Consider this your comprehensive guide to setting goals and actually reaching them. This goal-setting process walks you through how to set goals that are in line with your values and helps you create an action plan so that you achieve them.
Do you find goal setting overwhelming or intimidating? If so, know that you’re not alone. Setting goals can be challenging, especially if you’ve had negative experiences in the past. Not meeting your goals, setting unrealistic New Year’s resolutions, or just not having a solid plan can leave you feeling like you’ve failed. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
Goal setting should be a positive experience. A journey you look forward to because you’re ready and excited to step into the best version of yourself. It’s about personal transformation, not restriction or punishment. You’re less like to stick to something that your mind views as a restriction. And that doesn’t equal long term success. Your goals shouldn’t be set out of punishment or fear. They need to come from a place of love and self-care. This comes from understanding where you are and moving lovingly toward where you want to be.
Why set goals?
Unlike resolutions, that can carry a negative vibe, goals are something positive. Goals are about creating action plans to get to the desired outcome. They’re like a road map. They provide direction on how to accomplish your dreams. Without goals, it’s easy to move through life without a sense of purpose or accomplishment. It’s an easy way to remain stagnant.
You can dream all you want but until you actually set a goal and create the plan on how to get there, your dream is just wishful thinking. Setting goals pushes you forward and challenges you to become the best version of yourself.
Why your goals don’t last
How many times have you set a goal, only to end up right back where started a few weeks later? When done right, goals are the foundation of creating new habits and making lifestyle changes. But most people focus all their energy on the endpoint rather than the process. This is the most common reason why most resolutions fail.
Other reasons goals fail inlcude:
- Setting unrealistic goals
- Setting goals that don’t align with your core values
- Giving yourself an unrealistic timeframe
- Lack of details or action plan
- Not holding yourself accountable
- Not measuring progress
- Lack of support
The goal-setting process
Goal setting is a process. It takes time to reflect, dig deep and get a crystal clear action plan in place. This is why I recommend carving out time (anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour) over the course of a few days. For example, you can split up your goal setting process over the course of two to three days. For example, on day one spend time reflecting and digging deep. + digging deep. On day two, get to work setting goals and creating your action plan.
That being said, if you find yourself on a roll and have the time and mental capacity to knock this all out in one day, have at it! I totally get the feeling when you’re in the flow and just can’t imagine picking back up later.
The key is to block off your time and actually doing it. Committing to the process is the first step. When you fully engage in the process it’s powerful and transformative. But you need to take action. Hone in, dig deep and commit to the full process.
How to prepare:
Set the tone
Setting goals can be a transformative and even spiritual practice. It’s time to put away distractions and give yourself the time to fully present. It’s a form of self-care. This is why I recommend preparing just a bit before diving straight into setting your goals.
Make sure you set aside time. You don’t want to rush this process. Block out the time you need. Schedule it in your calendar and then stick to it just like you would an appointment. Now set the tone. Go somewhere quiet, put away distractions (aka put away your phone) and creating a calming environment. This may look like lighting a candle, making a cup of tea, putting on an essential oil diffuser, or burning sage or palo santo. Do whatever you need to relax and make this process enjoyable.
Take Time to Reflect
Reflecting is 100% necessary before diving into the goal-setting process. You need to be aware of where you are at the moment but also acknowledge what you have accomplished this far. Be honest with yourself about what is holding you back, what roadblocks have come up, and why you might have not accomplished the goals you set in the past. Do this without passing judgment. This practice allows you to acknowledge your journey. You need to set goals from a starting point and this reflection process gives you this foundation.
Give yourself an hour (or even just 30 minutes!) to sit down and reflect, this is such an important exercise to gain insight on how far you’ve come and to see how it points to what’s next. Make a list of everything you accomplished. Then ask yourself:
- What things gave you energy and made you happy?
- What things weren’t worth your time, stress and energy?
- What progress have you made and what obstacles are still in your way?
There’s so much that happens over the course year, that if we don’t pause and take note, especially with how far you’ve come and how you feel, it’s easy to lose sight of what you’ve accomplished and what you need to let go of in the future. Without reflection, we’ll never know how to change to create new habits, pinpoint the barriers in reaching our goals and so much more.
How to set goals that last:
Step 1: Define your values.
What do you value? Is it your health, family, community, self-care, relationships? There is no right or wrong answer. By identifying your values, it highlights what you prioritize and gives you some guidance on how to set your goals. For instance, if you know you value your health but are lacking consistency with eating well you now have a starting point for setting your goals.
