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9 tips to set and achieve any goal

Learn how to create goals so that you are more likely to meet them.

We've all set new year’s resolutions or other objectives that we've been highly committed to at the start but then let slide. If this has ever happened to you, you'll have discovered that goal setting is more than simply stating what we will or will not do.

If we're looking to change something, no matter what it is, correctly establishing the goal and how we'll get there is fundamental to achieving it.

When I'm coaching, my role is to help someone set their goal and empower them to reach it. There are many ways to do this. Outlined below are 9 tips that will increase the likelihood of goal attainment.

9 red arrow aeroplanes flying in formation
Copyright: Sean Alabaster Unsplash

Tip #1 - Visualize your future self

Paint yourself a picture of where you are heading (not literally, though you can if you want to) but at least see your destination. Imagine what your future self will be doing and how you'll be feeling. Bring it all to life in your mind.

Try it on: When I am xxx, I will....

Don’t worry about how you're going to get there as it stifles the imagination. Let’s just understand what it is you're really wanting to achieve.

If you think freely enough you should be able to picture this future you.

To really be sure about what you want, tell someone about your vision. Saying it outloud clarifies it and makes it feel more possible.

Often it is because we didn’t take the time to truly think about what we wanted that we end up somewhere else so don't skip this one!

Tip #2 - Know your goal's why

If you are going to achieve that vision then this future needs to be personally meaningful to you. If it isn't, it won't motivate you sufficiently to do what's needed.

"Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction ." John F. Kennedy

Get clear on why this future matters to you. And it can't be a should or a must reason!

ASK: What will having/being this do for me? and Why is that important?

Drill down on each answer asking the same question over and over again. This will surface what is driving your dream. Up to 5 times can help get to the truth of why it's important to you.

Tip #3 - Make the goal specific

Vague goals (lose weight, walk more, meditate, start exercising) might seem achievable, they aren’t.

It's far easier to commit to taking action when you are clear on what you will do by when.

By making the end state measurable, you gain a clear destination and the way to get there obvious.

We have all set ourselves SMART objectives at work. Do the same for yourself.

Knowing what you want is key to this. Go back to Tip #1 if you still haven't done your imagining!

Tip #4 - Make sure the goal is positive

There are two types of goals: towards/approach goals and away from goals. Generally it is more motivating to go towards an outcome, as you know where you are going.

It is also more empowering to state what you are going to do.

It's difficult to keep going if you are far away from a starting point but have no idea where you are going. You need the outcome in mind to pull you forward.


  • I am not going to go to bed late (vague) or at midnight (away from goal)

  • I am going to go to bed at 10 pm.

Tip #5 - Make your do-goals (actions) SMART

So we have a vision of how we would like things to be and we know why this matters to us. We’ve crafted a specific and positive goal. We now need to determine the how.

This is where things can fall apart. It's usually because we haven’t made the actions (what I term do-goals) SMART.


People are working hard, there's a lot to get done but morale is low. An outcome of the staff engagement survey is that people are not feeling particularly appreciated or valued. As a Team Leader, you recognise you could do more in this area. You take some time to set SMART actions.

Specific> I will increase the number of times I appreciate what my team do at work from 0 to 2 times a month.

Measurable> I will note when I do this. I will log what I notice and add a summary to the PDRs. I will use the quarterly staff pulse to see if this creates change in engagement response.

Achievable> I will set a reminder to do this at project milestones and project conclusions.

Relevant> I will do it in meetings and by email.

Timely>In the next 1-2-1s with each member of the team I will ask them how they best like to receive feedback. I will start and log my appreciative comments next month.

Tip #6 - Be prepared for obstacles

Do not expect everything to be plain sailing. Consider what barriers might exist to reaching this goal and/or maintaining it if it's a habit action.

Being prepared for an issue before it happens allows you to handle it best. You can respond rather than react, keeping you in choice and control.

Take some time to consider both external factors that may impact or interfere with you achieving your goal and internal factors (your thoughts, habits, etc).

Develop strategies to manage or remove them including what resources you might need and people who can help you.

Tip #7 - Build in rewards for progress

Using a reward system is an effective way to support and motivate action. We all respond well to rewards.

A reward can be anything which you enjoy. They don’t have to be expensive or cost anything at all. It just needs to be positive and motivational!


There was something I needed to get done last year. It wasn’t something I was keen to do but knew I had to do it.

I knew it would take a lot of energy to push myself to have the conversation with someone. To help motivate me I set a reward: once the outcome was assured I would book myself a massage.

It ended up needing more than one conversation to get the outcome I desired but I have now had the massage 😊

Tip #8 - Review, reflect and revise

Once you are underway, it’s important to review your progress to ensure you are on track and heading in the right direction. It’s far easier to course correct sooner than later.

I recommend you:

  • Track progress – whether that’s in an app, an excel spreadsheet or a notebook. Seeing what you have achieved builds self-efficacy and reduces frustration if your goal is a long-term thing. Keep it somewhere prominent!

  • Make an appointment with yourself – to review how it’s going and make changes. I would make this at least monthly when it’s a big goal. Weekly for something smaller.

  • Revise and adapt – your goal is a statement of intent not a vow, this means it can be amended as can your method of getting there.

Tip #9 - Write it down

You might think you can do all this in your head but your brain works best when we take time, write it all down, draw or map it.

When we do this we see the future laid out in front of us.

Putting it down on paper brings in other senses and helps establish the goal in your mind. From there our problem solving brain goes to work identifying how it can get you there.


Goal setting is more than simply stating what you will or will not do. You need to spend time bringing the goal to life and know how you are going to get there. By taking the time do what's outlined here you give yourself a better chance of achieving success.

I encourage you to take some time for yourself and consider what you want and how you can get there. These 9 secrets will help unlock the way.

If goal setting and taking action isn’t easy for you then why not explore doing empowerment coaching with me. It helps people get going and stay on track. Get in touch to learn more.


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