A Short Guide to Goal Setting

In order to move with the motions of the world, and to progress on an individual level, it is crucial to set goals and to see them through to the end. When everything is already working it can be best to go with the flow and let the universe carry you downstream. When nothing is flowing, and when nothing seems to move by itself, it is a good idea to set goals, and to do so in a way that helps you to achieve long term aims; the trick to seeing long-term aims through to the end is in the effective setting of attainable goals. Here is a short guide to help you on the way.

my goals - white chalk handwriting on vintage slate blackboard

Decide What You Want

Without direction, you are never going to know which way to swim. It can be difficult to prioritize wants and needs, but if we never make a decision to act, and to follow a certain aim, then we will never get anything done. The pre-requisite to goal setting then, is to decide what you want. This is a personal decision that often involves following inclinations and prioritizing what is most important to you right now.

Choose a few areas of improvement that would most benefit from your work; they will become the primary object of your focus. Focus is the direction of energy towards achieving goals. If you want to write a book, but you also want to swim the channel, get a new job, and do a degree, then it might be time to prioritize your aims. It takes a committed person to do all of these at once and succeed, so be realistic and decide what is actually most important to you. Maybe for now, studying for the degree, holding down the job, and training for the channel is enough, without writing the book. Write the book after swimming the channel!

Decide What Options Are Available

There may be more than one path to obtaining the goal. Often there are many and it will depend on how you can best apply yourself. See the positive in having too many options; it’s better than having too few options. Again, it is all a matter of focus. Whether taking more than one route, or just sticking on the main road, you will need to think about how it is possible to achieve the goal.

For example, if a goal is financial, for example to raise $2000 this year, then you will need to break this down into actual physical options; because unless you are extremely lucky, money will not materialize from thin air. In this case, the goal needs to be broken down and a path chosen to get the money flowing in. The achievement of this same goal will be different for everyone, as each person will have to best apply their own skills.


This is perhaps the most referred to acronym when it comes to goal setting. There is a reason for this, and the “SMART” way of setting goals is perhaps the best way to demonstrate how to turn a vague, unobtainable goal, into a refined and achievable one. To illustrate this the same example will be used throughout; Saving some money.

  • Specific- Goals must be as specific as you can make them, taking them out of the realms of the general, and therefore the fantasy, and turning them into specific goals. Instead of “saving some money” a better goal is to “save enough money to go abroad without affecting my current standard of living.” This helps to define what exactly you are aiming for and importantly, why.
  • Measurable- There is no way to know whether you are on track with accomplishing the goal if there is no way to define, or measure it. Saying “saving some money to go abroad” is not as effective as knowing how much you are likely to need. After researching how much it might cost, and what is realistic to save, a better goal might be “saving $2500 to go abroad.” This helps to set a goal that can be checked on, for example by measuring monthly savings to see if you are on track.
  • Actionable- Goals should start with action verbs, or “doing words.” Doing words set the goal into motion on a conceptual level, making it easier to see how the goal is routed in action in real life. To “be better at saving” is not as effective as “to save $2500 to go abroad,” because “being better at saving” does not call forth action towards actually saving some money.
  • Realistic- The whole idea of setting goals is to make them easier to achieve. If they are completely unrealistic this actually has the opposite affect, and will dishearten you when the targets are not met. If you earn $15,000 a year, it might be unrealistic to say you will save $10,000, unless part of the plan is to increase income dramatically. By being realistic you can believe in your goals, and see them through to the end. Therefore being realistic sand saying “Saving $2500 to go abroad,” and then managing to save more, is more constructive than saying “saving $10,000” and having no way of achieving the goal.
  • Time-Bound- Without a date a goal is not defined, and no motivating force has been placed to help achieve it. Without time a goal is just a dream, and achieving it may be a wishy-washy life-long quest. Pick a date that you would like to have the goal finished by; be realistic and specific. The final touch to the goal then is by saying “To save $2500 to go abroad by December 2014.”

Check The Next Page To Read About Reviewing Goals and Being Dynamic