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5 Essential Tips for Goal Setting

The secrets to achieving anything you set your mind to.

Prathan Chorruangsak / iStock
Prathan Chorruangsak / iStock

Setting goals is the first step in turning dreams into reality. Whether it's personal development, career aspirations, or health and fitness, the journey to success begins with a clear, concise, and thought-out roadmap. In this post, we'll explore key strategies for effective goal setting, keeping you on track and motivated throughout your journey.

1. Set Achievable Outcomes (SMART Goals)

The foundation of any successful goal-setting strategy lies in creating S.M.A.R.T. goals. This framework provides a clear roadmap, ensuring that your objectives are well-defined and attainable. It’s also a great way to give yourself feedback on your goals and ensure that you are being realistic. By breaking down your larger goals into smaller, actionable steps, you set yourself up for success right from the start.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for:

Specific. Make your goals as specific as possible. This allows for more effective planning and feedback, and helps you create an exact target that is visible and attainable. For example, if you have a goal of “making more money," the second you pick up a penny off the ground, you’ve already reached that goal. However, a goal that says, “I want to make an additional $10,000 this year” allows you to plan and put your focus on exactly what you would like to accomplish.

Measurable. Make sure you can measure your progress toward your goal and see how close or far you are from achieving it. This gives you feedback and allows you to adjust your efforts and actions. For a goal to bring in more wealth, this looks like having an exact dollar amount you would like in additional income.

Achievable. Be sure that you can realistically achieve this goal in the given time you set for this goal. While a goal of, “I want to make a billion dollars tomorrow” sounds amazing, it isn’t realistic. Understanding where you are at now, and how setting a realistic goal will take you to where you want to be based on your current situation will dramatically increase the success of your goals.

Relevant. This is where you check to see if a goal aligns with your values, long-term objectives, and beliefs. Is the goal relevant to your life? This is also where I suggest checking to see how other areas or people in your life may be affected. For example, if you’re setting a career goal, this is a good place to reflect and see how your family, relationship, or health may be affected by this goal.

Time-Based. Always add a due date to your goal. Set the time of your goal realistically, but you can also be ambitious with the deadline. This is also where you can prioritize tasks and increase your motivation. The more specific the time, the better your results. Push yourself but again remember to keep things achievable and realistic.

All five criteria should be met within your goal. It is helpful to write down your goal and then go over S.M.A.R.T. and see how you can edit your goal to satisfy all criteria. By using S.M.A.R.T. goals, you will see an increase in clarity of what exactly you want to achieve, as well as clear steps and ideas on just how exactly you will actualize your goal.

2. Set Aim and End Goals

I teach my students and clients the differences and importance of both Aim and End goals. An End goal is you at the finish line. What does that look like? What do you have? How do you act? This is a clear vision of you at the end of your goal having seen it through. I teach my students to write this in the first person and act as if it is now. This is a good practice for all your goals as it helps you to envision exactly what everything in life is like once you have achieved it. End goals are specific and timely. I like to think of them as steps along the journey towards overall personal growth and development.

An Aim goal gives you direction. In an area of life, it is helpful to have an Aim goal as it directs you toward what you desire. In your career, you can create an Aim goal of always improving in your field and accumulating wealth. In health and fitness, it can be a goal to continuously make healthy food choices and work out regularly. Aim goals are the overall direction and journey. End goals are the steps along the way that help you achieve your overall Aim goal. I tell my students to look at your Aim goal as your North Star. It is continuous and keeps you moving towards your End goals, and yet the beautiful part about the Aim goal is it’s not meant to be reached because it’s a guide.

Incorporating both Aim and End goals into your different areas of life will allow you to see the path, and to understand, measure, and decide each step. Taking the time to sit down and really delve into your goals, dreams, and aspirations will give you a sense of clarity and control.

3. Take Daily Action, Little Steps Every Day

A book I often recommend is The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson. Olson emphasizes the power of making small, positive changes consistently. By taking daily actions toward your goals, you create momentum that propels you forward. The compound effect of these seemingly insignificant steps leads to significant results over time. Cultivating habits that align with your goals and objectives will increase the success and accomplishment of your goals. Each of these daily actions or habits won’t yield you immediate results. A great example of this is taking a walk every evening. After your first walk, you won’t immediately see results. Maybe even after ten evenings of walks, you won’t see results. However, after making this a daily practice, six months later you’ll see and feel the difference in your health. And it all starts with that small daily habit you begin. Dedicating and committing to positive and healthy habits will over time yield you those results that you dream of.

4. Maintain Focus and Hold Yourself Accountable

Distractions and obstacles are inevitable, but staying focused on your goals is crucial. Develop strategies to overcome challenges, whether it's creating a dedicated workspace, setting specific time blocks, or using productivity tools. Additionally, accountability plays a vital role in goal achievement. Share your goals with a friend, family member, or mentor who can offer support and encouragement, holding you accountable for your progress.

Now, this doesn’t mean to beat yourself up when you fail to reach an objective. Instead, learn and understand that failure is only feedback and that you now have the information and experience to readjust your goal, and continue down the path knowing that you are now that much closer to achieving your goal. Thomas Edison famously said about inventing the light bulb, “I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” Any failures or setbacks are just that; steps that are required for you to achieve your dreams.

5. Celebrate at 90 Percent

While the finish line is important, celebrating milestones along the way is just as important. Recognizing your progress reinforces positive behavior and motivates you to push through the final stretch. Celebration acts as a powerful tool to maintain enthusiasm and commitment to your goals. Celebrate your wins!

A powerful tool I teach my students is to celebrate at 90% as if the goal is complete. The last 10% of a goal can often be the hardest to get. Because of this, what can happen is that you’ll be 99.99% of the way to your goal; however, that last bit can be so hard and if you fail to achieve it, you have therefore failed the goal. Because of this, I teach that you should celebrate at 90%. Let’s say you set that goal to earn $10,000 more this year. Once you reach $9,000, celebrate your win! Then, begin working and writing out your next goal. That could be to make $15,000 more the next year. That last 10% or $1,000 of your previous goal becomes the first $1,000 towards your next goal. Not only does this carry over your momentum and effort, but it also becomes much easier to accomplish and achieve. This allows you to create a cycle of constant improvement, aspiration, and drive. This also reinforces positive behaviors by celebrating your wins when they come and gives you the confidence that anything is achievable.

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