How To Reverse Set Your Goals And Why You Should

Reverse setting or reverse engineering your goals is a powerful way to make your long-term goals become real.  Usually, when we set goals for ourselves, we start with the steps we have to take and envision the goal appearing as a result of carrying out these actions.  Instead, try ‘reverse goal setting’. Here, we start […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

Reverse setting or reverse engineering your goals is a powerful way to make your long-term goals become real. 

Usually, when we set goals for ourselves, we start with the steps we have to take and envision the goal appearing as a result of carrying out these actions. 

Instead, try ‘reverse goal setting’. Here, we start with our vision or final outcome and then go backward from there. When done correctly, reverse goal setting can make it more likely that you’ll get the results you dream of.

Let’s break down how to reverse-set your goals and in the process, look at why it works as well as it does.

Why should you try reverse goal setting? 

This approach helps you recognize what really matters to you. Often, people set up goals because it’s what people say they should do. They follow the examples and instructions set by their peers, parents, and society as a whole. Such goals often take the form of high-status careers, relationship goals, investments, and other objectives that aren’t always important to everyone.

Reverse setting goals will highlight what you really want out of life help you find a unique path to your preferred destination. Here are the steps you can take to unfold your real goals that will lead to a satisfying life. 

Start with your vision

Don’t begin with actions and clear-cut steps. Instead, start exploring how you want to feel in life, i.e. right now and not in some distant future.

How do you want to be right now emotionally, physically, financially, and spiritually?

For example, feeling content and peaceful may be important to you. From here, start to define how these feelings will appear under different aspects of life. List out values that matter to you and remember to phrase them in terms of emotions or states of mind rather than in terms of the objects you have to possess to feel content.

Contentment and peacefulness can come from living up to important values like:

  • Financial security
  • Independence
  • Freedom (whatever that means to you)
  • Social connection
  • Giving and helping others
  • Expressing your creativity

Identify your top feelings and values. This is your starting point from which you can explore further steps. 

Derive steps from your desired emotional states 

Now, start thinking backward. For example, if you want to feel creative and financially independent, you may decide that starting a business is the right approach for you. 

But this is still too broad when it comes to setting up your actionable steps. So, start breaking down your goal into outcomes that will lead to your goal.

Here’s how some steps if you want to create financial independence:

  • To feel financially independent, you’ll need customers who buy from you
  • Customers will buy things that they need
  • You have to do research to understand their pain points and needs
  • To do research you have to use tools, take surveys, or do market research. So, finding the right tools and techniques is a major step
  • Before you can start researching, you need to find an intersection between what you can offer and the gap that exists in the market
  • From the previous points, you’ll know that the very first step you need to take is to find out what skills or solutions you have that can help other people

You may notice that this way of setting goals is actually more exciting and motivating. It’s because you are going ‘vision-first’ rather than focusing on steps that will give you a result far away into the future. 

Here’s something else you may find: you can actually accomplish some of your goals at this very moment. You don’t have to take elaborate actions or wait for some indefinite moment to feel happy and successful.

For example, if you want to feel content, peaceful, and less stressed, you can do it right now in the present moment. 

Clearing your head with meditation, journaling, and other activities are all available to you right now!

With a reverse goal setting, you’ll recognize the goals that matter to you. You’ll find the freedom to choose your own unique path and even dismiss those goals that are meaningless to you, but which you pursued because it’s the norm.  

Create milestones and celebrations

Once you’ve created steps, you should also set up milestones with a reward for yourself every time to come to a major milestone.

When you have a big goal, it’s easy to lose motivation because the process is long and the reward is far away.

Creating rewards for milestones breaks up a large goal into something more manageable. And it keeps you motivated.  For example, getting your first book sale can be a step. Selling one hundred books can be the next milestone. And so on.


Reverse goal setting can completely change your life. It’s especially important if you have complex goals that need to be carried out over a long period of time.

For example, if you want to start a business, do your Ph.D., or start a charitable institute, this method of goal setting can help you foresee important steps. 

Reverse goal setting makes your goal real and keeps you in the present moment because it starts with your vision. So, try reverse goal setting today to create the life you really want.

    You might also like...

    7 tips to overcome imposter syndrome by Mark Pettit

    7 Tips to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

    by Mark Pettit
    how to position yourself

    How to Position Yourself to Win in Business

    by Noah St. John

    Teaching Children Confidence Through Goal Setting

    by Dr. Gail Gross
    We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.