How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Last Updated: February 13, 2021 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Guy Reichard. Guy Reichard is an Executive Life Coach and the Founder of HeartRich Coaching & Training, a professional life coaching and inner leadership training provider based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He works with people to create more meaning, purpose, well-being, and fulfillment in their lives. Guy has over 10 years of personal growth coaching and resilience training experience, helping clients enhance and transform their inner worlds, so they can be a more positive and powerful influence on those they love and lead. He is an Adler Certified Professional Coach (ACPC), and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. He earned a BA in Psychology from York University in 1997 and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from York University in 2000.

There are 25 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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Most people have a dream in life, a vision of who or what they’d like to be in the future. At a minimum, everyone has interests and values that determine what they want out of their lives. Even so, trying to set to achievable goals that you’ll work for over the course of many years can be daunting. It can be hard to know where to even begin, and the things you hope to achieve may seem impossible. But, If you’re well-prepared you may be able to set goals for your life that are just as fulfilling to work toward as to achieve.

Research has revealed that people have more difficulty setting goals than they do accomplishing them once they are set. The hardest part for most of us is sitting down and thinking about what God wants us to do in our lives. As pastors, we struggle to find time to plan and just think.

An interesting national survey a few years ago showed that the biggest difference between moderately successful people and highly successful people is that the second group wrote down their goals. In just about every other area – education, ability, talent, etc. – they were equals. What’s true of the general population is also true of us in ministry. Those who set goals in ministry are typically the ones who succeed.

What does God have to say about goal setting? The Bible says in Proverbs 24:3-4 (LB), “Any enterprise built by wise planning becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” God says it makes good sense to plan. It’s good to have goals in every area of your life – marriage, family, finances – and your ministry.

If that’s true, then there ought to be some models in the Bible on how to set goals. Just take a look at Genesis 24 and the story of Abraham and his servant. Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. In the NIV version of this chapter, you’ll find the word “success” five times. The word success is used more times in this chapter than any other chapter of the Bible. You could say it’s the success chapter of the Bible.

If you look closely at this chapter in Genesis, you’ll find 10 steps that Abraham and his servant followed to reach their goal. We’ll talk about the first five steps in this article and the next five steps in the next issue of Toolbox.

1. Determine your position.

Determine where you are and evaluate your present condition. I do this about once a quarter. I give myself a spiritual check-up to see if I’m still headed in the right direction. You need to know where you are before you can determine where you are going.

Abraham did this in Genesis 24. Abraham knew God had promised to multiply his life, his seed through many generations. He had a son, a miracle child, but Isaac didn’t have a wife yet. Abraham determined his position and decided to do something about it. He was at least 115 years old at this point, so it’s never too late to dream!

2. Define your purpose.

Clearly state your goal. You need to know exactly what you want. You know where you are and then you need to know what you want. Abraham told his servant, “I want you to go to my country and to my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The goal was clearly defined. Later on he gave other conditions: “I want a wife of the same nationality, from the same hometown, same faith, someone who is beautiful, a virgin.”

Those are not vague goals! You’ll never reach a vague goal. The more specific a goal is, the easier it is to reach. If you ask God to bless your church, how do you know when he does? A vague goal has no drawing power. You need to know what you want.

3. Discover a promise.

Often, we let fear take control of us once we start moving forward toward our goals. Abraham’s servant expressed doubt as well. He asked Abraham what would happen if the woman wouldn’t come back with him. Abraham did what we all should do when doubt creeps into our goal-chasing. He found a promise to claim. When fear steps in, don’t focus on how the goal will be reached. Focus on God’s promises in his Word.

In verse seven, Abraham reminded his servant of one of God’s promises: “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.'”

When you’re setting goals for yourself or your church, don’t look at your own resources and your own abilities. There are more than 7,000 promises for you to claim in the Bible. Let God determine the size of your goal. We’ve set big goals here at Saddleback and people say, “Who do you think you are?” That’s the wrong question. The issue is not who we think we are. It’s who we think God is.

