How To Set Goals (And Why It Works)


how to set goals that stick and you can achieve

No matter what you want out of life—success, prosperity, love, happiness, serenity, a great job, a great mate, a great body—you can’t get there unless you know exactly where you’re headed.

Before embarking on any journey, it is absolutely essential you know here you want to go. (File this under “Duh!”, right?) But in order to plot your course (and recognize it when you get there) you need to know exactly what this thing looks like and where it can be found. These destinations we call goals have shown to be the #1 factor in predicting success.

For example, longitudinal studies have been conducted in which Harvard grads were followed 10 and 20 years after graduating. The biggest and really only predictor of success was whether the graduates had written down goals for themselves. While not every person in the study who created goals was necessarily a shining success, pretty much all the success stories involved written goals. What’s more, 100 percent of the biggest successes had written and continued to re-write goals for themselves on a consistent basis.

But there’s more to writing goals than scribbling, “1. Make a million dollars, 2. Quit sugar  3. Be athletic” on the back of a take-out menu.  Here are some secrets to making goal-setting as powerful as possible:

1. First, write “Goals” and the date at the top of a page. You’re going to list 10 goals you want to reach. You’re going to write them in the following form:

  • Start writing your goal with the personal pronoun “I.” You are the only person in the universe who can use that word in connection with yourself, and it’s the most potent way to express what you want and mean.
  • Phrase in the positive, not the negative. Instead of writing, “I will quit eating sugar”, write, “I am a healthy person who doesn’t consume sugar.”
  • Use the present tense. Instead of saying, “I will make a million dollars,” say “I have a million dollars in the bank” or “I am a millionaire.” Instead of saying, “I will lose 20 pounds say, “I weigh 160 pounds.”

(Sometimes it’s extra potent to attach a deadline or definite date, where viable. For example, you’d wrote, “I weigh 160 pounds on Christmas Eve, 2015.” It can also be more empowering to attach emotions where you can. In other words, ““I weigh 160 pounds on Christmas Eve, 2015, and I feel really energetic and sexy.” But since this exercise is leading toward winnowing your 10 goals down to 1, you can do this some other time.)

Life achievement - happy woman arms up in success. Back view of female silhouette proud of reaching her health goal arms raised looking at ocean and sunset. Happiness winning goal concept.

2. Take a look at your list of 10 goals. Pick one on which to focus. To help you decide which to choose, ask yourself: If one goal were to be 100% realized in the next 24 hours, which would have the biggest or most positive effect on your life? There’s your answer! Circle that one.

3. Now, get another page of paper and write that selected goal at the top. Next, list 20 ways you might reach or pursue that goal. The first 5 will be pretty easy. The next 5 get harder, and the final 10 is where it really gets interesting. Don’t edit yourself. For example, if this were a “I weigh 160 pounds” type thing, the first 5 might include joining Weight Watchers or taking up jogging. But soon, actions will become more focused, like “get up at 6am and walk to work,” “sign up for kickboxing,” “make all my lunches ahead of time and bring them to work,” “take a cooking class,” or “hike the Himalayas.”

4. Set the list aside and come back to it later. Among these 20 ideas will be one or more that really speak to you. Now, these may not appear to be the best or most rational strategies for attacking your goal, but chances are, it’s worth pursuing. Call it what you want, our gut or our heart or our soul, but whatever it is it’s almost always smarter about these things than our heads.

NOW that you have some idea of what your head, heart and maybe other body parts wants out of life, you can start to plot the course, plan your actions, and work on embodying the person best suited to get there.

Of course, one of the best things about all this is not the goal or destination, or even the journey. It’s about who you become along the way. And as you’ll discover, the best BEST part is, that person you become…it’s who you really were all along.