that achievement, you will eventually be rewarded with success, happiness and prosperity in your life.

What does the future hold for you?

Since you are reading about success, it’s a good bet that you would like to become more successful. But do you know specifically what you want to be successful at? What are your plans for this month? How about this year? Or five years from now?

Most people don’t have a clue what they will be doing tomorrow, let alone five years from now. They may have a few vague ideas, but nothing which they have really thought about for any meaningful period of time.

looking at cloud is horizon

Most people don’t stop to think about what lies in the horizon of their future.

So if you want to benefit from setting goals, take the time to think about your future. Take the time to think about the things that you want to do, have or be in the coming weeks, month and years.

The greater your long-term time perspective becomes, the easier you will find it to set yourself both short and long-term goals and the more control you will have over how your life turns out.

my life in 10 years

What will your life be like in 10 years time?

With clearly defined personal goals you will find that you work harder, become better at managing your time, are able to persist and keep going when things get tough and will feel a sense of empowerment because your life has a purpose to it.

All of this will boost your confidence and your self-esteem, which will then make you feel better about yourself and allow you to enjoy life more.


Memorize this phrase, it will come in very handy when working on large projects.

This is the real value of having personal goals, and why if you ever hope to be successful, it’s something that you should take the time to master and continually practice throughout your life.

Remember, life truly is what you make of it, but you can only make something of it if you set yourself goals. If you don’t, then the best of luck to you, because where you are going, you will need all the luck in the world just to make it.

Types of Goals

There are many different types of goals that you can set, but to keep things simple, it helps to organize your goals into five categories.

These categories can of course, be subdivided into more specific categories, but if you are new to goal setting then it is recommended to start with five so that it will be easier for you to manage and track your goals later on.

So let’s have a look at the five main categories that you can set goals for yourself in, and then later, how you can organize those goals based upon their estimated completion time.

1) Health Goals

women doing exercise

Health goals relate to anything that will improve your health. For example, you might want to lose weight, stop smoking, exercise more or eat a more healthy diet.

So if there is anything health wise that you would like to improve in your life, write down the three things which are most important to you.

2) Financial Goals

money magic

Anything related to money goes in this category. So for example, you may want to earn more money, get yourself out of debt, be able to save rather than spend all your money or learn how to invest your money.

Pick the three most important things, and write them down.

3) Relationship Goals

couple in love

Would you like to have more friends? Become a more socially confident person? Find a romantic partner? Have a better relationship with your kids?

Whatever it is that you would like to improve or develop in your life that relates to people, write it down in this category.

4) Career Goals

business man

In this section, you need to think about where you are career wise and where you would like to be. For example, do you want to get a promotion? Do you want a more satisfying job? Do you want to start up your own business so that you can become your own boss?

Again, write down the three most important things for you in this area of your life.

5) Personal Goals

woman self love

Personal goals are things that you want to do to develop yourself as a person. For example, you may want to read more, watch less TV, learn a foreign language, become a more spiritual person or travel the world.

Sometimes these goals may overlap with the other categories that we have just mentioned, if so, that’s ok as goals can, and often do, span multiple categories. So write down the three things which you consider to be the most important to you.

Short & Long Term Goals

Now that you have decided what’s important in your life, you are well on your way to setting goals as this is something that many people never really bother to think about. The next step, is to organize the goals that you written down based upon how long you think it will take you to complete them.

Organizing your goals in such a fashion will help you to focus on what you should be doing now, and what you should be doing later on.

This in turn, will also prevent you from becoming overwhelmed with your goals, as you will know roughly how much time a goal will take to complete before you begin working on another goal.

The two main ways in which goals can be organized are by sorting them into either short or long-term goals. So let’s have a look at some examples of these now.

Short-term goals

Short term goals include any goal which can be completed in days, weeks or up to six months.

For example, if you decided earlier that you would like to eat a more healthy diet as one of your health goals, then you could set yourself a short-term goal to not eat any junk food for one week.

short pencil amongst long pencils

All large goals are made up of small goals.

The good thing about setting short-term goals is that because they can be completed relatively quickly, once you do complete your goal, you will often feel a great sense of satisfaction for doing so. This in turn will then motivate you to achieve more goals and help you to get into the habit of setting goals on a regular basis.

Ideally, you should look to set short-term goals every day. You don’t necessarily have to write such goals down, as you could for example, find yourself making up such goals as you go about your everyday activities.

So if we continue on from the goal of eating a more healthy diet, you may decide to set yourself a short-term goal when you enter a shop not to buy any unhealthy food.

Short term goals can also include anything you set yourself as a task to complete for the day. So if you use a daily to do list, then the items on that list would also be types of short-term goals.

Long-term goals

Long term goals are any goal that will take you more than six months to complete, although most long-term goals are usually measured in years.

For example, if you are just starting university, or hope to go one day, then a long-term goal could be to achieve a 1st class degree.

