13 Effective Goal Setting Guidelines for Success

lady working on laptop

Setting goals and accomplishing them

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If you don't have direction it doesn't matter which road you take.

Attributed to various people

Most of the content of this post can be found in my book Living on Earth: A Guide To Help You Achieve Health, Happiness, and Success

What is goal setting?

Goal setting is nothing more than a list of all the things you wish to achieve, with a deadline and an action plan to achieve them. It can be as detailed as you wish.

Your goals could be anything from learning more about a subject to figuring out what your purpose is, making more friends, opening a store, or getting a new car.

Why set goals, you might wonder?

The importance of setting goals has been researched for decades. 

Many studies have shown that people who write down their goals and commit to them are much more likely to achieve them.

There is a big difference between wanting to be wealthy and successful, and deliberately creating a path to achieve it.

Before you start a goal-setting plan, honestly assess where you are now. It will help you prioritize and narrow down what you want or need to accomplish first.

Your goals must answer your most fundamental needs:

What do you want to be, do, or have? Have you thought about what your life purpose is? You can have short-term goals and long term ones. 

Usually, it is the things you haven’t done that will generate your biggest regret.

Let’s dive in!

the tragedy of life doesn't lie in nt reaching your goal. Benajin Mays

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in not having goals to reach. — Benjamin Mays


How do you set goals? Goal setting steps:

1. Understand what is bothering you the most

First and foremost, make sure you understand what is bothering you and what your life priorities are. Take care of those first; otherwise, you might end up totally scattered, stressed out, and with too much on your plate.

Trying to open a new business might be a good idea, but probably not while you are recovering from your health issues or handling your divorce at the same time. 

There is not a right or wrong answer, but usually if we have too much on our plate we won’t be able to give 100% effort to our goals.  

2. Analyze your goal: does it bring you joy?

set goals that make you jump out of bed in the morning

There is something very important to understand before you set any goals: whatever you want to achieve, it has to bring you joy in the process of achieving it. This is because:

    • If there is no joy, there is no point. We came to Earth to enjoy life, not to struggle. It doesn’t mean it won’t involve hard work, but it should be joyful.
    • Once you achieve your goals, it will also take effort and actions to maintain the status quo.

 For example, if your goal is to lose a specific amount of weight, or if you work hard to win an audition, there will be a lot of hard work involved after you achieve those goals; namely, to keep the weight off, or to be the best actor, singer, or whatever you auditioned for (you will have to keep training).

Every goal achieved brings a new set of responsibilities.

I once saw an interview with French actress Marion Cotillard. She was talking about one of her films, La Vie en Rose. Her performance won her a Golden Globe and an Oscar for playing the character of Edith Piaf, a singer.

What struck me the most from her interview was her determination to be an outstanding actress.

The interviewer asked her why, knowing that she would be lip-syncing, she had decided to take singing lessons. She replied that to do her best she wanted to know where to position her tongue, how to move her mouth, and how to stand while singing.

I’m not an actress, but if somebody told me that I would be lip-syncing, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to take singing lessons.

That interview reminded me that as important as it is to achieve our goals (win the part), it is at least as important to do our best after achieving them. Achieving a goal is not always our ultimate destination.

3. Be very clear about what you want

Clarity, hand wipping out dirty screen

If you don’t have clarity about what you want, you can’t expect to receive it.

Clarity is essential.

A way to assist you with the process of getting clarity is to split your desires and dreams into different categories. 

Goal setting examples

Below are some examples; please add a category, such as travel or love, if it is important for you :(additionally, you may also use some of the questions to find clarity about your life purpose which you can find in this post: 4 Steps to Find Your Life Purpose).

• Career: What would you like to accomplish this year? How much would you like to earn?
• Family: Do you want to spend more time with your kids or partner, or improve your relationship with them?
• Personal growth: Would you like to read more books, attend workshops, or learn to be more confident or assertive?
• Health: How could you get more energy in your life? Time for sleep, relaxation, and meditation would fall in this category.
• Pleasure: How can you have more fun?
• Friends and community, service to others: How can you help others? Charity work and contributions are two ideas that fit here.

List everything you can think of. 

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone

At the beginning of this process don’t leave anything out, even if it seems impossible to achieve. For example, you might want to go back to school but you know your schedule is packed just now or you don’t have the funds. Write it down regardless.

I have written an article called: 20 Essential Proven Tools to Manifest Your Dream Faster that will help you manifest what you need to achieve your goals.

4. Ask for the essence of what you want

Once you are clear about what you want, make sure to ask for the essence of it. Write it down and make sure to ask for it.

Most of us want things because we believe that having them will make us feel good. That is really the bottom line, but for the most part that happiness is short-lived and we are on to the next thing. That happens because we haven’t asked for the essence of what we want.

The essence is the higher quality that the item will fulfill.

What function is it going to perform, and what do we need it for? When we are in touch with the essence of what we desire, we can have it in many ways.

For example, say you work a late or night shift, and you have become increasingly concerned about your safety walking to the bus stop at night in order to get home.

You might think that the answer would be for you to own a car, so you decide that you are going to find the money to buy one. However, the essence of what you are really looking for is to feel safe and secure getting home from work.

You might buy a car only to find that the one you were able to afford has too many maintenance issues and is adding a lot of stress to your already stressed life, or you buy a brand new one but you can’t keep up with the monthly payments.

What you need to ask for is for a way to arrive safely at your home after work, for that is what you really want.

Then you might find that numerous solutions appear.

You might find that you can apply for the same position during the day when you can take the bus safely, or that there is a co-worker who works the same shifts and is willing to give you a lift in exchange for some gas money. Or you might even find a job closer to your home. (And, of course, getting a car might be a potential answer too.)