4. Describe the profit.

Every goal must have a payoff or reward. If there’s no reward, then there’s no motivation to reach it. You’ve got to settle the value of the goal in your mind. In the second part of verse seven, God says, “‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.”

What motivated Abraham’s servant? Isaac was going to get a wife. God’s purpose was going to be fulfilled. Abraham was going to be pleased. There would be a payoff.

Ask yourself three questions about your goal. What is the reward? Why do I want it? How will I feel when I get it?

You need to describe the profit up front. When you settle the why, God will show you the how. When you know why you want to do what you want to do with your life, you have a calling.

If you don’t understand the profit, you’ll get discouraged and give up. You know what profit motivates me? One day I want to stand before Jesus Christ and hear him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” When he says those words, it will be worth it all. That’s what I’m going to live my life for – one sentence. “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

5. Desire in prayer.

Praying for your goals does two things: It reveals desire, and it shows your dependence. It shows God how much you want something, and it shows him you trust him to help you.

Abraham’s servant prayed continuously through this entire process. He prayed before he went (v. 12). He prayed after he arrived (v. 15). He prayed in front of the family of the girl (v. 52). He constantly bathed his goal in prayer. We all should do that.

Are you praying for your goals? Have you just set them, or are you really praying for them? Your goal sheet ought to be your prayer list. They shouldn’t be the only thing on your prayer list, but they should be part of it.

Determine your position, define your purpose, discover a promise, describe the profit, and desire in prayer. But don’t stop there. In the next issue of Toolbox, I’ll share five more steps to setting and reaching your goals.

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“Life happens while we are making other plans.” While this saying holds a lot of truth, it is also true that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Without proper planning in place, the line between idea and strategy becomes unclear, blurring your map for the future. Whether you’re seeking to tame an overwhelming workload, build a new habit or create more time for fun, understanding how to plan your day out is key to taking control and getting where you want to go.

Need help planning your day efficiently?

How to plan your day out

Learning how to plan your day means harnessing your skills and time to make the most of your resources.

Plan your day out the night before

Human beings have limited willpower. When you attempt to plan your day in the morning, you deplete your supply of willpower first thing. Why do that to yourself, when you can just as easily plan your day out the night before? By giving yourself a heads up on what tomorrow will look like, you’re mentally prepared the moment you wake up – no need to waste time and energy trying to get focused when your day’s strategy is ready and waiting.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Plan your day before you turn on the computer

As helpful as technology can be, mastering how to plan your day out is a great time to go analog. Before you turn on any technology, get out a piece of paper and write down what end results would make for a successful day. Next, write down the steps needed to get there. From those steps, select the ones you can realistically get done in a day. By taking a few minutes’ break from the rush of digital information, you’re able to focus calmly on today’s plan of action.

Embrace ritual

When you’re working on how to plan your day out to reach specific goals, embracing a degree of ritual will provide the structure and discipline you need. Just like any new habit, managing your schedule takes consistency to make it second-nature. Build new habits into your schedule so you’re reminded to follow through on them on a consistent basis. By making new habits ritualistic, you’re able to build patterns that align with your values and priorities.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Make use of time-management technology

To master how to plan your day out, elevate your focus with Tony Robbins’ best-selling custom life planner, the RPM Life Planner . Unlike the majority of time management systems, which focus solely on mapping out your to-do list, the RPM Life Planner takes a holistic approach. You get all the tools you need to get organized and pursue what you truly want out of life right at your fingertips. You get an achievable blueprint for not only how to plan your day but also how to strategize and meet larger life goals. This approach saves you from the busywork of unfocused activity. You get real progress – forward movement toward your passions.

Use chunking to manage your time

When you have too much on your plate, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything, much less on how to plan your day. Enter chunking , the time-management strategy at the center of the Rapid Planning Method (RPM planning). Rather than thinking of your time as a fleeting resource that’s either “spent” or “saved,” RPM planning guides you to prioritize the outcomes you really want in life, then target your time toward those goals. By using the chunking technique, you’re able to set realistic and achievable goals with the resources you have without exhausting yourself. To practice chunking, group similar activities together and group information into bite-sized pieces. Once you start practicing chunking, everything from planning your work day to enjoying your days off becomes more natural.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Don’t be afraid of lists

You don’t want to plan your day around to-do lists, but you do want the activities that end up on your schedule to be goal-oriented. When you go to plan your day out, use it to relieve your stress by putting your thoughts on paper. With a list in place, you’re able to relax and prioritize items that fit with your larger goals and strategy.

