How to Set Goals That You Will Actually Achieve

Updated: Feb 6


It's the first week of December and every year at this time, I start looking forward to the New Year. I absolutely love the new year. I love the idea of new opportunities, new adventures, and yes even new goals. I absolutely love the magic of the New Year. Making new goals is a natural thing for many of us. It's in our human nature to set goals at the start of something new. Whether it is the start of the new year, getting a new job, a new home, or even a new relationship, we all like to make goals at the start of something new. The New Year is a perfect time to set new goals and expectations for the rest of the year.

I am not alone in my excitement to start new goals at the beginning of the new year. In fact, 60% of us make new years resolutions. Many people make new goals to quit an old habit, such as smoking or start a new habit such exercising. We often look at the start of something new as a point in time to improve our lives. We start out focused and full of excitement and motivation. Ready to take on the challenges of improving our lives.

HIGH CHANCE OF FAILURE Although 60% of us make new years resolutions, 80% of those that make them will have given up on, or failed by the beginning of February and only about 8% will actually keep to and achieve their goals by the end of the year.

Study after study have examined why we fail to actually keep and achieve not only our new years resolutions, but other goals throughout the year. There are many reason that we fail to achieve the goals we were so hopeful for.

Everything from the reason we made the goal in the first place to overestimating our personal abilities to a lack of continued motivation all cause us to fail to achieve our goals. This in turn causes a continued cycle of hopefulness leading to failure which then leads to a decrease in self-esteem and a desire for change, which then brings us back to hopefulness.


By now, given the statistics, many of you may have already raised the white flag of surrender. You may have decided that making resolutions and goals is just not something for you. But wait, not all is lost! There is still hope. Remember that 8% of people that actually keep and achieve their new years resolutions? Those 8% prove that it can be done. So what is their secret?

It's not a secret. There is a definite way that most people are able to achieve the goals they set for themselves. They examine their current situations. They are truthful and honest about their abilities. They make goals that are achievable. They maintain their motivation. They find accountability. They seek out resources and help. They celebrate their successes.


One of the main reasons that we end up failing, is because we set ourselves up to fail right from the start. We make goals that are too vague, too impersonal, too unrealistic. We lack adding in vitally important information, and we don't make them personal to our own lives. That's right; right off the bat we fail at even stating our goals. So how do we make goals that will actually help us achieve them?


In the more than 20 years of not only writing my own personal goals, but also helping others write goals they can achieve, I have learned the exact formula for writing achievable goals. I have narrowed it down to 7 steps you must take in writing goals. I know many of you are already balking at having to do some "extra work" in the beginning as you are undoubtedly wanting to just get started with working on your goals. I understand. But this is where the first major problem arises. This is your make or break moment with goals, right at the start! Making goals that are well written and include all 7 steps, will assure you that IF you are willing to work for them, you WILL achieve them.

So lets get started!


The very first step in any journey, is knowing where you are right now. Take a moment to reflect on your current life and state of being. What are the current successes and struggles you are having? Where are you happiest? Where are you feeling discontented? Think over your past year, what did you accomplish and how did it make you feel to accomplish it? What did you struggle with or even (Gasp) fail at and how did that make you feel? Where are you rockin' it in your life? Where are you feeling like things need changed? Reflect on all areas of your life - where and why do you want to make changes and new goals? ~Need a little guidance? Here is a clarity self-assessment to get you started!~


After reflecting on the past year of successes and struggles, you will have some clarity on what areas of your life you want to make changes to and some inspiration for the things you want to accomplish in the coming year. This next step is to make a list of all the things you want to achieve over the next year.

Making a written list of these things is vital! One of the biggest lies we tell ourselves, is that we will remember things. Unfortunately, things that come to us in times of inspiration, can quickly leave our thoughts in the every day grind of life. Having a list of the things you want to accomplish will be especially helpful as you navigate your next year, and find yourself wondering what to do next.

It helps to take a sheet of paper and divide the page into four squares. Label each square with CAREER, HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS, and FREEDOM. That way you can see which areas of your life you really want to work towards improving. This helps you to recognize where you can improve your life the most and where things are already going well.

A word of caution though, this list is not a be all end all of your goals. It is what I like to call a living list. It is a list of ideas. Some of these items on the list will become your goals, some of them will be things to think upon, and some of them will even become something you eventually roll your eyes at even thinking on. You will add to and cross off items from this list as you move through these steps - and as you move through your year. This is a reflection list and all of these are okay. This is a starting point, not the end result. At the end of 2019, I had "decide whether to homeschool or not" on my list. Then 2020 hit. I didn't have to work towards this goal, nor did I have the ability to decide for myself if homeschooling was right for my family or not. It was thrust upon us. Now, at the end of 2020, I look at that line and just shake my head and snicker. And, there is no shame, or sorrow attached, it was just an item on an inspired list, that wasn't meant to be - or in this case WAS meant to be.


After having made your list in each of the four areas, take a look and decide which of these things would be considered a short term goal and which would be considered a long term goal. Things such as paying off a small debt would be a short term goal, paying off a student loan however, would more likely be a long term goal. Fixing a misunderstanding with your mother would be a short term goal, where finding someone to spend your life with may be a long term goal. Getting a promotion could be a short term goal, where starting a new career would be a long term goal.

