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tips on how to set goals
Traveling for 6 months was one of my biggest goals

Setting goals is something you either love or hate!

Some people struggle to understand why goal setting should be important. Or they’re simply afraid to think about what they really want in life. This is where tips on how to set goals can come in handy!

I love to set goals!

However, I’m not always the best at following through with them…

So, I figured it would be a good idea to do some research on how to effectively set goals.

In this article I’m sharing the 7 tips on how to set goals that came out as a result of my research and what helped me personally best.

Why is it important to set goals?

Let’s start with a question most of you might have: why is it even important to set goals?

To answer this question completely, we’ll also have to go over some related questions.

Goals give your life a purpose

Well, first of all, goals give your life direction. They’re like signposts that guide you through your life.

Without them, you’re going through life pretty aimlessly.

Now, that’s not only boring but it can also have serious impact on your mental health!

People need purpose in life. A lack of it often leads to anxiety and depression. And you’ll soon start to wondering: what’s my life about? What do I want to achieve?

So, goals are basically really important to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Once you learn to enjoy the process, you’ll be happy simply to be working towards something. This is what gives your life purpose and makes it whole!

How to set goals and achieve them

“Okay, I get it, goals are important. But how do I set goals and achieve them?”

Well, that’s what this article is about!

But before we get into the tips, I want to share some personal experience.

As I’ve said before, I’m not always that good at following through with achieving my goals.

So, I thought about what I did differently when I actually managed to achieve them.

I found the nr. 1 reason for me is to tell as many people as possible! This always provides a healthy portion of pressure because I know I have a bunch of people who’ll hold me accountable for doing it.

For instance, when I wanted to go travel for 6 months by myself, I knew this was a super important goal for me. However, there were also so many things to organize and so many obstacles in the way. So, this was a huge step out of my comfort zone!

So, I had to figure out how I’d actually follow through with my plan. And then I thought: you know what, I’ll just tell everyone that I’m going to do that. Because then it would be way too embarrassing not to do it!

Worked like a charm!

From that moment on I figured out every problem and got every single obstacle out of the way. And it was sooo worth it!

Swimming with a Whale-shark in Australia

Goal setting examples

Goals can be anything you want to achieve that you actually have control over.

Most people distinguish between personal and professional goals. Here are a few examples for both kinds.

Examples for personal goals:

  • Buying a house
  • Traveling for an extended period
  • Getting better at public speaking
  • Getting married
  • Losing weight
  • Becoming physically fit

Examples for professional goals:

  • Getting promoted
  • Improving communication skills
  • Making a certain salary
  • Becoming an expert in a certain field
  • Getting a desired job

Here are some more very specific professional goal examples.

As you can see, it can really be anything. The only requirement is that it has to be humanly possible.

Goals vs. dreams

Let’s quickly touch on the distinction between goals and dreams.

In my opinion, dreams can totally become goals. However, most people feel like dreams are something that isn’t real. For them, dreams are something that can’t become reality, unless a miracle happens.

Well, guess what, you can make those miracles happen yourself!

The most important part to making dreams come true is to shift your mindset. To learn more make sure to check out my articles on fixed mindsets and growth mindsets.

Related article: what is personal development and why is it important?

7 tips on how to set goals

Okay, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty and look at those 7 tips on how to set goals. If you follow all those steps, you’ll soon realize how easy it is to set and achieve goals.

In order to get the most out of it, I recommend you start with a couple of smaller goals. Something like getting promoted or losing weight instead of buying a house and improving communication skills. Unless you find the latter easier, of course.

This will help to show you that you can achieve what you set your mind on. This in turn will keep you motivated to set more goals and follow through with them

1. Define your dream life

The first thing you need to do to set goals is to define your dream life.

Think about what it would take that you feel like you got it all. This is the starting point from which you can set goals for each part of your life.

For instance, if your dream life is to be married, owning a house with a big garden and make 6 figures a year, then this might mean to work on your communication skills in order to have a long-lasting relationship. Then it might mean investing in order to get the capital for the house. And another goal could be to work towards a promotion.

However, this probably isn’t everything you wish to have in your life.

In order to effectively set goals, I highly recommend you really take a couple of hours to simply reflect on what kind of life you want to have.