Cut yourself off

When you’re planning your workday, give yourself a realistic window of time for each item and cut yourself off at that window. Setting boundaries with your time enables you to focus and rely on the scheduling parameters you set for yourself.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Schedule everything

As tempting as it is to leave personal needs off your calendar, the reality is that, when you get busy, those are the first tasks to get lost in the shuffle. Prioritizing your overall physical, mental and emotional health forms the cornerstone of lasting success. Schedule in everything, from daily meditation to exercise.

Regroup every hour

Set an alarm to ring every hour. When it rings, stand up and stretch to reinvigorate your state . Before getting back to work, ask yourself if that last hour was productive and plan the next hour for maximal results.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

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Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, the author of the bestselling book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” and the host of The Verywell Mind Podcast.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

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Have you ever felt that you need to cut out some of the stress in your life, exercise more, or change your diet? Or would you like to create more significant changes in your life like making a career shift or getting into (or out of) a relationship? Many people have things they’d like to change in their lives in the areas of stress relief and wellness and wonder how to make a life plan.

We often don’t make these change because of inertia, lack of focus, or other factors; changing one’s life is often easier dreamed than done. By creating a specific action plan and following it, your process will be far easier and less stressful and your chances of success will be far greater. If you find yourself getting off-track, simply refocus and try again. Here are simple and effective steps to take stock of your life and start on a new life plan.

Look at What’s Not Working

When you’re figuring out how to make a life plan, it helps to know what you want to change, and in what areas of your life. Here’s where it helps to get out a journal and assess different areas of your life. This can be in list form, narrative form, created like a mind map, or in another format, but should cover the areas of life that are most important to you. For most people, that means a job, family, wellness, finances, other areas of stress, and even home environment. Think about what your values are in life, and assess how those areas of life are currently working for you.

Assess Your Values

When you’re making a life plan, you should work around your values–what’s important to you, and what you hope to maintain in your life. Do you value family, but find yourself spending too little time with your family because you’re working overtime at a job you hate? Do you value fitness, but find yourself watching too much t.v. instead? Oftentimes, people include activities in their lives that have little value to them without realizing it. To be sure you’re spending your time wisely, assess what you value the most in life, and pay attention to how you actually behave around the expression of these values in your real life; be sure you include activities that fulfill those values.

Look at the Future

As you make a life plan, it helps to plan not only months into the future but for years. Looking at your values and thinking about how you want the next few months, year, and five years to be (even up to ten years!) and then working backward can really clarify what next steps will bring you a payoff, and can help you decide where to put your time. For example, if you want to be working in a new field, maybe now is time to make connections and look for work experience that you can gain in your off-hours; you can take small steps to build up for a bigger change in the future.

Plan Your Steps

Looking at where you’d like to be, and at where you are now, you can break down the path from “here” to “there” into small, manageable steps that you can more easily take. This way, you can more easily experience successes that can sustain your motivation, can look at where you may need to change your plan as you go, and can consistently put one step in front of the other and move forward. (See this for more on setting goals.)

Eliminate Road Blocks

As you plan steps forward, review your list of “what’s not working” and think about what’s holding you back from your goals, from experiencing less stress, from feeling that you’re where you want to be. Then make some cuts. Cut out commitments, relationships, and other aspects of your life that drain you and that aren’t absolutely necessary. Minimize what you can’t cut out. Look at every “drain” as a trade-off–do you want these things in your life, or do you want to be able to take steps toward the things that are really important to you? When you see these tangible choices, changes are easier.

