How To Set Goals and Achieve Them

10 Goal-Setting Tips To Help You Achieve

Goal Setting Tips
How to set goals and achieve them. Photo: Image (c) LWA / Getty Images

Goal setting can help you create a realistic plan to put you on the right path to accomplishing your goals or objectives. If you are having trouble achieving your business or personal goals, you're not alone. It might be time to change your approach to goal setting. Successful goal setting starts with identifying specific goals and planning how you intend to achieve them in a realistic way. This article contains goal-setting tips to help you establish, track, and accomplish your goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Setting goals can help you establish a short, medium, and long-term strategy for success.
  • Effective goal setting includes having goals that are worthwhile, achievable, and specific.
  • Prioritize your goals and make them public to help keep you stay committed.
  • It helps to evaluate and track your progress, quantifying your results along the way.

Why Set Goals

A goal represents an aim, desire, or objective that you'd like to accomplish in the future. When you establish goals, you're taking an active role in outlining the steps necessary to achieve that outcome. For example, if your goal is to become a nurse, you might write down the steps needed to achieve your career objective, which might include training, studying, and creating a study or work schedule.

Setting goals can help you establish a short, medium, and long-term strategy for success. Goal setting can help boost your engagement and provide a sense of purpose, particularly when working in a team environment.

To stay on target, it's essential to track the progress of your goals by revisiting them periodically. If possible, quantify the results of your progress. Sometimes a long-term goal can be daunting, but tracking your progress will help you gain confidence and momentum as you see your short and medium-term goals being accomplished. If you're working in a team, goal setting and tracking the results can help ensure everyone is on the same page and working towards the same outcome.


Goals need to be specific and good intentions aren't enough. Just because you intend to change a particular behavior, such as saving more or eating healthy, it doesn't necessarily lead to the behavioral change and the accomplished goal.

How To Set Goals and Achieve Them

Choose Goals That Are Worthwhile

You would think it would go without saying, but lots of people set meaningless goals and then wonder why they don't feel any sense of achievement. Remember that the purpose of goal setting is to move us forward and spur positive change. If a goal doesn't have this motivating, transformational quality, don’t bother with it. You'll just be disappointed.

Deciding to start a business is a worthy, life-changing goal—it can spur you on to investigate business ideas, put together a business plan, obtain debt or equity financing, hire employees, and market your products or services. Going back to school for a degree or to learn a trade is a worthy goal.

Choose Goals That Are Achievable Stretches

The fact that goals have to be achievable is standard advice on the topic of how to set goals. Pretty well everyone knows that there's no point in setting a goal that you will never be able to accomplish. All you'll do is get frustrated and abandon it. Less well known is the fact that goals need to stretch you in some fashion. If a goal isn't engaging, you'll get bored and abandon it. (See Your Goal Setting Guide for more on this.)

Make Your Goals Specific

Goals that are vague or non-specific are a recipe for failure. To decide that you're going to lose 20 pounds or get out of debt, for instance, is nice, but provides you with no guidance for doing that.

Think how much easier it would be to accomplish if you knew exactly what you were going to do to lose the weight. So when you're goal setting, use a goal-setting formula that gives your goal a built-in action plan. You'll start accomplishing more than you thought possible. If you're running a business and wish to increase your sales by 20% this year, for instance, you will need to come up with a plan; perhaps you need to increase sales productivity, or create a social media marketing campaign on Facebook.

Commit to Your Goals

You need to dedicate yourself to accomplish the goal you have chosen. That's why writing your goals down is a common goal-setting tip; it's the first step to committing to achieving your goals. Develop an action plan that clearly outlines your goals and how you intend to achieve them. Motivate yourself with a rags-to-riches story or famous quote. 

Also realize that accomplishing a goal is not an overnight process and that you are going to have to work regularly at transforming your goal into an accomplishment. And you have to set aside the time you will need to work on your goal.

Make Your Goal Public

Making your goal public is a technique that is really effective for many people. Think of organizations such as TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) and their weekly weigh-ins. Knowing that others are going to be monitoring your results ensures commitment to the goal and is extremely motivating. You don't have to join an organization or broadcast your goal on a Facebook page to make your goal public; having a goal buddy, a single person interested in your efforts, can be just as effective.

Prioritize Your Goals

Goals don't have to be huge projects that take months or even years to attain, but because they require commitment and need to be worked on regularly, every single goal that you set will be demanding. So don't sabotage yourself by taking on a bunch of goals at a time. Assuming that you are following all the other goal-setting tips presented here and know how to set goals that are worthwhile, I would recommend working on no more than three at a time, and even then you should choose one goal as your top priority.

Make Your Goals Real to You

Goal setting is basically a way to approach the process of accomplishment. It's a very successful way, if done right, but like all such processes, it's a bit abstract. Using techniques such as visualization to focus on what actually accomplishing your goal will be like and what it will do for you can be very powerful—and a great help in staying motivated. Choosing and posting pictures that represent successfully accomplishing your goal is another way of doing this.

Set Deadlines To Accomplish Your Goals

A goal without a deadline is a goal that you have not fully committed to and a goal you will not achieve. For one thing, if working on achieving a goal is something you can do whenever, you won't. For another, having a deadline will shape your plan of action.

To return to the debt example, it makes a great difference whether your goal is to be out of debt in two years or in five. Obviously you will have to reduce your spending or increase your income much more drastically to get out of debt sooner.

Evaluate Your Goals

Remember that goal setting is a process—and evaluation is an important part of that process. Don’t just settle for a "good" or "bad" assessment; think about what you did, how you did it, and what you got out of it. Whether you successfully accomplished your goal or not, there's always something to be learned: what works or doesn't work for you, whether achieving your goal lived up to your expectations, why you failed. Extracting these lessons will increase your accomplishments even more as you apply them to your future goal-setting experience.

Reward Yourself for Accomplishment

Internal satisfaction is a great thing, but external rewards can be immensely satisfying, too. When you accomplish a goal, you've devoted time and effort to your success, so take the time to celebrate your success, too. One caveat: don't undermine your efforts by choosing an inappropriate reward. Eating a huge slab of cheesecake is not an appropriate reward for losing 20 pounds; for example, a new outfit would be a more suitable choice.

The Bottom Line

Don't defeat your efforts before you even start to work on accomplishing your desired goals. Set yourself up for success rather than failure by applying these goal-setting tips and start achieving what you want to achieve.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is SMART goal setting?

SMART goal setting is a process designed to help you create goals that have certain characteristics that can boost your chances of achieving your desired outcome. SMART is an acronym in which your goals should be:

S: Specific

M: Meaningful

A: Achievable

R: Realistic

T: Trackable

Why is it important to set a goal?

Goal setting can help you establish a strategy for success and achieving your desired outcome. Tracking and quantifying your progress along the way can help build confidence as you see your short-term goals being accomplished. Writing down a specific plan with deadlines can help you stay committed and achieve your objectives.

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  1. Berkeley Well-Being Institute. "Goal Setting: How to Set and Achieve Your Goals."

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