Goal setting is one of the best ways to build a better future for yourself. But what is it exactly? Where should you start? What’s the best way to achieve your goals?
These are great questions to keep in mind as you travel along your goal setting journey.
The goals you set for yourself may be ever-changing, but the process should always be the same. In other words, the system that you use to achieve your goals should be set up the same way each time, no matter your objective.
A Definitive Guide To Goal Setting: How To Set And Achieve Your Goals
Goal setting isn’t just one of those things you can say you’re going to do and then hope it all works out.
It takes deliberate effort to set and achieve your goals. Will it be easy? Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t. Either way, the results you seek will be worth the time you put in.
Because I believe that you can create your ideal life by fully utilizing the 24 hours that you get each day.
That by going for a run instead of eating a cookie, or by taking a course instead of watching a show, you can start building a better future for yourself today.
Goal setting is one of the best ways you can do just that. Goal setting, as you’ll soon learn, takes a look at the future that you seek and helps you put steps into place for you to get there.
With that, the following sections are covered within this guide. Let’s dive in.
I. Understand goal setting
- What is goal setting?
- What should your goals be?
- The importance of goal setting
- Will you always reach your goals?
II. Use goal setting
- Types of goal setting
- The goal setting process
- How to set goals
- How to achieve goals
III. Enhance your goal setting
- Examples of goals
- Goal setting resources
- More goal setting articles
- Moving forward
I. Understand goal setting
Often the best place to start is at the beginning, and it’s no different for goal setting. Before we dig into the process of goal setting, it would help to explain what it is.
So… what is goal setting?
What is goal setting?
Simply, goal setting is the process of envisioning a brighter future for yourself and creating actionable steps to help you get there.
That could be attaining some large achievement or reaching some destination or milestone, the end-point doesn’t matter. What matters is that you set a target for yourself in the future, create a plan to reach it, and then start working towards it.
At its most basic level, that’s all it is. Setting an objective, plotting a course, and taking action.
As I’ll soon explain, there are various types and lengths of goals. Some goals are short, some are long, some are based around your personal life, others revolve around work or health, etc.
The real takeaway here is that you can use goals to create a better life for yourself in all capacities.
What should your goals be?
I once set a goal that over the course of a year I wanted to read 1-2 books a month. So I worked out the details of what that would look like and when I would make the time to read, and I started reading.
I chipped away a little bit each day.
Some months I would get through 3 books, others 1, and sometimes none. Either way, I knew I was on the right path.
And, after that year came and went, I clocked in at officially 21 books completed. I’d like to think that that number would’ve been even higher, but I read a couple of lengthy biographies that slowed me down.
Why am I telling you this?
To simply make the point that without setting and working towards that goal, there would’ve been a year with exactly 21 fewer great books in my life. 21 fewer pieces of knowledge and wisdom for me to learn from and enjoy.
In other words, by setting and achieving that goal for myself, I gained a tremendous amount of value and had a great time doing it!
Goals don’t have to be this big arduous thing, although the loftiest ones do normally come with that requirement. Goals should be something that fill you up with excitement and hope for a better future.
Because you will hit road blocks along the way. There will be bumps throughout your journey, but by having a foundation, a strong reason for working towards that goal, you will have the resolve necessary to keep on pushing.
The importance of goal setting
Goal setting is vastly important for one very specific reason:
It forces you to look at where you are today, imagine a brighter future, and chart a path to get there.
To put it another way, it requires that you use your time wisely each day in order to achieve a better tomorrow. It’s a great way to see where you are today, where you want to be down the road, and how you believe you can best get there.
So really, goal setting is important because of the opportunity that it provides – it gives you the roadmap and structure to create the life you want.
Now, will you always reach your goals? Not necessarily. Even those with the best plans will come up short from time to time.
Will you always reach your goals?
Personally, I’ve missed the mark on numerous goals. It’s rarely due to work ethic or determination. Most of the time it’s because:
- The goal actually takes longer to achieve than I thought it would
- Or the steps that I put into place led me in the wrong direction
Either way, if/when you miss a goal it’s not an excuse to give up, it’s a learning lesson for you to take advantage of. If you don’t hit your timeline the first time around, re-evaluate, learn what you can, and put new steps into place to help you get there this next time.