Set Up Structures

Create systems in your life that will support your desired changes, so you don’t have to supply all of your own momentum. If you want to start working out more often, join a gym, find a workout buddy, and make it part of your schedule. If you want to relieve stress, commit to a regular stress relief practice and add it to your routine. If you want to spend more time with your spouse, start a regular date night. Setting up structures in your life helps you to follow through on those, “I should start . ” plans in your head, and make them part of your reality.

Get Ongoing Support

Asking for help from others to keep yourself on track, delegating tasks that are overloading you, even signing up for free newsletters or joining social media pages on the topic of stress (like the ones offered by this site) are ways you can get ongoing support with changes you’d like to make and maintain in your life. Ask yourself what resources you need to make your plans stick, and do what you can to get those resources in your life. Check-in with yourself on a regular basis to be sure you’re sticking to the path you set with your intentions, and if you find yourself letting go of some of what you value, gently guide yourself back to a place of putting what you value most into action in your life. That’s how to make the changes last.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

We all have objectives we want to hit. This includes our personal goals and our goals for our companies. Unfortunately, most of us never draw up a roadmap for how we are going to reach our targets. When we look at why this is, it usually comes from being overly ambitious. We think we can just change everything at once, so we don’t need a step-by-step game plan. This is often why we don’t succeed. Changing your complete way of life is tough, and doing it all at once is a sure road to failure. Instead, try this approach:

Step 1: Have an enormous goal but break it down into one habit to start.

Whenever New Year’s resolutions come around, I always hear a majority of my friends say they are going to get in shape. They begin by listing all the poor habits they have, and then decide to do a complete makeover. Within a week, they go back to their old habits.

This is because they have a goal but never broke it down. You need challenging goals that you want to achieve. They should be big and ambitious. The problem comes with the next step. You should not try to change your complete way of life, but instead home in on one habit to start. Why? Because changing one part of your life is much easier then trying to do a 180-degree change in a day.

Going back to our get-in-shape example, let’s take two scenarios. The first is the most common, in which we change five or six habits at once and then after a week go back to our old ways. The second scenario is that we just focus on running every day for 30 minutes. The second scenario has a much higher chance of success, and it will allow you to begin the process of getting to that giant goal.

Step 2: Master that one habit.

Once you decide on the one habit that will help you start moving toward your goal, make sure you do it every day. According to scientists, it takes 66 days to turn an action into a habit. Do whatever it takes to get to those 66 days. An easy way to do this is to add your habit in your calendar. Let your family and friends know that for the next two months you’ll be practicing this action religiously.

Jay Papasan, a co-author of The One Thing, advises making use of time blocks. Block a certain point every day to make sure this habit is done. Over time, your colleagues and loved ones will learn to adjust to your new schedule. This step is the hardest part to reaching your goal, but as you get closer to the 66th day, it’ll start to become much easier.

Step 3: Once mastered, add another habit.

When you’ve mastered your first habit, the hard work is over. Now you can start to add more routines in your life that will get you closer to your goal. Remember to still stay with one action at a time. Our bodies will be overloaded if we try to take on too many changes at once. Also make sure that you keep the same focus on each new habit you learn. Humans are not built for multitasking, and trying to work on a change while checking your email or texting won’t work.

Over time, you’ll find that adding more changes to your life will become much easier. As with most things, the first time is the hardest. Eventually, your body becomes programmed to adapt to these changes. This will allow you to make transitions more smoothly. As you build up these habits, your goal will start to get much closer. If I mastered running for 30 minutes, that’s a good start. After 66 days, let’s say I start to master eating healthy six days a week. Once that’s complete, I move to mastering weight training. As long as I keep going habit by habit, I will reach my goal of getting in shape. By the time I get to my next New Year’s, getting in shape won’t be a goal but instead an accomplishment.

Research has revealed that people have more difficulty setting goals than they do accomplishing them once they are set. The hardest part for most of us is sitting down and thinking about what God wants us to do in our lives. As pastors, we struggle to find time to plan and just think.

An interesting national survey a few years ago showed that the biggest difference between moderately successful people and highly successful people is that the second group wrote down their goals. In just about every other area – education, ability, talent, etc. – they were equals. What’s true of the general population is also true of us in ministry. Those who set goals in ministry are typically the ones who succeed.