When we can divide and recognize the long term versus the short term goals, we can begin to prioritize how we work towards our goals, and how much energy we will spend on each activity towards these goals.


Looking at your goals, ask your self why you want to accomplish these things. When you can identify why you want to accomplish them, you will have greater motivation to do the work needed to achieve them. When you increase your motivation and know why you are working on these goals, your chances of accomplishing your goals are greatly increased. When you are looking at finding your why, I encourage you to be very personal and specific, and yes, even selfish. We know that when our actions are based on the things we really want, we are much more likely to achieve them than if we state reasons that seem to be socially acceptable.

For instance, a recent client of mine made it his goal to go to the gym at least three times a week. He stated that his reason for attending the gym was to be healthier. As time went on however, his attendance at the gym decreased. When we talked about why this was, it was found that he was living a healthier life even without attending the gym. He was eating well, running and getting exercise at home. However, he still wanted to keep his goal of attending the gym.

After some deep diving into the issue, he was able to recognize that his motivation to attend the gym - "to be healthier" was not the motivation that was going to keep him going to the gym as he was already being healthier without the gym. He gave himself permission to get very specific and yes, even "selfish" and therefore he was able to figure out that attending the gym was not for the purpose of getting healthier - it was for the purpose of his own body image and what he wanted his body to look like. He knew that he was already getting healthier, he now wanted that muscular look that he couldn't achieve without the weight machines at the gym. Because he was able to acknowledge his true 'WHY", he has been able to return to the gym more often than he was, and is working towards his goal of the muscular look that requires him to attend the gym. Knowing your own specific personal "WHY" really will keep you motived and working towards your ultimate goals, but you must be honest with yourself, even if that means acknowledging your 'selfish reasons.'


You have reflected on why you want to achieve your goals, now you need to look at your goals, and start to think about how you would achieve them. This is not a perfect or complete step by step of how you will achieve them, but more of a litmus test of being honest about if you have what it will take to achieve them. Not only do you need the drive and determination, the motivation and the willingness, but you also need to assess if you have what you need to achieve these goals. This means, if your goal is to start a family, but you are not in a relationship or have access to adoption or other means of reproducing, maybe this goal should be deferred. Having a general idea of what it will take to achieve the goal, and knowing if you have what is necessary or have the ability to acquire what is necessary, are vial to knowing if your goal is right for you at this time. This does not mean that you should give up on the goals that you are not prepared for, this means that you should take first look at how you will achieve these goals and see if you have (or have the ability to get) the resources you need to achieve your goals.


As you navigate these steps, you come to a point where you have spent a lot of time and energy looking at your goals already and you may think you are already working on your goals, however this would be a false start. Having this false start is where many people end up thinking they are working on their goals, but in fact they are not. Step five is where you get serious about your goals. You have to make a decision about which goals to work on, which goals are first, and which goals you will put off. Which of the goals on your list do you really want to work on? As you have navigated over half the steps at this point, you have gained some clarity on your goals. Which of these goals are truly your own goals, and which did you write down because it seemed like something you should do? Which of your goals are you really willing to put in the work to achieve? In the effort of working towards a goal, you will have to give up two very valuable things in your life, your time and your energy. These are things you cannot get back.

So look over your goals, look at your reasons why you want to achieve them, then take the powerful step of making the decision to work and achieve your goals. When you make the decision to work towards a goal, you set in motion the energy and the attraction necessary to achieve your goals.


Now that you have navigated the previous six steps, its time to put it all together. From the very first step of reflection, through the last step of of putting it all together, you have done the necessary work that 80% of all people are not doing. You will have set yourself up for success in achieving your goals. Putting all of these steps together in written form helps you to stay on task and accountable to yourself for your goals.

Using a modified SMART goals outline that includes positive language, personalization, minor steps and major steps, as well as making time to celebrate your small wins along the way will ensure that you have written goals that set you up to actually achieve. Here are a few examples of well written goals that people have actually achieved:

*Because I want to look great at my class reunion this year, I will lose 20 pounds by August first by exercising at least three times a week (M-W-F) and making healthier food choices at least five days a week. * Because I want to take a vacation to Hawaii next year to reconnect with my husband in a fun and beautiful setting, and I know I will need to have at least $3000.00. I will put at least $200.00 a month into a new "vacation" savings account until April of next year.

* Because I want to get a promotion at work, I will seek out and complete any available opportunities to improve my work skills and knowledge in order to qualify for a promotion by September 15th.

Do you see how these well written goals will enable the writer to actually achieve their goals? They are personal, purposeful, and meaningful. They have a time frame, and an end result. Do these goals seem achievable? I think they do. And... these goals are real goals that my clients have not only drafted, but also achieved!!

When I work with my clients, I help them through all these steps and we work on putting together a commitment page. A commitment page, defines your goals, includes your personal reasons (your WHY), your plan to achieve your goals, your desired outcome, your time frame, the steps you will take, and when to celebrate. All the information in one page that will help you achieve your goals.

By following these steps, you have now successfully set up goals you will actually achieve!

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