How to Set Goals and Achieve Them


Goal-setting is important. It gives you a sense of purpose. It gives you direction. It inspires greater life goals. The path towards achieving your goals might not be straight, smooth, or easy. But setting measurable goals and achieving success helps you level up in your personal development. Creating action plans for specific goals keeps you engaged and increases your overall happiness.

Pablo Picasso famously said:

Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.

In regards to goal-setting, he's absolutely correct. Only by creating a plan that we believe in and firmly executing on these goals can we bring them to reality. If you feel stuck today, stop beating yourself up. I am here to help you build a mental framework to propel you towards your goals.

How to Set Goals

Andrew Carnegie, one of the richest men in history, once said:

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.

Before you set your goals, consider what achievements are important to you. These goals should be:

  • Motivating and inspiring to you.
  • Written down on paper.
  • SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).
  • Planned thoroughly.
  • Crossed off upon completion.

Goal-setting is an incredible process to set your long-term goals and create your ideal self. You should be excited and motivated every day to mold your vision into your life. The process of setting goals helps you where to focus your efforts. Remove all the distractions that may lead you astray. Commit fully into your vision for who you want to become.

Setting Your Personal Goals

Setting your goals should be motivating. People who achieve their goals understand that setting priorities is important. Once you set your goals, stick to your goals. Stop procrastinating. Don't be afraid that you don't have everything all figured out on day one. Overcoming obstacles is a quintessential part of life. Here are some of the golden rules for goal achievement:

Golden Rules For Setting Goals

  1. Express your goals as a positive statement - Don't beat yourself up. Write down goals that inspire you.

  2. Be specific - Set goals with exact numbers, time frames, and details so you will know exactly when you have achieved your goal.

  3. Don't set too many goals - People set too many goals which leads to feelings of overwhelm. Having fewer goals allow you to focus on your highest priorities.

  4. Make your goals visible - In positive psychology, seeing your goals remind yourself of what you need to accomplish. It calls for building self-efficacy and mastery.

  5. Keep action goals incremental - Action goals are the smaller goals to accomplishing higher-level goals. Actions goals that are too big are discouraging. Keep these small and achievable in the allotted time.

  6. Don't set goals outside your control - You should be setting and achieving goals that are within your control. For example, instead of setting a goal to "lose 10 pounds", you can set a goal to "eat 1200 calories only per day".

  7. Be realistic - Don't let people set unrealistic goals for you. You should set goals with a good understanding of the obstacles in your way and your current skill level.

When You Achieve Goals

When you reach your goal, take a moment, and reward yourself. Reflect on the sacrifices you made to achieve that goal. Reflect on your progress for your other goals to achieve.

If you achieved a major goal, take this moment to appreciate the moment. All this is building up your confidence to tackle your next goal.

Take a retrospect once you accomplish your goals:

  • If the goal took too hard, make the next goal easier.
  • If the goal was too easy, make the next goal harder.
  • Write down the things you learned along the way.
  • Figure out where you are still deficient, and set goals to fix these areas.

Set Long-term/Life Goals

What big-picture goals do you have? Identify all the major goals you want to accomplish with your life. You can go as large as "life goals" to even a 10-year goal. In the words of Bill Gates:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.

You can break your goals down by categories:

  • Career - what do you want to achieve in your professional life?
  • Finance - How much do you want to earn?
  • Education - What knowledge or skills do you want to acquire?
  • Family - Do you want to have kids?
  • Physical - Do you want to be physically fit? Are there any athletic goals you want to achieve?
  • Life-style - What do you want your day-to-day to be like?
  • Service - How do you want to make an impact on the community?

Once you are able to set your goals for the long-term, consider cutting down to 5 highly significant and focused goals.

If you run a business, think about what business goals you may have. You should always set goals to improve your business as well as yourself. Set SMART goals based on where your business is, and where you want to take it. You can use a similar framework to set your business goals and objectives.

Set Short-term Goals

After you have set your long-term goals, break them down to be smaller goals. This will help you create an action plan. You can build daily plans, monthly plans, six-months plans, and one-year plans based on your long-term goals.

In the beginning stages, you should invest in knowledge, experience, and information to achieve your goals. For example, if you want to be a software engineer at Facebook, you will need to develop your understanding of algorithms and be able to write concise code.

Finally, review your plans. Make sure they correlate with your ideal life.

Staying Consistent

Once you have set your long-term and short-term goals, commit to the plan. Keep driving towards your goals through a daily todo-list that leads to your larger goals.

Stay consistent. Everything you want life to be will take time. But if you are fully committed and invested, you will be able to make your goals a reality.

Periodically review your short-term and long-term plans. You can modify them based on changes in life and priorities.

Examples of Personal Goals

Let's build a persona named Esther. She is currently a financial analyst at Intel. She recently sat down to evaluate what she wants to do with her life.

Career: "To run a finance division at Intel."

Physical: "To run the Iron Man."

Finance: "To consistently make $100,000."

Now that Esther has laid down her long-term goals, she will break them down into more manageable short-term goals. Let's break down how she might meet her physical goal - Running the Iron Man:

Three-year goal: "Run the Iron Man for the first time."

One-year goal: "Complete five triathlons."

Six-month goal: "Be able to individually swim 2.5 miles, ride a bike for 50 miles, and run 15 miles"

As you can see, you start planning from the end. Break down the goal into digestible pieces to see how the goal will be accomplished.

Final Words

Goal-setting is important to:

  • Figure out your life goals.
  • Motivate and energize yourself.
  • Separate your priorities from distractions.
  • Use the momentum to shift your current success into future success.

Starting out is never easy. But once you have set the direction for your life, it's much easier to build a roadmap. Though the journey is never as straight or predictable as you want it to be, learn to enjoy the journey along the way. When you fall in love with the journey, your life immediately becomes more enjoyable. Set big goals. Accomplish great things. Be the person you believe you can be. Stop settling for less than you deserve today.