For example, I always wanted to lose weight. I felt that I could stand to lose a few pounds and wanted to make it happen. So I set a goal to lose somewhere around 15 pounds in 6 months.
And 6 months later, I was down 5 pounds.
That’s nowhere near 15.
So did I give up? Throw in the towel? No, I re-evaluated and put new plans into place instead. And what I eventually landed on was the fact that my weight loss journey would take more time to achieve than I had originally planned for.
The result: over the course of several years, I not only lost the 15 pounds, but I lost (and have kept off) a total of ~ 30 pounds.
If I had given up on my initial goal after those first 6 months, I’d probably still be in the same spot that I started at. But, instead of giving up I changed the plan and my timeline, and eventually achieved my goal and then some.
Keep that in mind as you go about your own journey. As long as you keep learning, iterating, and improving, you can reach the goals that you’re after.
For more help, read our post on overcoming adversity.
II. Use goal setting
Now that you understand what goal setting is, it’s time to explore how you can go about setting goals in your own life. Use this section to take the next step in your goal setting journey – actually setting, working towards, and achieving your goals.
The ideal life that you seek is just a goal or two away. Let’s jump in.
Types of goal setting
Something to keep in mind during the goal setting process is the length of goal that you choose set. There are 3 types of goal lengths that you will work with:
Technically, short term goals are anything that take less than 12 months to achieve and long term goals are anything that take more than 12 months to achieve.
However, I’ve found that a more realistic time frame for these lengths is:
- Short: 3-6 months
- Medium: 6-18 months
- Long: 18-24+ months
You can decide for yourself what works best for you. I’ve found that using short term goals in combination with a long term vision seems to work better than setting a specific long term goal.
The goal setting process
There is a straightforward system that you can use for setting goals. It’s a plan of attack that I’ve applied time and time again to set and achieve my own goals.
It’s a process that has allowed me to:
- Run multiple half marathons
- Build better relationships with loved ones
- Learn various programming languages
- Write posts like this
- And much more
I don’t list these things to brag. I list them so that you know that it works. That if you are patient, trust the process, and put in the work, you can achieve the goals that you’re after.
It may not always happen on the timeline that you set for yourself, but again, as long as you keep learning and improving, you can get to where you want to go.
How to set goals
When it comes to how to set goals for yourself, there are 4 steps to take:
- Plot your steps
- Write it down
- Get to work, start achieving
Introspection deals with your today and tomorrow. It requires you to look at who you currently are, what you currently do, and where you want to be in the future.
Plot your steps then asks you to create a plan that will take you from where you are today, to the better future you envision for yourself down the road.
Write it down has to do with keeping yourself accountable by writing down your goals and actions to get there.
Finally, Get to work, start achieving refers to the process of putting in the work to achieve those goals.
If you’re thinking that these steps are coming off as a little simplified, you’re right. That’s because this is just a summary to give you a taste. You can read the full post on how to set goals < there.
How to achieve goals
With your goals now set, it’s time to go about achieving those goals. The process of achieving your goals can be broken down into 2 steps:
- Keep track
- Take a step
Keep track requires you to check in with yourself from time to time. To set checkpoints, milestones that you need to hit in order to make sure you’re still on the right track.
Take a step is similar to Get to work, start achieving but has one big difference. Take a step has to deal with putting in the work once you’ve already been at the process for some time, once things start to get hard. This step requires you to keep pushing even when faced with adversity.
Again, this is a summarized version of the full process. You can read the entire post on how to achieve goals (plus what to do when you miss and/or reach them) < there.
III. Enhance your goal setting
With your goals now set, you may be wondering what you can do to enhance your goal setting efforts. In other words, the tools, resources, and examples you can use to aid in your own journey.
Well, this section is dedicated to just that. Let’s continue.
Examples of goals
It’s helpful to have a few examples in mind of what your goals could potentially be. After all, knowing what stands out to you will make the goal setting process that much easier.
There are nearly endless avenues in life for which you can set goals for. Let’s take a look at a few examples for students, work, and personal life to help provide some inspiration.
Goal setting examples for students
As a student in any capacity (whether in the classroom or out in the world), there are various goals you can set for yourself. Here are some examples of goal setting for students:
- Take an online course in a subject that interests you and complete it within 2 months
- Save up $5,000 to travel abroad and learn from a new culture
- Complete your semester with a 3.8 GPA or higher
- Read 1 book a month over the course of 6 months
Goal setting examples for work
Similar to goal setting for students, you can also set goals for your work life – whatever you define work to be.
