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How to Set and Achieve Your Life Goals

Updated on July 14, 2020

What are your goals?

The first step in achieving your goals is figuring out what they are. Think about it. This is really the easy part. Most people would say “I want to lose weight” or “I want to get married.” While these are common goals and often are achievable, they are not worded in an attainable way. If you write on your refrigerator, “I want to lose weight!” this really won’t help you lose weight in most cases. You need specific, measurable goals. However, you still need to identify these big goals. What will make you happy in life? Where do you want to be in five years? WHO do you want to be in five years? What changes do you wish were going on in life right now?

Write down your goals.

Record your big goals or “dreams.” You can do this in a number of ways. You can do it on flash cards, on a poster board, on the computer on little pieces of paper to fit in your wallet, or on a planning sheet like this:

My Goals
1. I want to lose weight
2. I want to get married.
3. I want to have a child.
4. I want to be closer to my family
(Numbers 1-4 are “dreams” or big goals)

Analyze your goals.

To reduce the number of goals, you can analyze your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, why do you want to lose weight? If you are doing it for your mother, then you are doing it to please another person. What else do you want to do to please that person? Is the real goal “To please my mother” or are the real goals, “To lose weight to please my mother” and “To walk a mile a day to please my mother?” Another example in losing weight might be are you doing it to attract a mate, or are you doing it to be more healthy? Your big goal would then change from “lose weight” to “attract a mate” or “be more healthy.” Analyzing your goals in depth like this will help in the next few steps too.

Limit yourself.

Make sure you are being reasonable. Don’t ask for one million dollars if you are in a lower income bracket. Don’t ask for more than 10 big goals, or when you cease to achieve them, you will feel like a failure. So, STEP ONE is to list your big goals (less than 10). Keep these in mind for the rest of your life. These are your life-long goals.

Long Term Goals

If you have long-term goals, such as making $100,000.00, separate them from your short-term goals. If there are goals that will take five or more years, you may need to reassess them. Make them into smaller “big goals” or keep them in mind, but focus on your short-term goals for now. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself.

Prepare for your "baby goals."

Now, you can’t just “think” about these goals and “hope” they come true. You have to take action. The big goals need baby goals that you can actually DO. You have to break down those big goals into achievable steps. This can be easy or hard. If you want to work out every day, you could make a baby step of starting this goal by working out one day a week. That’s pretty straight forward. If you want to attract a mate, you may have to dig deeper. Once you know what you really want (your BIG GOALS), you can break it down into smaller goals - achievable goals.

What are "Baby Goals?"

Baby goals are what you would consider to be “goals.” If someone asked you what you wanted in life, those would be your “dreams.” However, if someone asked you what your New Year’s Resolutions were, those would be considered “goals” or “baby goals.” I call “goals” “baby goals” because your goals are your “dreams” as mentioned in the first section, and your baby goals are one step down.

Example of the analysis of a baby goal.

If you want to lose weight to attract a mate, you may have other smaller goals like painting your nails each week. Examining your goals and why you are really doing them tells you what you really want. Here are some examples of “big” goals:

  1. I want to lose weight.
  2. I want to get married.
  3. I want to have a baby.
  4. I want to be closer to my family.
  5. I want to finish college.
  6. I want to quit smoking.

These have to be broken down into smaller goals, or they cannot be achieved. You cannot simply say, “I want to get married,” and then turn down every person who asks you out. You aren’t focusing on your goal, and you will not achieve it. Instead, if you approach it like “I will go out with any girl that I am attracted to and that meets my standards,” you have a specific way to measure a mate. You should have a list of approximately 10 things you specifically require in a mate, and if the person meets the list, give them a chance. I say 10, because any less and you are not being picky enough, and any more than that and you are being too picky.

So what do baby goals consist of?

In the above examples, baby goals would be something like:

1. I want to lose 25 pounds by March.
2. I want to go on 3 dates by November.
3. I want to discuss with my husband once a week whether we should have a child or not.
4. I want to call my family once a week and visit them once a month.
5. I want to enroll in 2 more classes in the Fall and hire a tutor.
6. I want to only smoke 2 cigarettes per day at most by June.

These goals are specific. They give time frames; they say EXACTLY what is wanted. They are also attainable. Saying you want a million dollars by June is unrealistic. You need an achievable goal, so that you can accomplish it and be proud. However, keep in mind that if you do not achieve your goal perfectly, you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself. Clearly, that goal was not as important to you as you thought, and you can perhaps accomplish it at a later time. STEP TWO Make a list of less than 20 achievable, specific, measureable, and attainable goals.

Step by Step

You have made tremendous progress if you narrowed your goals down to baby goals, because they are achievable, specific, and attainable. However, you still don’t have a PLAN. A plan consists of a step by step process that you can follow in order to achieve your baby goal.

Example of Going from a Goal to a Step-By-Step Process

Goal: To Quit Smoking

Baby Goal: To cut back to only 2 cigarettes per day by June

Step-by-Step Process: For 6 weeks starting tomorrow, I will not smoke more than 15 at most cigarettes per day. After that, I will smoke less than 10 at most cigarettes per day for 4 weeks. Then, I will smoke less than 5 at most for 2 weeks. The following 2 weeks I will smoke 2 at most, and it will be June. I will have accomplished my goal.

Example of Weight Loss Goal.

Goal: I want to lose weight.

Baby Goal: I want to lose 15 pounds by November.

Step-by-Step Process: Per the advice of my primary care physician, I will eat Oatmeal for breakfast every morning, an apple for a snack in the mid-morning, a salad for lunch with a non-creamy dressing, a granola bar for a mid-afternoon snack, and grilled chicken with vegetables for dinner every night. I will not deviate from my diet. I will allow myself one slip-up (a small one) on a Saturday. Following this diet will permit me to accomplish my goal by November.

You MUST have a Step-by-Step method of how you are going to achieve the goal – baby steps so that you can do it!!

Achieving the Goal

Once you have achieved a goal, don’t stop there (depending on the goal). Don’t stop with the smoking cessation. Keep trying to quit, and with your next baby goal, you will be quit for good. Also, don’t stop with the weight loss if you are wishing to lose more weight. If you can handle the diet, continue on it. Just lengthen the time of your goal. If you do reward yourself for achieving a goal, make sure the reward is reasonable. If your goal involved saving money, spending $1,000 on a gift for yourself defeats the purpose. If your goal was losing weight, don’t treat yourself to a pig-out Italian meal. Just watch your reward, but DO pat yourself on the back!

Goal Achievement

Now that you have your step-by-step process for achieving your goals, you must make a plan to achieve them. You should put sticky notes around your work station, add a calendar to your phone with the goals listed on there, or put your goals in a planner. Make a list of how you will achieve the steps and when you will do it. Keep a schedule, and you can get it done!

Goal Achievement Conclusion

  • Determine your goals and dreams. Analyze them, and list your big goals. Specifically, write out your big goals.
  • Break down your big goals into achievable, smaller goals, called “baby goals.” Specify these baby goals. Make a list of less than 20 achievable, specific, measureable, and attainable goals. You MUST have a Step-by-Step method of how you are going to achieve the goal – baby steps so that you can do it!!
  • Reward yourself for achieving your goal. Make sure it is attainable.
  • Get organized and get the steps done.


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