Goal-Setting Basics: 7 Guidelines (And Reaching Them)

How do you go from concept to reality? By establishing objectives.
Goals provide direction in both your personal and professional lives. They help you break down work into manageable chunks and hold yourself accountable along the way.

Setting goals, on the other hand, is merely the first step. More than nine out of ten people who make New Year’s resolutions never follow through.[1]

You can’t only think about crossing the finish line if you want to achieve your objectives. You must prepare yourself to achieve it, which entails planning your race strategy.

What is the most effective method for accomplishing this? By establishing certain ground rules for yourself, you can:

1. Setting Goals the SMART Way

Setting any sort of goal is better than nothing, but you can set yourself up to succeed by keeping the acronym “SMART” in mind. A SMART goal is:


Whatever your goal is, you need to know when you’ve achieved it. The more specifics you give yourself, the better.

Say that you’re saving money with the goal of buying a new car. How much money, exactly, do you need? Are you willing to defer some of the cost through financing, or would you prefer to make a cash purchase. When do you hope to make the purchase?

Your specific goal might be, “I want to save $5,000 for a down payment by December 2020.” You’ve given yourself a yardstick by which to measure your progress.

Related: How to Master Your Life and Have Self-Control


A goal can be specific, but it isn’t necessarily measurable. In the new year, you may resolve to be a better father, but by what standards will you assess yourself? 

For purposes like saving money, those norms are self-evident. However, proxies will be required for tasks such as becoming a better father. 

If you’re concerned that you’re not spending enough time with your child, track how much time you spend with him or her each week.

If you haven’t been providing your child with the academic assistance he or she requires, perhaps changes in his or her grades will indicate that you’ve been a better parent. 


Goals that are specific and measurable aren’t always attainable. Good for you if you’re attempting to lose weight. But accept the fact that you won’t be able to run a marathon at the end of the week. 

Shoot for the stars, but keep in mind the following: According to a recent study from the University of Basel, persons who set reasonable goals for themselves are happier than those who set unrealistic ones.

According to studies, having a sense of control over outcomes leads to higher levels of life satisfaction. [2]

Related: Goal-Setting Solution


Your goals should always map to a greater plan. Why bother to lose weight, for example, if your body mass is already at a healthy mark? If revenue is your company’s greatest need, then don’t set a goal to deck out your company’s office.

Relevance is also important for two less obvious reasons: If a goal doesn’t actually matter to you, you’ll struggle to stick with it.

And at least in the context of workplace goals, you’ll struggle to get team buy-in or resources if it’s not clearly relevant to your mission.


Although adding a schedule to your objective makes it more explicit, the importance of timeliness cannot be overstated: if you don’t have a deadline for attaining your goal, you will find it difficult to make time for it.

Consider how the goal’s actual task will be carried out. Let’s say you want to drop 25 pounds: According to medical professionals, you should strive to drop 1-2 pounds every week, which means you should attain your goal in 12 to 25 weeks.

Allow yourself to be patient. We’d all like to reach our objectives more quickly, but setting unrealistic targets isn’t the way to proceed. You can burn out or, in the case of weight reduction, even jeopardise your health.

You understand the importance of creating objectives and what constitutes a good one. However, because you have a limited amount of time, you must select between the following options: What do you most desire to accomplish, and how do you go about doing it?

Every goal has an opportunity cost. Working toward one means that you can’t use that time to do something else. And so, the next few points will focus on how to achieve the right goals.

2. Think about Others

Few real achievements involve just one person. Be a team player: Before deciding to spend weeks or months working toward something, think about others.

It’s important to keep your ears open. Say you learn that you’re not the only member of your family who’d like to get fit in the new year.

Prioritizing that goal is a good idea because it benefits you both: Having an accountability partner makes you both more likely to hit the gym after a hard day.

Related: How to Use Process vs. Outcome Goals for Success

3. Know Your ‘Why’

As important as it is to consider others while creating goals, your first concern should always be your own.

It’s critical to stay motivated in order to make the most of your time and increase your chances of success.

Consider more than “making more money” or “being in better shape.” Do you wish to provide your family a better life? Is it the prospect of your children graduating from college that motivates you to get out of bed every day?

This is very important in the workplace. Mike Novotny, CEO of Medrio, a clinical trial software business, gets through the tough days by remembering his objective of curing disease and saving lives. [3]

Although Novotny recognises that Medrio will not be able to treat every ailment, he believes the industry has the potential to accomplish so.

It is not necessary for your “why” to be about changing the world to be worthwhile.

But it should be something that you believe in, stand a good chance of achieving, and are able to break into specific steps.

4. Look at the Long Term

Short-term goals have value, but they should really be seen as steps toward long-term goals.

Use legacy goals to organize your operations. Challenge yourself: Can you map every item on your calendar to one of those three long-term goals? What about your task list, purchases, and investments?

What might legacy goals look like in your personal life? Think about things that would actually alter your life trajectory. If you want to improve access to education, perhaps starting an online learning company should be one of this year’s legacy goals.

Related: Best Goal Planners for 2021

5. Put First Things First

You’ll need to drill down once you’ve figured out your big picture and annual priorities: What are your plans for getting there? Begin with a simple query, recommends Erin Thompson of Say Insurance.”What am I hoping to accomplish today?”

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the little things if you don’t have a defined plan of action for the day.

The truth is that most of what you accomplish in a day is unlikely to move you closer to your objectives. Responding to emails, cooking meals, and commuting are all necessary, but they should be viewed as tasks rather than steps forward.

6. Be Humble

Whether you’re working on a solo goal or one that involves a whole team, recognize that others’ ideas can help you achieve it faster and more effectively.

Look beyond things like age and job title. Teenager Greta Thunberg has broken through to more people on climate change than many scientists. Mahatma Gandhi was a small-time lawyer before he helped India overcome British rule.

Always assume that the person you’re interacting with has something valuable to tell you. Be open with people about what you want to achieve, and humbly accept their input.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Goal Achievement

7. Give Yourself Some Credit.

The majority of worthwhile goals are accomplished in stages. You’ll struggle to attain your goals if you can’t see and feel yourself making progress toward them, cautions Teamwork CEO Peter Coppinger.

Consider the waypoints you’ll encounter along the road when formulating goals.

Assume you aspire to be a CEO one day. You can’t expect to rise to the top right away, so think about what roles you’d like to take on first.

Celebrate your victories as you progress. Visit a national park you’ve always wanted to see when you get your first managerial position.

Take that European vacation once you’ve been promoted to vice president. Reward yourself with a cruise when you’ve been promoted to the C-suite.

Setting goals is beneficial, but accomplishing them is even more so. Choose wisely, pay attention to people around you, work hard, and remember to rejoice in your victories.


  1. Inc.:Science Says Only 8 Percent of People Actually Achieve Their Goals. Here Are 7 Things They Do Differently

2. Science Daily: Live better with attainable goals

3. Mike Novotny: CEOs, The Purpose Of Any Organization Is The “Why.” Here Are 3 Essential Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Launch

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