Career wise, a long-term goal may be to set up your own business so that you can achieve your financial goal of becoming financial independent.


Long-term goals will often bring the most benefit to your life, but they are also the hardest type of goal to achieve.

Long term goals tend to be more difficult to complete than short-term goals because you don’t always get to see the immediate results of your efforts.

This also means that you will most likely have to delay the satisfaction of your immediate needs, and be able to focus on the long-term rather than short-term perspective.

In other words, you are going to have to make some sacrifices now in order to achieve something of greater value later on.

How to Achieve Long-Term Goals

Long term goals however, whilst more difficult to achieve, will provide you with the most reward, satisfaction and personal development in your life.

So if you really want to become more successful at something, then learning how to set a long-term goal and achieve it is something that you are going to have to master.

Goal Setting the Right Way

Whilst it is important to think about what you want in life, it is equally as important to think about how you will achieve those goals.

If you set goals the wrong way, you will not only make it harder to achieve them, but you could also put yourself off the process of goal setting and end up never setting any more goals at all.

Productivity – SMART Goal Setting

When setting goals, there are four things you need to remember at this stage; make them specific, make them realistic, make them challenging and make them measurable.

So let’s have a look at each of these now, and then later on in this article we shall go through a step by step example of how I set my goals.

1) Set specific goals

An unspecific goal is something which gives you a rough idea of what you want to achieve, but doesn’t provide you with enough information or direction to actually achieve it.

An example of an unspecific goal would be “I want to be rich“. These types of goals are the most common types of goals that people have, but they aren’t really goals as they are more like a dream or a wish.

one million dollars

Everyone wants a million dollars, but not everyone knows how they will get it.

A specific goal is something that provides you with enough information and direction to enable you to work towards its achievement.

For example, “I will earn $50,000 by 31st December next year by increasing my sales of widgets by 15%“. This type of goal is specific, because it tells you exactly how much money you want to earn and what you can do to get it.

Once you have this information, you can then create a plan of action with specific steps to follow to achieve your goal.

This plan would involve taking your long-term goal of making $50,000 next year, and creating a series of smaller short-term goals, which, when completed, will result in the completion of your main long-term goal.

To set a specific goal, start with a general goal that you would like to complete. Write it down, and then beneath it try to write something more specific. Continue this process until you have a clearly defined specific goal. Lets use another example to demonstrate this process.

• I want to get rid of my guitar because I don’t use it anymore.

• I want to sell my guitar and make some money.

• I want to sell it on eBay.

• I want to get as much money as I can.

• I want to get $100 for it.

• I have sold my guitar for $100 on eBay excluding delivery and fees.

As you can see, if you apply this process to any general goal you can easily make it become much more specific. Once you have a specific goal, your chances of completing that goal will dramatically increase.

2) Set realistic goals

An unrealistic goal is any type of goal which seems so impossible to achieve that you never even bother to start working on it.

As a result, it’s viewed as something that might happen, but probably won’t. People who only set unrealistic goals very rarely achieve them, and so this is something that you want to learn to avoid doing from day one.

hand stretching out into horizon

If something seems impossible to achieve you will give up very quickly trying to achieve it.

On the other hand, a realistic goal is something that seems possible to achieve. It’s not so far out there that you know if you were to work towards its achievement, the chances of you getting it will be very good.

However, what you will often find, is that realistic goals can be related to, and sometimes stem from, an unrealistic goal.

For example, if you are currently overweight, then losing 100 pounds in two months might seem like an impossible task. After all, that is a lot of weight for a person to lose and it is going to take an enormous amount of hard work and self-discipline to achieve it.

But if you were to shorten that goal to losing 10 pounds in one month, then that goal suddenly seems a lot more achievable and real. Which goal do you think would motivate you more to start working on it immediately? Obviously, the 10 pounds goal because it’s a lot more realistic, and therefore, believable.

weight loss before and after

Breaking down a large goal into smaller goals can make the impossible possible.

Another important thing to remember about setting realistic goals, is that you need to be very careful about what you consider to be realistic or unrealistic.

What one person may consider as an unrealistic goal for example, may in fact be realistic and achievable to another. A great example of this is the story of the four-minute mile.

In the 1950s, most people believed that it was impossible to run a mile in under four minutes. One man did not, his name was Roger Banister.

In 1954, Roger Banister broke the four-minute barrier with a world record time of 3 minutes and 59 seconds. He had achieved a goal that nobody thought was possible.

After Roger had broken the four-minute barrier, a strange thing happened. People began setting goals to run a mile in under four minutes and were succeeding, whereas previously they had tried and failed.

Roger Bannister Breaks the 4 minute mile

The moral of the story is to be very careful not to let the limiting beliefs of others affect the goals you set, because what you can achieve is up to you and not up to those around you.