2. Break it down into goals and sub-goals

Once you know where you want to get in your life, break your big dreams and ideas down into goals and sub-goals.

Let’s take the example of above again: we’ve already defined 3 goals: working on communication skills for a good love life, investing to get the money for your dream house and working towards a promotion.

These all sound like pretty big goals that seem miles away, right? In order to prevent overwhelm at this point, make sure to break those goals down further to get sub-goals.

For instance, in order to get promoted at work, you might need certain qualifications, work experience and successfully completed projects.

Now it looks much more attainable, right?

At this point you could break down what’s necessary to get those qualifications. Do you need to go back to College or University? How long does the curriculum take? How much time per week is required etc.

The important part at this step is to fight overwhelm. Break your goals down as much as possible until you’ve got something that you can immediately start working on.

3. Set SMART goals

In order to set these goals in the best way possible, orientate yourself on the SMART acronym.

SMART goals are: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound.

  • Specific: determine what exactly is needed to succeed. For instance, instead of just wanting to get physically fit, you should set up an exercise routine. My article on habit formation will help you with the process.
  • Measurable: make it as measurable as possible. So, instead of saying you want to exercise regularly, set up fix days each week during which you’ll work out.
  • Attainable/achievable: as I’ve mentioned before, it’s best to start with small goals that you’ll achieve for sure
  • Realistic: Ask yourself: is this humanly possible and do I have the resources required to achieve my goal? As long as it’s humanly possible, I think you’re good to go, though. So, don’t spend too much time thinking about that.
  • Time bound: Make your goals time bound. This will make it so much easier to achieve them because you’ve got a certain amount of pressure and urgency that will keep you going.

4. Write them down

The next step is to write those goals and sub-goals down.

This not only helps your brain to really focus on them. It’s also good to hold yourself accountable. I like to go back to my list of goals regularly and adapt and concretize them.

tips on how to set goals

5. Think big

As you’ve already seen under the first tip, it’s very important to think big!

You can achieve anything, if you only want it enough!

Think about self-made millionaires or the president of a country. They also simply had a goal once. And then they broke it down into smaller goals and steps and worked a whole lot until they finally got there.

Another reason why you should think big is because then it still feels great, even if you’re underachieving.

Let’s say you want to get a new leading position in your company that pays 100K. You’re currently earning 60K and would be super happy if you had 80K. Now, what do you think will happen if you aim for 80K?

That amount is the absolute maximum you’ll get! In fact, it’s often less because HR will realize that you don’t want more than that. So, they’ll try to negotiate you down and you’ll probably also accept 75k.

However, if you’re aiming for 100K and only get 90K, that’s still a whole lot more than what you originally hoped for!

Always remember: you can achieve anything, if you really want it!

Self-discipline will be an amazing tool to help you on the way.

6. Talk about your goals

My next tip is to talk about your goals.

This is honestly the best way to make sure you keep working towards them.

That’s exactly what I’ve done before my travels. And it’s honestly the main reason that kept me going, even when it got hard.

I really recommend telling as many people as possible. This will also result in people constantly asking how you’re progressing with that goal. And you want to tell them it’s going well, right?

So, that’s just the perfect motivator to keep you working towards it.

7. Adapt if necessary

Now, sticking to your goals is important.

However, it’s important not to get too caught up in them.

Sometimes, the timing simply isn’t right. Or it’s harder than you thought.

In this case it’s important that you adapt your goals instead of just forgetting about them all together.

For instance, if I had gotten the perfect job offer when I wanted to go travel for 6 months, I probably would have postponed my travel plans. Because then I could have saved more money and get some working experience. I would then have been quite easy to either do a sabbatical or find a new job after being back.

In my opinion, shifting your goals is absolutely fine and even necessary. If another great opportunity comes your way, you can always work on this first before your go back to your other goals.

Conclusion

So, these are the 7 tips on how to set goals.

Goal setting is really such a great way to give your life some direction. It helps you to always look forward to something, stay mentally (and physically) active and motivated.

Keep in mind that you can make almost all your dreams come true! The only thing you need to get started is to get a growth mindset. And then a good dose of self-discipline and habits.

So, go ahead and make your dreams become goals and your goals become reality!

To help you get there, I’ve created a free goal setting worksheet. This will walk you through the process of setting goals step by step.