What does God have to say about goal setting? The Bible says in Proverbs 24:3-4 (LB), “Any enterprise built by wise planning becomes strong through common sense, and profits wonderfully by keeping abreast of the facts.” God says it makes good sense to plan. It’s good to have goals in every area of your life – marriage, family, finances – and your ministry.

If that’s true, then there ought to be some models in the Bible on how to set goals. Just take a look at Genesis 24 and the story of Abraham and his servant. Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. In the NIV version of this chapter, you’ll find the word “success” five times. The word success is used more times in this chapter than any other chapter of the Bible. You could say it’s the success chapter of the Bible.

If you look closely at this chapter in Genesis, you’ll find 10 steps that Abraham and his servant followed to reach their goal. We’ll talk about the first five steps in this article and the next five steps in the next issue of Toolbox.

1. Determine your position.

Determine where you are and evaluate your present condition. I do this about once a quarter. I give myself a spiritual check-up to see if I’m still headed in the right direction. You need to know where you are before you can determine where you are going.

Abraham did this in Genesis 24. Abraham knew God had promised to multiply his life, his seed through many generations. He had a son, a miracle child, but Isaac didn’t have a wife yet. Abraham determined his position and decided to do something about it. He was at least 115 years old at this point, so it’s never too late to dream!

2. Define your purpose.

Clearly state your goal. You need to know exactly what you want. You know where you are and then you need to know what you want. Abraham told his servant, “I want you to go to my country and to my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” The goal was clearly defined. Later on he gave other conditions: “I want a wife of the same nationality, from the same hometown, same faith, someone who is beautiful, a virgin.”

Those are not vague goals! You’ll never reach a vague goal. The more specific a goal is, the easier it is to reach. If you ask God to bless your church, how do you know when he does? A vague goal has no drawing power. You need to know what you want.

3. Discover a promise.

Often, we let fear take control of us once we start moving forward toward our goals. Abraham’s servant expressed doubt as well. He asked Abraham what would happen if the woman wouldn’t come back with him. Abraham did what we all should do when doubt creeps into our goal-chasing. He found a promise to claim. When fear steps in, don’t focus on how the goal will be reached. Focus on God’s promises in his Word.

In verse seven, Abraham reminded his servant of one of God’s promises: “The Lord, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.'”

When you’re setting goals for yourself or your church, don’t look at your own resources and your own abilities. There are more than 7,000 promises for you to claim in the Bible. Let God determine the size of your goal. We’ve set big goals here at Saddleback and people say, “Who do you think you are?” That’s the wrong question. The issue is not who we think we are. It’s who we think God is.

4. Describe the profit.

Every goal must have a payoff or reward. If there’s no reward, then there’s no motivation to reach it. You’ve got to settle the value of the goal in your mind. In the second part of verse seven, God says, “‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there.”

What motivated Abraham’s servant? Isaac was going to get a wife. God’s purpose was going to be fulfilled. Abraham was going to be pleased. There would be a payoff.

Ask yourself three questions about your goal. What is the reward? Why do I want it? How will I feel when I get it?

You need to describe the profit up front. When you settle the why, God will show you the how. When you know why you want to do what you want to do with your life, you have a calling.

If you don’t understand the profit, you’ll get discouraged and give up. You know what profit motivates me? One day I want to stand before Jesus Christ and hear him say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” When he says those words, it will be worth it all. That’s what I’m going to live my life for – one sentence. “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

5. Desire in prayer.

Praying for your goals does two things: It reveals desire, and it shows your dependence. It shows God how much you want something, and it shows him you trust him to help you.

Abraham’s servant prayed continuously through this entire process. He prayed before he went (v. 12). He prayed after he arrived (v. 15). He prayed in front of the family of the girl (v. 52). He constantly bathed his goal in prayer. We all should do that.

Are you praying for your goals? Have you just set them, or are you really praying for them? Your goal sheet ought to be your prayer list. They shouldn’t be the only thing on your prayer list, but they should be part of it.