3) Set challenging goals

Whilst goals must be realistic, it is also very important for them to be challenging. A challenging goal is something that feels just out of your current reach, but you know that you will be able to grab it if you stretch yourself.

Challenging goals therefore act to get you out of your comfort zone by motivating you with the prospect of achieving something that you want, but don’t yet have.

squirrel stretching for food

Stretch for something just out of reach and you will be able to stretch further the next time.

Goals that are not very challenging are those which seem very easy to accomplish. As a result, they don’t really motivate you to go after them because you feel as though you could achieve them any time you want.

But because you are not being pushed out of your comfort zone, the chance of you ever bothering to achieve such a goal is not going to be very good.

The reason for this is simple. When faced with an unchallenging goal you are more likely to be motivated by the current comfort you are experiencing, rather than being motivated by the benefits that achieving your goal will bring.

head looking out of box

People feel safe and secure in their comfort zone, but unfortunately, staying there won’t get you very much in life.

Understanding this principle is the real secret of setting successful goals, because we are all motivated by a desire to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. Unfortunately, most people tend to seek pleasure for now, which often comes at the expense of long-term failure in life.

But when you set challenging goals, you help to overcome this natural human tendency by motivating yourself with a future reward that makes any present pain or discomfort seem like a worthwhile price to pay.

Move Out Of Your Comfort Zone

This is what successful people do. They are willing to make short-term sacrifices to gain a far greater benefit later on. The degree to which you are able to do this, will largely determine how successful you ever become at anything in life.

4) Set measurable goals

Unmeasurable goals are things that can’t be measured or defined in specific terms. For example, “I want to become a better person” would be an unmeasurable goal because how can you possibly know when you have become better? And what exactly do you want to become better at?

I am a good person

We all want to be a good person, but what exactly is a “good person”?

Just like unspecific and unrealistic goals, unmeasurable goals are very unlikely to ever be achieved because they are far too general for you to know what you want and how you will get it.

Measurable goals are therefore goals which you can measure in some way. For example, if you wish to complete a goal within a specific period of time, say, run a mile in under four minutes, the measurement of time can be used as a determinant of whether or not you have achieved your goal.

Another common form of measurement is quantity. For example, losing 20 pounds over two weeks involves measuring the achievement of your goal against a specific quantity and a specific time period.

The measures you use when setting goals therefore serve as signposts to let you know how far along you are and how far you have left to go.

Once you have a specific target to aim for, you will find yourself much more motivated to achieve such a goal because it also becomes much more specific and realistic.

tape measure on road

Measurable goals allow you to see how far you’ve come and how far you have to go.

Furthermore, measurable goals are also a great way of tracking your progress when working on a long-term goal. A large goal that you wish to complete in a year for example, could be broken down into weeks or months thereby making it much easier to achieve.

Not all goals, however, need to be measured. This is usually true for very short-term goals, as such goals can measured simply in terms of whether they have been completed or whether they are still in progress.

So don’t feel that you absolutely have to measure every goal that you set for yourself.


The chance of you successfully achieving a goal can be dramatically increased if you follow the S.R.C.M process. Below is a summary of each of these steps.

1) Specific – Make your goal as specific as possible. What exactly do you want to achieve. If you told your goal to someone else, would they have enough detail to know exactly what it is you want?

2) Realistic – Is it realistic for you to make a million dollars this year when your current salary is $30,000? Don’t let other people decide what is realistic for you, only you can determine this. But remember, chasing an unrealistic goal is unlikely to be very fruitful.

3) Challenging – Goals must be challenging as otherwise you won’t be motivated to get up off your butt and go after them. You want something slightly out of reach so that you have to stretch to get it, but not so far away that it becomes an impossible task.

4) Measurable – How are you going to monitor the progress, success or failure of your goal? Can you measure it in time? In quantity?

How to Prioritize Your Work

Concentration and focus are two key qualities that you absolutely must develop to become successful. It is only when you are able concentrate on one thing at a time, and focus all your effort on it, will you work most effectively and perform to the very best of your ability.

This principle is often seen in the military, whereby a target is first identified and then attacked with overwhelming force until the mission objective has been accomplished.

In a war however, there is never enough time to attack every possible target, so an army must concentrate their attack on key targets whose capture or destruction will have the biggest impact on the war.


In a war you can’t attack every single enemy, so you have to concentrate your efforts on where it will make the most difference.

Just like the military, you also have mission objectives in life. These are your goals, and just like in a war, you will never have enough time to “attack” them all.

Therefore, in order to complete your goals, you must concentrate and focus on the most important tasks whose completion will result in the biggest gain and this means that you must prioritize!

The 80/20 Rule

80/20 rule

Most of your results will come from a limited number of activities.

The 80/20 rule, also known as the “Pareto principle”, states that 80% of the value of what you do comes from 20% of what you do. This means that if you have a list of 10 tasks, two of those tasks will be more important than the rest of them combined.

