A Beginner’s Guide To Setting Goals

How to beat that 'to do' list into submission

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“When you want to quit, remember why you started.” Emmanuel Okeke.

How many times have you enthusiastically set yourself a goal – only to give up on it?

Goals suck!

Actually that’s not true. Goals ROCK! They really do. But, as with everything in life, we can only get back what we’re prepared to put in.

So, having a vague mental plan of what you intend to achieve in the next weeks, months – or even years – rarely ends up the way you imagined it. Apathy, distractions and everyday life get in the way and you simply end up frustrated yet again. Is there a solution maybe?

What you need is a WRITTEN PLAN.

That’s right. Research shows that people who set their goals in writing accomplish significantly more than those who do not.

With that said, let’s dive straight into this useful five step plan for setting your future goals ( – and really getting stuff done);


To reiterate: don’t underestimate the real power in writing down your goals. Author Henriette Anne Klauser’s book ‘Write It Down And Make It Happen’ outlines the huge potential of turning our desires into a solid act of intention. Once it’s written down – the wheels are already in motion. You’ve just made a commitment to yourself, right?


Goals should be the icing on the cake of daily life. Those few items that you are internally focussed on and driven to accomplish. Some will be achieved reasonably quickly. Others will take months, even years to achieve. However, you cannot put focus, drive and energy into endless issues, so keep them manageable.

  1. HAVE  ‘S M A R T’  GOALS

‘SMART’ is a well used coaching acronym, interpreted differently by different people. When I refer to SMART goals, I mean that they must stick to five criteria. Goals must be;

SPECIFIC – Can you identify exactly what it is you want to accomplish? Be as precise as possible.

Poor: (I want to) Travel.

Great: (I want to) Visit Rome, New York and Paris in the next two years.

MEASURABLE – If you can’t measure achievement, then how will you know if you’re there?

Poor: (I want to) Lose weight.

Great: (I want to) Lose 5kgs by my Birthday this year.

ACTIONABLE – Goals start with ACTION! So make sure yours start with an action verb, such as ‘eliminate’, ‘stop’, ‘finish’, ‘start’…etc.

Poor: (I want to) Be more consistent about running.

Great: (I want to) Run three times during the week and once at the weekend.

REALISTIC – The best goals should stretch you, but remember to add a sprinkle of common sense too. Going slightly beyond what you feel is your comfort zone is usually a good indicator of a totally achievable goal.

Poor: (I want to) Be in the Olympic rowing team.

Great: (I want to) Join my local rowing squad as a regular member.

TIME-RELEVANT – Every goal should have a date associated with it. A ‘by when’ date.

Poor: (I want to) Finish writing my book.

Great: (I want to) Finish writing my book by December 31st.


Keep your written goal plan somewhere accessible – preferably VISIBLE.

Take the time to review progress on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the magnitude of the goal. What can you do next to take a step closer to achieving your goals? Small steps forward are incredibly encouraging – don’t underestimate the positive energy and satisfaction this generates.


There is a compelling case put forward by Derek Sivers in his 2010 TED talk – that telling others your goals makes them less likely to happen. Do be selective! It’s best to share goal intentions ONLY with those who are likely to encourage (and applaud ) your progress, rather than envy it – hinder, be threatened by or even sabotage it.

If you can afford to spend an hour or so truly reflecting on what your goals are, you’re sure to reap huge dividends. Consider where you’re at right now? Where are you headed in six months? One? Two years’ time? What’s important to you?

Now write it down, commit to it and most importantly – make it happen!

How do you guage where you’re at in life? Do you keep a written track of progress towards personal/work goals? 

Originally published at

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