Asking for the essence of what you want, and asking for something specific, are not mutually exclusive.

You might feel you need a break from work to get some peace and rest, which is the essence, and at the same time you want to go to Hawaii. You may use the same goal for that purpose.

5. Break down your goals into a multitude of smaller steps

Notebook with writing: Take one small step each day

Break down your goals into smaller, actionable steps, and then continue breaking down those steps until you have a plan for all your goals.

Your goals and sub-goals need to be manageable. You need to be very clear about how you will know if you have accomplished them.

Your dream or goal might be to return to college, but you need to break it down further:

• What type of courses do you want to take?
• Which colleges offer those courses (and is it part-time, full time, online)? Have you looked thoroughly at all the available options?
• What funds do you need, and what are the pre-entry requirements?
• If you have children under your care, who is going to look after them?
• How will you find the time to study once you enroll?

The reason to do this is to focus and work your way through any potential issues, and to set smaller goals that are achievable so you have a step by step plan that you can follow.

You might want to ask for money, in general, and there is nothing wrong with that.

However, the more clarity you have around what you need and what it looks like, the easier it will be to plan and manifest it. Instead of asking “I want a million dollars,” (and I will think what to do with it later), you may want to write instead, “I want to pay off the mortgage.”

When breaking down your goals delegate as many tasks as you can.

Take an honest look at how you spend your money and, when possible, rearrange expenditures so you are moving toward achieving your goals.

If you find that you spend a lot of money eating out or drinking, you might want to use that money to pay for a cleaner, or a gardener, or some other type of helper who frees your time to do what is important to you, such as, spending time with your kids, making more sales calls, reading a motivational book, or taking a course.

It doesn’t mean you are never going to eat out again; it just means that you are using your money to your best advantage to move in the direction of your goals. When possible, it is important to delegate all the routine duties that don’t add value to your goals. Writing your goals down allows you to take a closer look at what you really want, and most importantly, why.

Don’t be put off by goals that might take long to achieve, like learning to play a new instrument or going back to college. If your soul has been nagging you to do it for a long time, try to find a way to do it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Earl Nightingale:

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it
will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

6. Be honest

Be honest. Your goals are just for you and nobody else.

What do you really want?

You might think you want to lose weight or to have an expensive car, but in reality you just want fewer (or more) working hours and to make amends with a friend or family member.

7. Set goals that you can control

sticker with note: Somedays you just have to create your own sunshine

For example: “I will open up a restaurant when the economy improves” is too vague, and there is nothing you can do about the economy.

Set goals that totally depend on you to achieve them.

The goal might still be “I want to open a restaurant,” but you can then have many sub-goals that you can control: (a) Do market research to decide the best area and viability, (b) Save money or make a business plan to obtain finances, etc.

8. Make your goals measurable

You have probably read that what you measure is what you get. If the essence or goal is “to improve my relationship with my children,” you can break it down further as follows:

• Go to the movies with my children once a month.
• Make time to sit down for breakfast or dinner with my children, with all electronics, phones, and TV turned off, at least three or five times a week.
• Have one-to-one chats with my children every couple of weeks.
• Make time to attend their weekend games.

9. Aim high

believe in yourself

I mentioned earlier that it is important to set very specific goals.

However, the only caveat with being very specific is that we are limiting the possibilities of what is energetically available to us. For this reason, it is good practice to picture something higher than the best outcome we can imagine.

Someone once said, “If people are not laughing at your goals, your goals are too small.” This is because we have a tendency to underestimate ourselves. Top athletes, rich entrepreneurs, and very high achievers understand that in order to achieve success they need to set goals beyond their best results.

Once you have written your goal, ask yourself: Is this the best outcome that could happen?

10. Prioritize

What gives your life meaning note

Now that you understand which goals are relevant, make sure to prioritize them. Confusion is solved by getting your priorities straight.

Decide what you want or need to do now and what you can do later.

Priority might mean different things to different people.

Think about what is important for you, and what is bothering you the most at the moment. Would you feel much better in the short term if you finally took the much needed week off to clear your head and sleep?

There is no right or wrong answer, but to start with you will benefit from tackling those items that will bring you the most satisfaction and fulfillment in the short term, particularly if they have been bothering you for a long time.

Try not to overload yourself with multiple “nice to have” goals.

You are not racing against anybody.

If you are overwhelmed with tasks and priorities cut them down to a reasonable size and learn about time management. A great book that can help you with this is 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, by Kevin Kruse.

11. Attach a timeline to all your goals

divine sand clock and coins

Write the goal and decide when you are going to accomplish it by.

Have deadlines and sub deadlines as necessary, or an ongoing deadline (going once a month to the cinema with your kids can be a recurrent monthly goal).

12. Follow the path of least resistance

Sometimes things are not difficult; we make them difficult. When you are going after a specific goal and you find too many doors closing, so it is very difficult to get there, make sure to notice that.

There is a difference between persevering to achieve a goal, and going down the wrong path to get it.

Be flexible with your choices and listen to your intuition.

13. Sign and date your goals list

Sign and date your list. It will give it power. Write down something uplifting and read it to yourself often:

“This or something better manifests for me now. My dreams come true! I’m unstoppable!

And commit to it!

I can accept failure; everyone fails at something.
But I can’t accept not trying.
Michael Jordan

Last but not least, the posts listed below will help you achieve your goals a lot faster.

Posts to help you achieve your goals faster

Do you find setting goals useful? Do you follow up on them? Please let me know in the comments below

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