These two tasks are therefore the most valuable use of your time, and so are what you should concentrate on completing first.

Productivity – Pareto Principle and Four Quadrants of Productivity

This really what time management is about, focusing on the activities which will give you the most return for your effort.

Do the Important Things First

Since effective time management means prioritizing your most important tasks, the first thing you need to do is to decide which tasks are the most important to you.

If you don’t know what your most important tasks are, ask yourself, what task if you completed would have the biggest impact on your goal?

tasks to do

There are a million and one things to do each day, so make sure you do the important things first.

Generally, you will find that the most important tasks are also the most difficult ones, and that the things which are easy and fun very rarely have a positive impact on the completion of your goal. So to manage your time more effectively, pick the difficult tasks that you have been putting off and make them a priority.

Unsuccessful people tend to focus on lots of tasks at once, and as a result, those tasks are often done in a poor fashion or not completed at all. Needless to say, such people tend not to get very far in life.


Although trying to do many things at once may look impressive to the outside observer, in reality, you are likely to produce poor quality work.

By prioritizing your most important tasks and then working on them until they are completed, you will not only produce better quality work, but you will also get more tasks done and in a shorter period of time.

This is because you will be managing your time better and not distracting yourself with useless tasks that add no real value to your day.

Write down what you have to do

One of the best ways to prioritize tasks is simply to write down on a piece of paper what needs doing before you go to bed, as this way your subconscious can start thinking them over while you sleep.

3 Tips to Accomplishing Your Tasks

You can use a numbering system to prioritize your tasks, such as 1,2,3 etc.. Or use an alphanumeric system, for example:

A (top priority tasks) – A1 (most important task, do first), A2 (2nd most important, do after A1).

B (important, but lower priority than A tasks) B1, B2 etc… These tasks are done after all the A tasks have been completed.

C (not of immediate importance) C1, C2 etc… These tasks are done last and only when you have some free time.

Although this method is extremely simple, it is also extremely effective in helping you to develop good time management skills.

You will find that all successful people work from some kind of prioritized list system, and as a result, are able to effectively manage their time throughout the day.

man working at desk

Highly successful people have a clear idea of what they’re going to do each day. They then get on with it and do it.

For each of your tasks, give yourself a certain amount of time to work on them. During this time, focus only on those tasks and not on anything else unless you have tasks which overlap with each other. The idea is to manage your time so that you complete the most important tasks one by one.

If you don’t work from a list, try doing so for a week or two. You will probably be quite surprised at just how much your productivity improves.

Once you improve your level of productivity, you will then be producing much more work than you used to which means that you will end up achieving your goals faster.

How to Set Goals Step by Step

So far in this article, we have looked at the different types of goals that people can have and how to prioritize your work so that you are focusing on the things which will bring the most value and benefit into your life.

How to Set Personal and Career Goals with Life Coach Dieter Pauwels

Now, we shall go through a step by step process of how to set goals, a process that I use myself and have found to be the most effective.

1) Decide What Your Goals Are

The first step to successful goal setting, is to decide upon the things that you would like to achieve in your life. This may include health, financial, relationship, career or personal goals.

You don’t have to come up with goals for all of these areas, but for the areas that you do choose, try to pick at least three things which you would like to improve or develop.

woman thinking

Think about what’s really important to you. What do you personally want to achieve the most?

Remember, for each goal that you set, you want to follow the S.R.C.M process. So make each goal specific, realistic, challenging and measurable.

Once you have done this, write down your goals on a sheet of paper and place each goal into its category. So for example, all your health goals will be listed under the heading of “Health” and all your financial goals will be listed under the heading of “Financial” or “Money”.

By organizing your goals in this way, you will quickly be able to see what areas of your life you will be working to develop and if you are neglecting any other areas of your life.

Once you have completed your list, put it away in a draw and don’t look at it for a week. After the week is over, have a look at your list again and see which of your goals appeals to you the most strongly.

Anything which doesn’t excite you should be removed from the list, so that you are only left with the goals which motivate you to want to complete them.

writing on paper

If you write your goals down and then put them away for a few days, when you look at your goals again it will be clear which ones are the most important to you.

The next step is to write down the goals which you have chosen on another sheet of paper. Only this time, write them down in order of importance to you.

For example, if there is something that you really want to do, then put it at the top of the list. After that put what whatever you would like to achieve next, and so on.

This will help to make goal setting fun, and will further motivate you to achieve the goals that you have set.

How many goals should you work on?

I was listening to an interesting show last night on Coast to Coast Am with George Noory.

The guest was talking about goals and a theory called “One Thing Theory”. The basic idea is that rather than trying to work on several goals at once, such as five goals, you should only work on one goal at a time.

coast to coast am

This goal will be the thing that you want to accomplish the most. The thing that you know you really should change or do. It will also be the thing that you least want to do, and possibly have also resisted doing in the past.