Determine your position, define your purpose, discover a promise, describe the profit, and desire in prayer. But don’t stop there. In the next issue of Toolbox, I’ll share five more steps to setting and reaching your goals.

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Last Updated: July 24, 2020 References

This article was co-authored by Sandra Possing. Sandra Possing is a life coach, speaker, and entrepreneur based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sandra specializes in one-on-one coaching with a focus on mindset and leadership transformation. Sandra received her coaching training from The Coaches Training Institute and has seven years of life coaching experience. She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

This article has been viewed 67,735 times.

Are you unhappy with how disorganized your life feels? Maybe you have big plans for your life, but have no idea how to achieve them. While writing your goals is important, it’s critical to find ways of realizing and achieving those goals. You may find that with personal development and achieving your goals, you’re able to improve your well being and overall happiness.

How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

Sandra Possing
Life Coach Expert Interview. 15 July 2020. Include all of your weekly, monthly, yearly, or life goals. This will let you rank them according to how important they are to you. Spend some time thinking about how long each goal with take and whether they’re achievable. [2] X Research source Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84, 191–215. [3] X Research source Schunk, D. H. (1991). Self-efficacy and academic motivation. Educational Psychologist, 26, 207–231.

    When you first start writing goals, don’t be afraid to dream big! You can always go back and come up with smaller goals to help you. [4] X Expert Source

Sandra Possing
Life Coach Expert Interview. 15 July 2020.

  • Always try to be as specific as possible when brainstorming about your goals. This way, you clearly understand the steps you need to take to achieve any life plans or short-term goals.
  • How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

    Sandra Possing
    Life Coach Expert Interview. 15 July 2020. Once you’ve found future dreams and ideals, choose a few specific goals to help you reach them. If your goal is large or long term, break it up into smaller goals or steps. Make sure to give yourself enough time to complete large projects or goals. This way, every day you can work towards achieving them. [6] X Research source Austin, J. T., & Vancouver, J. B. (1996). Goal constructs in psychology: Structure, process, and content. Psychological Bulletin, 120, 338 –375. [7] X Research source Locke, E. A., & Latham, G. P. (2006). New directions in goal-setting theory. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 15, 265–268.

    • Breaking up a goal into daily goals or steps can reduce your stress, making you happier in the long run. [8] X Research source

    Five Rules to Set Yourself Up for Success

    Have you thought about what you want to be doing in five years’ time? Are you clear about what your main objective at work is at the moment? Do you know what you want to have achieved by the end of today?

    If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding. Think about it: having a million dollars in the bank is only proof of success if one of your goals is to amass riches. If your goal is to practice acts of charity, then keeping the money for yourself is suddenly contrary to how you would define success.

    To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say, “I want” and expect it to happen. Goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. In between, there are some very well-defined steps that transcend the specifics of each goal. Knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.

    Here are our five golden rules of goal setting, presented in an article, a video and an infographic.

    Click here to view a transcript of this video.

    The Five Golden Rules

    1. Set Goals That Motivate You

    When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals.

    Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude. When you don’t have this, you risk putting off what you need to do to make the goal a reality. This in turn leaves you feeling disappointed and frustrated with yourself, both of which are de-motivating. And you can end up in a very destructive “I can’t do anything or be successful at anything” frame of mind.

    To make sure that your goal is motivating, write down why it’s valuable and important to you. Ask yourself, “If I were to share my goal with others, what would I tell them to convince them it was a worthwhile goal?” You can use this motivating value statement to help you if you start to doubt yourself or lose confidence in your ability to actually make the goal happen.

    2. Set SMART Goals

    You have probably heard of SMART goals already. But do you always apply the rule? The simple fact is that for goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. There are many variations of what SMART stands for, but the essence is this – goals should be:

    • Specific.
    • Measurable.
    • Attainable.
    • Relevant.
    • Time Bound.

    Set Specific Goals

    Your goal must be clear and well defined. Vague or generalized goals are unhelpful because they don’t provide sufficient direction. Remember, you need goals to show you the way. Make it as easy as you can to get where you want to go by defining precisely where you want to end up.

