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How to Set and Achieve Personal Goals

Updated on September 6, 2011
Achieving Goals (Photo by ilker)
Achieving Goals (Photo by ilker)

Think About What You Want Out of life

Most of us spend our time drifting along with the tides of work, school, family, and our leisure interests. But in drifting are we maximizing our potential or getting what we need or want? Is health suffering because of the lack of physical activity or because of unhealthy addictions? Do we have enough money to enjoy life? Are our relationships good? How about personal character – is it solid and trustworthy? Do we have enough education or training to do well in a job or career?

Setting goals is a powerful means of accomplishing more and getting what you want. A key part of setting personal goals is first giving serious thought to what you want to accomplish in life. Here are some areas where personal goals can be very useful:

  • Education or Training
  • Career
  • Relationships
  • Financial Security
  • Retirement
  • Health
  • Physical Fitness
  • Personal Enrichment

You must decide what your goals will be and which areas of your life deserve the most improvement. Whatever you decide your goals are, they should be high in importance to you.

Set Goals the SMART Way

Goals work well when they are high priorities in your life because they are really important to you and they are set properly, using the "SMART" approach to setting goals. Make your goals:

  • S – Specific – not vague or too general
  • M – Measurable – so progress can be tracked and you know when the goal has been achieved
  • A – Attainable – realistic and achievable without disrupting your whole life
  • R – Relevant – important to you at the present time or for your future well-being
  • T – Timed – reasonable deadlines and milestones to keep you focused on making progress

Goals should be challenging, but doable, and must be important to you or they probably won’t work well.

Generate Strategies to Achieve Your Goals

Strategies are processes or broad means of achieving goals. Strategies are about how you will go about achieving your goals. Examples of strategies for a weight loss goal of 30 pounds in six months might be:

Strategy 1: Follow the Mayo Clinic Diet for six months.

Strategy 2: Engage in daily brisk walks as a permanent lifestyle change (to burn calories and to help keep the weight off once lost).

Be creative but make sure any broad strategies you generate can be both efficient and effective in achieving the goals you set. 

Identify and Outline the Tasks Required

Important goals that require significant time and effort and, perhaps money to accomplish, merit having detailed action plans. That means specific tasks along with timing and budget should be identified and written down. Here’s an example based on the weight loss goal and diet strategy above:

Sample Tasks for Diet Strategy (Strategy 1 above)

  1. Buy the Mayo Clinic Diet Book and the Mayo Clinic Diet Journal in week one (budget: about $40).
  2. Get medical approval for the Mayo Clinic diet from your doctor by week two.
  3. Read part one of the Mayo Clinic Diet Book by the end of week three.
  4. Pick a start date for the diet to begin some time in month one, when you are primed, prepared and ready.
  5. Implement the fast weight loss phase called “Lose It” and follow it for two weeks.
  6. Read the remainder of the Mayo Clinic Diet book during the two weeks of the “Lose It” phase.
  7. Follow the Mayo Clinic Diet “Live It” phase for the remainder of the six months, recording progress first in the Diet Journal and thereafter in a notebook.

Ask Crucial Questions About Your Goals

Your goals determine what your focus will be in personal development and where you will be expending a lot of time and effort. It’s worth making sure that your goals are well chosen and properly framed. Ask your self crucial questions along the way for each goal you set, such as:

  • Am I really capable of achieving this goal in the time I’ve allowed?
  • Do I need to acquire any new knowledge or skills to enable me to achieve this goal?
  • Is pursuing this goal now a good use of my time, energy and resources?
  • Will achieving this goal really make my life more fulfilling?
  • Will pursuing this goal do justice to other people in my life?

There are many tradeoffs in life and choosing to pursue one goal may exclude other goals and other activities. Self-discipline is hard but is worth acquiring because it makes achieving goals easier. Most people can find the time to pursue important goals if they just give up some entertainment like watching TV, playing games or surfing the net. Can you do it?                                    

Related Articles

Related articles that can help with personal development and achieving goals include:

Setting Goals for Personal Development

How to Increase Productivity Using To-Do Lists

Articles that discuss the Mayo Clinic Diet and a brisk walking program are:

How to Follow the Mayo Clinic Diet for Healthy Weight Loss

How to Lose Weight by Walking Briskly


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    • Darren Owens profile image

      Darren Owens 5 years ago from Bay Area, California

      Good article! It is very useful and also important to set and achieve goals.