To me, this theory makes a lot of sense. As the goal you pick, if achieved, will have the biggest positive impact on your life. And because you are focusing all your effort on a single goal, you will also be much more likely to accomplish that goal.

The guest said that in order for One Thing Theory to work, you must do something five days out of every week that will bring you closer towards your goal.

In addition, the guest recommends taking things slow. As if you try to do too much too soon, you are likely to become demotivated as a result of not seeing any immediate gains or benefits from your efforts. So work towards your goal in a slow and steady manner.

How to write out your goals

The subconscious mind responds best to commands that are phrased in the present positive tense.

So it’s best to start your goal with a phrase such as “I have” or “I am“, almost like you were writing an affirmation, rather than a phrase such as “I will“. The following video by Brian Tracy explains this in more detail.


2) Identify Your Obstacles

Once you have set your goals, the next step is to identify any obstacles which might stand in your way. Some of these obstacles could come from you.

For example, you may be lazy and have a tendency to procrastinate a lot or you might never stick to the goals that you set for yourself.

jumping over hurdle

Identify the obstacles that stand in your way, and then decide how you are going to overcome them.

Obstacles may also come from other people. For example, someone may try to make things difficult for you by opposing your goal or you may need someone’s help to complete your goal.

Whatever your obstacles are, it is vitally important that you take the time to identify them beforehand, because this will make it a lot easier to overcome those obstacles when you encounter them.

3) Conquer Your Fears

A major hurdle that many people face when planning goals is conquering their fear. They may set goals which they want to achieve, but because of their fear, they never take any action towards them.

woman looking out window

You must go out and face the things you fear, as otherwise that fear will control and restrict your life.

Fear of goal setting can come as a result of many things, although usually, it occurs because a person is not following the S.R.C.M process (i.e., setting a specific, realistic, challenging and measurable goal) which then makes their goal seem like a very daunting task to complete.

Another common cause of fear when setting goals, occurs due to feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.

If a person has experienced many setbacks in the past for example, and so doesn’t feel confident in being able to achieve what they want, they may choose to take no action because they start out with an expectation of failure.

In order to ensure that you are successful at goal setting, you must therefore conquer any fears you have relating to the goals that you set.

Don't be afraid

To do this, first identify the doubts you have about your goals. If your doubts are due to you not having the skills needed to accomplish your goal, then create separate goals to address each of those fears.

You may find that there are certain things which you need to do before you can start working on your main goal, and so you might be better postponing it until you are ready.

If your goal setting doubts are due to feelings of inadequacy, then question whether those beliefs are really true or not?

Most of the time, you will find that your beliefs are actually things which you have picked up a long time ago from other people, and so are not relevant or true to what you are trying to do now.

sad woman

Don’t doubt yourself, there are plenty of people who will do that for you.

However, the best way to overcome a fear of pursuing your goals, is to ensure that you strongly desire to achieve them. If you want something badly enough, you will be strongly motivated to try to get it which will then help you to overcome any fears which may be holding you back.

Later on in this article, we shall cover the subject of motivation in relation to goal setting in more detail.

4) Determine What Help You Will Need

Regardless of the type of goal that you set, there will be certain things which you will need to do or obtain before you can achieve your goal.

Since most of the things that we do in life involve other people, it is very unlikely that you will be able to complete your goal entirely on your own.

men shaking hands

Very rarely can a person achieve everything they want to achieve without the help of others.

As a result, it is very helpful at this stage to think about the help that you will need to achieve your goal.

This help may come in the form of asking someone for advice by meeting them face to face, asking someone to do something for you or simply reading something which another person has written.

The more help that you can get from others, the easier you will find it to complete your goal.

5) Set a Completion Date

For each of the goals that you have written down, the next step is to give each goal an estimated date of completion. You can make this easier on yourself by sorting your goals into short or long-term goals.

The dates that you set should be both specific and realistic, as this will give you a target to aim for and will make planning the achievement of the rest of your goals much easier to do.

date circled on calendar

Having a completion date will help to motivate you and prevent procrastination.

Be careful however, of setting unrealistic completion dates, as such dates may present you with an impossible task or result in poor quality work if they are overly optimistic. Likewise, be careful of setting very lax dates, as they are likely to lead to procrastination and wasted time.

Finally, it is important to remember that you might not always meet the completion date for each of your goals. Sometimes, things will take longer than you expected and sometimes they will take less time than expected. Be aware of this and be flexible with your dates.

6) Create a Plan of Action

This is by far the most important step in the whole goal setting process, because it tells you exactly what steps you need to accomplish your goal.

Depending on whether your goal is a short or long-term goal, this step could take a considerable amount of time to do properly.

goal plan

I love it when a plan comes together.

With any goal that you set, regardless of its length, you need to think about all the things you must do to achieve your goal. The easiest way to do this is to break your goal down into smaller sub-goals.