Step 2: Create a vision statement.
What does the best version of you look and feel like? Take some time to envision the best version of yourself. Next, write it down in detail. Make it crystal-clear for yourself. Some questions to get you started are:
- What is the best version of me that I want to be?
- What does that person do every day?
- What does that person NOT do every day?
- How does that version of you feel?
Your vision statement helps you visualize how you look, feel, and what you are doing daily when you are living your best life. It helps you paint the picture of the longterm outcome of your goals which allows you to create a more detailed plan of how to get there.
Step 3: Get crystal clear on your “why”.
Your “why” or as I call it, your “wellness why”, is the deep-rooted, emotional reason behind wanting to change. It’s the key to creating your forever wellness, aka a lasting lifestyle that makes you feel your best.
When you know your “wellness why”, your actions have a reason. There is a strong emotional driver behind the actions you take on a daily basis and this propels you forward. It gives you the motivation you need to make the changes and stay consistent. Without a strong why, it’s unlikely you will follow through with the time and effort required for successfully sustaining your goals long-term. Your “why” is your motivation and the driving force behind continuing with your goals even when things get tough.
Step 4: Define your goals.
Use your values and vision statement to create your goals. I recommend starting with 1-3 goals. This should feel challenging but manageable. Your goals can be broken down into what you want to accomplish over the next few weeks, three months, year, five years, or longer. If this seems overwhelming, just start with creating goals for the next few weeks and 3 months.
Your long terms goals (goals over three months) can be more board then your short term goals. They’re the big picture goals. This is often the type of goals people make but don’t follow through with getting specific and creating an action plan. The key in the next step (step 5) and creating specific short term goals and action plans.
Step 5: Get specific.
This is the bulk of your goal-setting process. It’s creating the short term goals and action plans on how to get there. Once you’ve defined where you want to be over the next few weeks (or months), you need to break it down to actions you can take daily to get you there. The key to accomplishing your goals comes from focusing on your daily schedule and lifestyle choices. Your action plan is your road map.
Example: If you want to work out consistently (long term), start by making a weekly goal (short term). For instance, you may set a short term goal of working out four times per week. From there you need an action plan. Start by planning out your daily schedule. When are you going to work out? What do you need to do or change to make this happen? Your action plan could be “I’m going to wake up at 6 am to get to the gym by 7 on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays and Fridays. I’ll work ou for 45 minutes before work.” This is a very specific plan, that you can put in your calendar and check in with your process over the next few weeks.
Step 6: Just do it!
Planning is great, but in order to make the change, you have to take action. You just have to start. Motivation and success follow taking action. Commit yourself to take one day at a time.
Step 7: Measure your progress.
Don’t make the mistake of tackling your goals without measuring your progress. This can be both qualitative and quantitative, meaning make sure to keep track of how you are doing with a number and how you are feeling. For instance, you can measure your progress by tracking the number of days you reached your goals, keeping a food journal or symptoms journal, taking measurements before, during and after, taking before and after photos, or journaling every night about how you are feeling or energy levels.
Actually writing done and recording your progress acts as a reference and way to keep accountable. It’s what you have to look back so you can see what’s working and what’s not working for you.
Step 8: Revise your plan.
You aren’t locked into your goals. In fact, it’s important to use your tracking to understand what’s working and what’s not working for you and make necessary adjustments. You may find your goal is too ambitious for such a short period of time. Maybe you’re crushing it and want to challenge yourself even more. Sometimes you realize your action plan needs a bit of tweaking as unexpected challenges come up or you enter a different season of life. It’s about finding ways to make it work rather than making excuses. Learn to redirect rather than give up!
Your Mindset matters
Achieving your goals takes time. It takes full commitment and the honest desire to let go of what is no longer serving you and your willingness to step into the best version of you. This doesn’t mean it comes without challenges. The best things in life don’t come without hard work. But when you have a clear vision, a strong “why”, an action plan in place and the support you need, you will be able to create goals and actually reach them. Personal growth takes time and commitment. It’s about creating a lifestyle and self-improving.
Shifting your mindset is so important. It’s not all or nothing. You are meant to continually grow and evolve. This means continually taking a set back and reflecting on where you are and how far you’ve come. It’s about being honest with yourself about what is working and what isn’t. It’s about honoring where you are as life changes. You are allowed to change your goals, to get back up a try again, and to start over as many times as you need. You just have to make a commitment to yourself to try and then put in the work. And putting in the work always worth it.