    Set Measurable Goals

    Include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success. If your goal is simply defined as “To reduce expenses” how will you know when you have been successful? In one month’s time if you have a 1 percent reduction or in two years’ time when you have a 10 percent reduction? Without a way to measure your success you miss out on the celebration that comes with knowing you have actually achieved something.

    Set Attainable Goals

    Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. If you set a goal that you have no hope of achieving, you will only demoralize yourself and erode your confidence.

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    Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in weight management and eating behaviors.

    How to make a plan and reach your goals in life

    Goals matter. Setting the right goals, having a plan to reach those goals, and following through on what is required to reach or maintain those goals may help you feel greater happiness and fulfillment while reducing stress levels.

    Goals can also be a source of stress. They can create excessive pressure and make you feel bad when you don’t achieve the goals you have set. This is particularly true if goals are unrealistically high or if you don’t have a workable plan in place.

    This is why many people forgo setting New Year’s resolutions entirely. It’s difficult to keep going after your goals if you keep missing the mark each year. It’s also much harder to reach your goals when you don’t know the best way to go about setting them and working toward them.

    Here are some effective strategies that can help you go after your goals in a way that creates less stress and more success.

    The Role of Goals and Stress Relief

    What we experience as ‘stress’ is really an interaction of events that happen in our lives, our thoughts, and resulting emotional reactions to those events.

    The way we perceive our stressors and our emotional responses to those perceptions are what trigger the body’s stress response. This results in the experience of stress.

    Because of this, a significant goal of stress management focuses on examining our thoughts about our stressors. By doing this, we can then change our feelings and our stress responses. Another goal of stress management involves minimizing the stressors we experience in a typical day. Both goals are important and both require some forethought.

    The Role of Goals in Personal Happiness

    Another area of life that’s closely linked with stress and stress management is personal happiness and fulfillment. The growing field of positive psychology examines what factors contribute to happiness and resilience (rather than just studying unhappiness and pathology).

    This line of research has identified several goals that, if met, can lead to greater overall happiness, fulfillment, and resilience to stress. So, rather than only setting goals that minimize or manage stress, setting goals that lead to the opposite of stress can also be an effective route to a less-stressed lifestyle.

    What Goals to Set

    So how do you decide what kind of goals will be most beneficial for you? It’s often a matter of looking at what you need or want to accomplish.

    • If you’re feeling stressed to the point of being overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to focus your goals more toward minimizing and managing stress.
    • If you’re feeling general stress—but nothing too severe—and are finding a general lack of fulfillment and happiness, it’s a good idea to set some stress management goals while also focusing on goals that promote happiness and meaning in​​ life.

    Not matter what type of goals you are setting, they should provide some degree of stress relief. It’s a good idea to become aware of which goals will lead to both outcomes. Below are some different categories of goals you may set.

    Possible Goals to Set

    • Happiness
    • Managing stress
    • Reducing stressors
    • Resilience
    • Stress-relieving habits

    How to Maintain Goals

    Some goals are short-term such as acing a test, finishing a project at work, or finding a great relationship. However, many goals that will help with stress management, happiness, and resilience tend to be ongoing, long-term goals such as regular exercise, maintaining relationships, practicing meditation on an ongoing basis.

    Longer-term goals can be somewhat more challenging. However, these goals are often rewarding to maintain and are ultimately what can lead to better life experience.

    There are a few tricks to maintaining goals or adopting healthy habits. Some things that you can do that will help:

    1. Set the right goals.
    2. Take small, concrete steps.
    3. Reward yourself along the way.
    4. Consider slip-ups to be part of the process.

    Maintaining goals can be a little more involved than that, but this is the basic process. Most people abandon goals because they set their goals too high (or the wrong goals for their lifestyle), try to do too much in the beginning, don’t congratulate themselves for making progress toward their goals along the way, and give up if they have a slip.

    Reaching goals in a realistic way—even if it takes a little longer—can mean the difference between sticking to goals and reaching goal after goal, and giving up early, abandoning goals altogether.