For example, a goal to become a millionaire in 10 years, could be broken down into specific amounts of money to earn during each of those years and how that money will be earned.

The more you can break your main goal down, the easier it will be to achieve and the more manageable it will become. This is especially true when you are setting complex long-term goals.

To do list

Keep a pad of paper in your workspace, it’s a great way to keep track of what needs doing each day.

Once you have broken down your goal, the next step is to create a plan which lists the specific activities that you must do on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Think of this process as creating a to-do-list in advance that will tell you what you should be doing and when.

Once you have created your plan detailing your course of action, be aware that things may not always go according to plan.

For this reason, your plan should be reviewed on a periodic basis such as every weekend, so that you can make modifications to your plan whenever necessary.

7) Write Your Goals Down Every Day

Goal setting is not just something that you can do once and then forget about it, it is an active process that requires constant attention and refinement.

For this reason, it’s important that you look at your goals on a regular basis. Ideally, this should be done daily such as every morning or every night.

woman holding pen

Regularly writing down your goals reminds you of what’s important in your life.

The purpose of this review is to keep the goals which you have set fresh in your mind, so that your actions throughout the day or week are geared towards the accomplishment of those goal.

An excellent way to do this is to write your goals down on paper. The physical act of writing will literally imprint your goal into your mind so that you will be thinking about it no matter what you are doing.

In addition to this, it is also good practice to remind yourself of the benefits that achieving your goals will bring into your life. The more you can become motivated by those benefits, the more likely you will be to stick with your goal and see it through to completion.

The following studies show just how important it is to write your goals down on paper.

In 1964, all members of the Harvard Business School graduating class stated that they have, at graduation, clear goals that they want to accomplish in life. Among them, 5% took the time to write their goals down on paper.

In 1984, a follow-up study was done and it was discovered that 95% of those who wrote down their goals were able to achieve them within 20 years. Among the “lazy” majority, only 5% of them were able to reach their expected goals.

An earlier study in Yale University also had similar results. This time, only 3% of the 1953 graduating class made written goals. Twenty years after, in 1973, it was found that this 3% of Yale graduates were able to accomplish more goals than the rest of the other 97% combined.”

8) Review Your Progress

You can only improve something when you receive feedback from your environment. Feedback tells you what’s working and what’s not working. It’s therefore good practice to get into the habit of reviewing your progress on a regular basis.

man sitting at computer

Things don’t always go according to plan, so be sure to monitor your progress so that you can make adjustments when necessary.

How often you review your progress, largely depends on the type of goal that you are trying to set. But in general, you should give yourself enough time for changes to happen before you decide whether your current course of action, your goal plan, is working or not.

In the case of weight loss for example, weighing yourself every month is probably a better option than weighing yourself every day or every week.

When you review your progress, two things can happen. The first, is that you become more motivated because you start to see positive changes happening in your life.

The second thing that can happen is that you become demotivated, because you see a lack of change in your life or start to see changes which you do not like.

Again, we shall cover the subject of motivation in more detail later on in this article.

What Stops People From Achieving the Goals They Set?

Most people are quite good at setting goals for themselves. Those who are interested in goal setting will learn the different techniques and strategies, and then use what they have learned to create goals in many different areas of their life.

Knowing how to set a goal properly, however, doesn’t guarantee that you will achieve it as there are many different factors which can affect your goal setting success.

This is a frustration that lots of people experience, because despite setting goals the right way, they still find it difficult to achieve their goals.

Common Mistakes in Goal Setting

So before we move on to the subject of motivation, let’s have a look at some of the main factors which can stop people from achieving the goals they set for themselves.

1) Failing to Accept Responsibility

After studying the field of self-improvement for many years, one of the biggest realizations that I have had is that everyone is personally responsible for their own actions and how their life is and will be in the future.

If we apply this theme of responsibility to goal setting, we can examine the first major reason why people fail to keep the goals they set, themselves.


You are responsible for the way your life is and the way it will be.

Put simply, the reason why most people fail to keep or achieve their goals is because of a lack of action on their behalf. Some people don’t even bother to set any goals at all, whilst others set detailed and specific goals but then don’t do anything to achieve them.

Taking action, regardless of how big or small, is absolutely critical to goal setting success, because if you don’t take the first step, then you will never go anywhere. So remember, the success or failure of a goal will largely come down to what you do and what you don’t do.

2) Failing to Gain Momentum

No matter how large or small a goal is, there will always be a series of steps which you will need to take in order to accomplish your goal. All goals can therefore only be accomplished by taking the first step.

However, the first step is always the most difficult, because it takes time to gain momentum before you get into the swing of things.

pushing boulder

All projects initially require a lot of effort to get them started, but once you get the ball rolling, things start to become a lot easier.

