Goal Setting 101 – How to Set Goals & Actually Achieve Them


If you are anything like me, you know exactly what it is like when you attempt to set a goal and fail miserably. It’s a universal experience. Think of all of the New Year’s Resolutions that people have failed at. You know the ones I’m talking about: lose weight, achieve professional success, eat better.

But how exactly do you set goals and then achieve them? More importantly, how do you set yourself up for success so that you don’t get derailed by the sligthest misstep?

One of my mentors, Bob Proctor taught me that most of us spend life setting the wrong kinds of goals. He has a method on how you can set your own goals and achieve them in less time. He showed me that in order to achieve a worthy ideal, you’ve got to set the right kind of goals.

Before I go into more detail on how you can set personal goals that give your desired end result, let’s go over some of the more popular theories on goal achievement. Here is my disclaimer. You can get the key results you are looking for with any of these methods, and you may choose one method versus another depending on your situation.

Traditional Goal Setting Theory – Concepts and Shortcomings

Maybe you have heard that a good way achieving success by setting SMART Goals. These smarter goals help you to avoid setting a vague goal. The method only allows you to set clear goals.

SMART goals are defined as: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Here is an example. Let’s say it’s Oct. 15th and by April 15th, I want to run a 7 minute mile.

It’s specific because I know how fast I run a mile now (7:14).

It’s measurable because I can time myself, and I can track progress along the way.

It’s achievable because 14 seconds seems like a matter of conditioning. It’s realistic because I’ve made similar progress in the same amount of time in the past. Others can run a 7 min mile with ease.

It’s relevant because I like to compete in sports, and it will only improve my capabilities, and it is in alignment with my core values (stay healthy).

It’s time-bound because I am setting a deadline with a specific time-frame: April 15th.

Advantage: The advantage is that setting goals this way leaves little to chance. You will know virtually at all times where you stand and you will be able to zoom out to big picture and back in to the crystal clear steps ahead to make sure you are on target. It can help college students set good goals, and employees set day job goals.

Short-Coming: You may be tempted to create smaller goals that you can ensure you will be able to focus on rather than going after big goals aka hard goals.

Write Time Bound Goals Down – Define Success with Actionable Goals

Another common Goal Setting Method is to write out the following short-term goals and long-term goals:

  • What you want to accomplish in 1 year
  • What you want to accomplish in 5 years
  • What you want to acomplish in 10 years
  • What you want to accomplish in 20 years

Years ago, I did a Tony Robbins program. He had us do that. I remember writing out that I wanted to earn $250,000 within the following 10 years. At the time, I was making an already good living at around $80,000. The idea of making that much money seemed impossible. I had no idea of how I was going to do it. But I wrote it down anyways.

Over the coming years, I moved several times and lost track of the notebook where I had written that goal down.

Years later, I came across my journal. I realized I had achieved many of the goals I had written down, but certainly not all of them.

Advantage: The big advantage is that you take the time to map out the journey ahead and define success. Another advantage to this method is that you actually take the time to think about what you might really want to achieve.

An important step is to survey every area in your life and set goals for each area. Set fitness goals, professional and career goals, relationship goals, etc.

Short-coming: An important aspect of effective goal setting is making sure that you know keep an oversight regarding where you are in the process. Like I did, it’s hard work coming up with all of these goals, and fleshing them out so you can write them down. But because there is so much information in this method, I lost the overview, and ultimately nearly forgot that I had done the exercise.

This method in my opinion is that it is a spray and pray method. As in my case, it’s easy to write all of this important information down, and forget to ever read it again. It’s easy to lose a sense of urgency, and it doesn’t really invove seting up an action plan.

Setting Goals by the Working Backwards Method

This method involves setting a specific goal for a future date and requires you think about what would have to happen to reach that goal. A simple example would be the following:

Suppose you have your own business and you want to have 10 new customers within the next 90 days.

You can break the 90 days into weeks. Then, you can split tasks that would have to happen to move your project forward by each week. Depending on your closing ratio expectations, you could set an objective for the short-term.

Since your aim is 10 new customers, you would more than likely set objectives to talk to 100 people within the next 6-8 weeks to give yourself time to close the business.

Each week would have specific objectives and action steps. You would also be able to monitor whether you are successful or not. At the end of 90 days, it would be clear whether you met your objective and whether your mission is complete.

Advantage: This method can help you create realistic goals, plan resources and define good ways to complete an important goal.

Short-Comings: If you fall behind, it’s easy to give up, feel disempowered or get stuck by going back to living without a plan.

Innovative Goal-Setting Process

So what is the best way to set a goal? According to Bob Proctor’s Thinking into Results, the first step is by setting a new goal for yourself that inspires you.

Further effective goals are big goals, and the best way to create a worthy goal is to allow yourself to relax and imagine that if you could do anything, what would it be?

It’s important to allow yourself to daydream. Ask yourself if you had no constraints, what would you want to achieve. The problem that most people have is that they think their big goals are silly. You might be afraid that someone would laugh at you if you told them what you really want to achieve.

There is a significant difference between the goal I’m talking about here and the typical measurable goal that most people set.

Most people set attainable goals, or at least that they think is attainable for specific areas in their lives, but they are boring. The goal ideas don’t inspire them.

You goal plans MUST inspire you, otherwise, you will give up on them.

You will want to set a goal so big that you inspire you on a really deep level. It’s important to note that you most likely won’t know how you are going to achieve it.

Further, you will only want to set a couple of goals at a time.

Next, you will want to write out the goal on a goal card and carry it around with you in your pocket or set it as your lock screen on your smart phone.

Bob had me write down the following: I’m so happy and grateful now that…

Now fill in your goal. It can be anything like:

-I won the world championship in my sport.

-My annual income is now my monthly income.

-I have a happy loving relationship.

Everyday, repeat the goal and keep it in front of you. Write it 100 times a day, or write it 25 times a day with your non-dominant hand. Stand on one foot and recite your goal.

The idea is to get your body in action with your goal.

This will help you get your will in alignment with your goal. The path to your goal will begin to open up, and it will become more and more clear how you can get the key results you are looking for.

You can then use any of the other methods I mentioned to help you zero in on your goal achievement.

Paul Clukey

Paul is an author, business owner, online blogger, kite surfer, fitness enthusiast father of three, who loves personal development and spends his free time learning and implementing new concepts to grow personally and help others achieve success.

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