Whether that’s as a stay at home parent, an entrepreneur running something on the side, or a dedicated corporate employee, there are always new goals that you can set for yourself. For example:
- Get your side business up and running within 7 months
- Double your client base by the start of next quarter
- Get promoted to a new department within the next 6 months
- Save up $2,500 for a minor home remodel by June
Goal setting examples for life
Acting almost as a miscellaneous category for everything else, there is a myriad of goals you can set in your personal life. They could be financial goals, health goals, relationship goals, you name it.
Here are some general goals that you can set for yourself.
- Spend 1 hour each night, for the next 3 months, doing specific family time activities
- Gain 8 pounds of muscle over the next 8 months
- Save up a down payment of 20% for a new home over the next year
- Adopt a pet within the next 6 months
Goal setting resources
There are a lot of resources that you can use to enhance your goal setting efforts. In particular, you want to be on the lookout for valuable tools, courses, and newsletters.
Tools: If you are looking for specific methods, apps, and books related to goal setting, check out our post on goal tracker tools.
Course: If you want a step-by-step program with detailed instructions on goal setting, take a look at my goal setting course.
Newsletter: Simply, you can learn more about the newsletter here.
Bonus: The concepts of productivity and time management are critical when it comes to harnessing your time and achieving your goals. Because of that, be sure to also check out the following posts:
- My productivity guide
- Time management strategies
- How to use the Pomodoro technique for better focus
- How to be productive
- Time management tips
More goal setting articles
Want even more goal setting? Take a look at our full list of goal setting posts:
- The Traditional Method Of Goal Setting Is Seriously Flawed
- For A Goal Outside Your Comfort Zone, Ease Into It
- Have Multiple Goals? Here’s How To Balance Them Effectively
- Is Motivation All You Need To Achieve Goals? In Short, No.
- Fulfillment Needs To Be At The Root Of Every Goal You Set
- A Simple Way To Tell If Your Goals Are Unrealistic | Do This
- Remember This Next Time Your Goal Conditions Aren’t Ideal
- When Is The Right Time To Tell People About Your Goals?
- Does Goal Setting Still Make Sense Right Now? Ya, Why Not?
- More Productivity Isn’t Going To Help You If You’re Lost
- Don’t Worry. The Duration Of The Goal Doesn’t Really Matter.
- Your High Expectations Are Getting In The Way Of Your Goals
- There Are Two Types Of Goals – Each With Consequences
- My Goal Report For August 2020: Goodbye Kettlebell Swings
- 4 Steps To Stop Failure: Do This When You Next Come Up Short
- My Goal Report For July 2020: How I Achieved 11 Goals
- Do You Really Need To Use A Goal Tracker? Yes. Use This One.
- How To Achieve Goals That Are Seemingly Impossible
- How To Set Goals (When You’ve Come Up Short In The Past)
- Tips For Reaching Your Goals (In An Unpredictable World)
- Why You Keep Falling Short Of Your Goals (And How To Fix It)
- How To Focus When Scatterbrained – Let Your Goals Guide You
- Do You Need Goals In Life To Be Successful? It Depends.
- New Year, New You, Right? Goals To Set To Make It Happen
- My 2020 Reading Experiment: How To Read More Than Ever Before
- Jumpstart Your Future With Short Term Goals – Here’s How
- Long Term Goals: Do You Really Need Them? [Goals Explained]
- Overcoming Adversity On The Road To Goal Setting Greatness
- How To Achieve Your Daily Goals (Use This Exclusive Tool!)
As you go about your goal setting journey, be sure to revisit this post from time to time. Refresh your self with the steps to take, the reasons why goal setting is so important, and the resources that you can use.
Achieving your goals will take time, but the time is going to move either way. You might as well spend it working towards something that will create a better future for yourself.
When challenges come up, remind yourself of why you want to accomplish that goal. When you reach milestones, give yourself a pat on the back. If you miss your mark, reevaluate and try again.
And when you do eventually reach your destination, celebrate and appreciate the journey for what it is. Look back at all that you’ve accomplished and gaze ahead to where you still want to go.
Use your time effectively and start taking action today.