For a large majority of people, this difficulty can be enough to scare them off from pursuing their goal and so they end up not taking any action towards it. As a result, many people give up on their goal even before they have tried to make a start on it.

One you do complete that first step however, you start to gain momentum which then makes completing the rest of your steps that much easier. Often you will find that the reason you are not making a start on something, is because of some fear that you have associated with it.

For example, you may worry that you don’t know enough to begin your task, or that your task seems like a lot of hard work which is going to take you a very long time to complete.

These fears are the obstacles or barriers to goal setting which we discussed earlier, and the sooner you are able to identify these barriers, the sooner you will be able to take action on them and start working on your goal.

What I find to be very effective, is to just get stuck in and do something no matter how small my initial effort is. Once I have made a start, it then becomes a lot easier to continue on with the work that I have to do.

Usually, what I was fearing turns out not to happen, and making that first step helped me to overcome any fears or worries that I previously had.

Nike Just Do It

A good phrase to remember when you find yourself procrastinating.

Remember, most fear comes from a lack of knowledge. This is because when you don’t know enough about a situation your mind starts to make things up. It starts to imagine how things are going to be, which, in some cases, can be worse than what actually happens.

So prepare yourself to the best of your ability by following the series of steps that we previously discussed, and then just get stuck into your goal no matter how small your initial effort may be.

3) Not Really Wanting a Goal

If you do not strongly desire to achieve a goal, or are pursuing a goal for the wrong reasons, you are unlikely to be motivated to see it through to completion or even start on it at all.

lazy get back to work

If you lack the motivation to do something, it probably isn’t that important to you.

Your goal should excite you and be something that you think about most of the time. Your goal should also be what you really want, and not what someone else wants or thinks that you should have.

So when setting goals, try to align them with your basic values. Ask yourself, “what is important to me?“, “what do I really care about?“, “what do I really want?” and “what do I believe in?“. The closer your goal is aligned to your basic values, the stronger your desire to achieve that goal will become.

4) The Influence of Other People

Whilst the single biggest reason that people fail to achieve their goals is themselves, another significant factor is the people they have in their life.

bad influence

Some people can make it more difficult for you to achieve your goals.

Some people may be pleased to hear about your goals, and may even encourage or support you. These are great people to have in your life, because no matter how strong you are inside, there will always be times when you need the help of others.

Unfortunately however, the majority of people in your life will not be happy that you are trying to better things for yourself. In fact, some people will even resent you for working towards a goal and may even try to sabotage it.

Brian Tracy – Persistence, Entrepreneurs, & Millionaires

This is because most people only think about themselves, and seeing other people who are more successful than they are makes them feel inadequate. As a result, they become jealous and will try to put you down so that you remain at the same level as them or lower.

Another reason why people don’t like to see others succeed, is because it makes them examine their own life and their own situation. Since most people are lazy, greedy and think only of short-term gain, if they see you working hard and making sacrifices, it exposes to them just how lazy they actually are.

So be aware of this as you climb the ladder to success, because there will be plenty of people beneath you who will try to pull you down and prevent you from reaching the top.

Top 10 Goal Setting Motivation Tips

Most people want to set goals, the trouble is finding the motivation to start and then keep going until a goal is completed. If you have trouble motivating yourself to set and achieve goals, use the following motivational tips to help you succeed.

1) Practice Visualization


Keep in mind a picture of what you want to achieve, then use it to remind you of what you’re working towards.

Everyone who sets a goal does so for a reason. If you can picture this reason clearly in your mind, you can then use it to motivate yourself when things get tough.

Try visualizing your goals in the morning or at night when the subconscious is most receptive to programming, and focus on the benefits that achieving your goal will bring into your life.

Alternatively, or in addition to, create a vision board that contains images related to your goal to serve as a visual reminder of what you hope to achieve.

Place this vision board in a location that you will see every day, such as on your wall by your desk or as a desktop image on your computer or laptop screen.

2) Have Targets


Some people set higher targets than others, but what’s really important is that you have something to aim for.

Break your goal down into lots of smaller sub goals. It is far easier to complete lots of small goals than it is one large goal. Once you complete one goal, it will spur you forward to complete more goals.

Avoid trying to tackle a very large goal all at once, as this is the surest way to demotivate yourself and prevent you from even starting on a goal.

3) Use Positive Self Talk

girl in mirror happy sad

The way you talk to yourself is often a reflection of the beliefs you have in your subconscious mind.

Athletes use positive self talk all the time to motivate themselves, so why don’t you? Self talk is a term used to describe the things that you say to yourself in your head, and can be either positive or negative.

Negative self talk involves phrases such as “I can’t do this” or “this is too hard” and has a demotivating effect by causing you to doubt yourself and your abilities.

Positive self talk involves phrases such as “I can do this” or “I will find a way to do this” and has a motivating effect by making you more confident in your ability to successfully complete a task.

Be very aware of the type of self talk that you use, because it can have an enormous influence on your mental attitude towards the goals that you set.

4) Watch Movies/Read Books

woman reading self esteem book

Whatever type of problem you have, someone has probably already written a book that will help you to overcome it.

There is a good chance that someone else has previously gone after the same, or similar, goal as you are going after. If you can find some examples of this in books or movies, you can then use their story to increase your own goal setting motivation.

This can be especially beneficial if you are trying to decide whether a goal is realistic or not. If you can find people who have done what you want to do before, then that goal is realistic no matter how difficult it may appear or what other people may say.

But remember, just because someone else has done something before, it doesn’t mean that it is going to be easy for you to do it also. Such examples will only show you that what you hope to achieve is possible to achieve.

However, you shouldn’t necessarily make the mistake of thinking that a goal is unachievable just because no one else has done it before, because many of the things that people have accomplished throughout history they were the first to accomplish.

The story of the four-minute mile which we talked about earlier is a good example of this.

5) Listen to Music

man holding music cds

Listening to music that you enjoy can instantly change your emotional state.

Many people overlook the power that music has on their body and mind. Listening to the right type of music for example, can make you feel energetic and increase your level of alertness.

So try listening to your favorite tunes whenever you feel your motivation slipping, and channel the energy that music gives you into your goal setting efforts.

6) Compete Against Someone

bike riders

Sometimes, the best only comes out of you when you’re trying to beat someone else.

Some people work better when they know that they are working against someone. If this is the case for you, try to find someone who has the same goal as you and then either openly compete against them or compete in private.

For some people, this can be an extremely powerful way to increase their level of motivation, especially if you already have a long-established rivalry with someone.

7) Get Help From Others

helping hand

We all need a little help sometimes, so make sure you have a network of friends that you can call upon in times of need.

Very rarely will you be able to do everything alone, and if you try to do so, you may feel overwhelmed by your goal and then feel like giving up on it.

So always make sure that you ask for help when you need it, as not only will you achieve your goals faster and easier this way, but you will also find that your motivation to set goals increases.

Help from others can come in many different forms. For example, financial help, guidance, instruction and emotional help are just some of the ways that you can gain benefit from others.

So try to surround yourself with the people who can help you to achieve your goal, and distance yourself from those who will make it harder for you to achieve your goal.

8) Use Rewards

man facial treatment

Reward yourself when you achieve something of significance and you will feel a renewed energy to pursue future goals.

Whenever you achieve a major goal, give yourself a reward for its accomplishment. Rewards are very effective at increasing goal setting motivation, and will also help to discipline you to keep on setting and achieving more goals.

The rewards that you use should be proportional to your level of achievement. So for a very large long-term goal, your reward should be greater than for achieving a quick short-term goal.

It is also important that the rewards you use are things which you strongly desire, as such rewards will by themselves motivate you, by helping you to overcome the short-term pain that going after your goal may bring.

9) Focus on the Positive

think positive

Your thoughts determine your actions, so choose your thoughts wisely.

Many people have a natural tendency to focus on the negative things that have happened to them, rather than on the positive things.

Avoid doing this at all costs because it will reduce your motivation to set goals and also reduce your level of confidence and self-esteem. Instead, focus on the successes which you have had in the past and use them to spur you forward to create new success.

It also helps if you can see negative events or failures in a positive light. The best way that I have found to do this, is to see every negative event in my life as a learning experience from which I can grow and develop as a person.

This is true for virtually all the bad things that will happen to you in your life. Even though at the time they may seem like the worst thing in the world and are very painful to deal with, later on, when you look back at that experience, you will be able to find some good or benefit from it.

10) Finish What You Start

start/finish line

Finish what you start and you will be more likely to do so the next time.

If you never finish what you start you are bound to feel demotivated, because eventually, you will train yourself to think that you will fail at something even before you have begun.

If, however, you can force yourself to complete the things that you start, you will find yourself working towards your goals with an expectation of success rather than failure.

If you can form an attitude that you will never quit, no matter what, your level of persistence will increase which will then enable you to keep on going through the difficult times when most other people would have already quit.

You may want to adopt my attitude towards things. I think that anything is possible, you just have to find out the right way to do it. Usually, this will mean a lot of time and effort, but if you are willing to put in that time and effort, then eventually you will get what you are working towards.

Anything is possible

Anything is possible if you work hard enough.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to hard work. There is no real secret or magic formula to achieving success nor is it down to luck.

Success is due to consistent effort over a prolonged period of time. Most people are not willing to make such a sacrifice in order to get what they say they want, which is why so many people in our society will remain poor, broke and unhappy throughout most of their life.

Be different. Focus your mind on the things that will benefit your life and away from the things that won’t. Make the effort and you will succeed. This is the real “secret” to success.

Goal Setting: How To Keep Focused And Motivated

Reviewed – 29th March 2016

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