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10 Tips on Setting and Achieving Your Goals

Updated on December 29, 2011

A goal without a plan is just a wish ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Many years ago when I was a teen and in my early 20s, I took time at the end of the year to reflect on the previous months. It’s important to think of where we’ve been but that’s only half of it. Knowing where we’ve been doesn’t do us much good if we don’t also know where we want to go.

I don’t recall my parents asking me or any of my siblings what our goals were as we were growing up. I do remember telling my mother I wanted to get into publishing but that was the extent of our conversation. There was no follow-up question asking how I planned to get there or in what area of publishing did I see myself.

It wasn’t until much later when my sister began her spiritual work that I began to think about what I wanted and how I was going to accomplish that. As my sister learned new ways of thinking about the world and her life and what she could accomplish, she taught me. And I try to teach my own children. Just a couple weeks ago I asked my older son where he saw himself in five years and what was his plan for getting there.

Living life without a plan or a goal is like sailing across the ocean without a chart. Yes, you’ll finally get to your destination and yes, you might have some adventures along the way but let the winds of fate push you around? Why not take control and steer the boat yourself?

If you fail to plan, plan to fail.

I don’t know who said this originally but I’ve never forgotten a founding member of my Toastmasters club saying this to me. Devising a plan is like setting goals. Without either, you will fail.

Here are some tips for setting goals.

Spend some time thinking of who you are. This might seem like an odd thing to do first but if you don’t know who you are, what your core values and dreams are then it’s going to be harder to determine your goals. Getting to know yourself ensures your goals will be something you really want, not something you “should” do or achieve.

Brainstorm different areas of your life. It’s important to keep a balance, so break your life down into segments. Mine might be family, work, finances, writing and fitness. Think of what’s important to you and go from there.

Don’t just think of this year. Where do you see yourself in five years? 10? But don’t overlook the short term either. Setting short-term goals so we can feel immediate satisfaction of achieving something can be a powerful motivator and gives us something to build upon.

Break down your long-term goals into manageable pieces. This goes along with the previous point. I don’t like living where I do and want to put my house on the market next year. But my house needs better curb appeal so this year I’ll pretty up the yard and look into the cost of rebuilding my sagging front porch.

Write down your goals! This is so important. Having it in your head just isn’t going to cut it. The act of writing down your goals gives them power and energy. They become concrete, not just a dream you’re carrying around in the back of your mind.

Write your goals as positive statements. Write them as what you want, not as what you don’t want. For instance, don’t write, “I don’t want to gain any more weight.” And write them in the present tense. By writing them as if they are being realized now or have already been achieved sets them in your subconscious. The subconscious works in the present. If you write your goals in the future, your subconscious won’t get there.

Be specific. If you want to lose weight, decide how many pounds you want to shed and write it down. Don’t scrimp on the details. If you want to be living in a different house a year from now, visualize what that house looks like. “I am living in a 2,000 square-foot house set on the edge of a wood with a creek running nearby.”

Set performance goals not outcome goals. You have more control over performance goals than you do over outcome goals. What’s the difference?

I started running a few 5k races this year and each time I’ve run, I’ve shaved a few seconds off my time. If my goal in the next race is to be one of the top three female runners, I’m setting myself up for failure. What if I were to pull a muscle during the race and it slows me down? A pulled muscle is beyond my control. But if I set a goal to shave another 10 seconds off my time, that’s measurable and achievable, even if I do pull that muscle.

Review them regularly. Back in the days before GPS systems, people used maps to chart their course on a trip. Every once in a while, you’d pull out the map to check that you were still on the right road. It’s the same with your goals. You need to pull out your ‘roadmap’ and make sure you haven’t deviated too much from your original course.

Check in with someone else. In my opinion, having a mentor is the best way to succeed and accomplish your goals. In my Toastmasters club, all new members are assigned a mentor, someone to answer their questions and guide them through their initial speeches.

I love it that my sister and I call each other most Sundays to see how we’re meeting our goals. It helps to have someone to be accountable to and it gives us an excuse to call each other (not that we really do need a reason). We talk about the challenges and our successes in meeting our goals and review what we want to accomplish over the next week. Sometimes it has to be nothing more than a ‘to-do list’ but for the most part we keep each other moving forward.

Try these tips when you get ready to write your own goals for 2012. Happy New Year!

Do you have a someone to help you reach your goals?

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    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks vocalcoach. As I was getting ready to reply to your comment, I looked over my hub and realized that I've gotten off track on my own goals I set this year. I have been feeling 'adrift' lately and need to sit down and 'regroup.' Thanks for reading.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      9 years ago from Pahrump NV

      I "awoke" to the very first line of your hub. "A goal without a plan is just a wish." Like I said, it's an eye opener and one that hits home with me.

      I have listed each of your 10 tips on my refrigerator as well as on my bathroom mirror. :-) Thanks a bunch and voted up and useful!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading my hub iguidenetwork. Good luck on reaching your goals this year.

    • iguidenetwork profile image


      9 years ago from Austin, TX

      I think it will really work!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Barbergirl28 - I absolutely believe you can do anything you set your mind to, having witnessed your finishing the P90X program! But you're right, writing down your goals makes them more concrete. Good luck on whatever your goals are for 2012!

    • barbergirl28 profile image

      Stacy Harris 

      9 years ago from Hemet, Ca

      This is a great hub... absolutley wonderful. Setting goals is very important and writing them down is equally important if you actually want to see results. Sure, you might get there, but without writing them down, how did you actually know. I am sad to say that last year I set a bunch of goals for myself. My sister and I were pushing each other... unfortunately, the goals were written down on a piece of paper that I can't seem to find. Thinking I had facebook as a backup, I went looking for the goals to see if I have reached them.. and they ended up getting deleted somehow. I think I need to start fresh and write down my goals. I have some big ones but I have learned I can do anything I put my mind too!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Millionaire - I think most parents can think of at least one thing they feel they didn't emphasize enough with their kids whether it's teaching them better money skills, how to set goals, or even just how to do their own laundry and cook a simple meal. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      9 years ago from USA

      This is all great advice for setting goals. I especially liked the part about teaching our children to set goals. I'm not sure I did that enough.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for reading and commenting Christin. Working on goals can be a real challenge at times but definitely worth the work it takes.

    • ChristinS profile image

      Christin Sander 

      9 years ago from Midwest

      Excellent hub Danette - I totally agree about writing one's goals and seeing them in front of you. It's hard to deny them or push them away when they are right there looking at you. I also know that breaking big goals down into bit sized chunks has a way of keeping us motivated and on the path.

      Totally enjoyed this hub :) thanks

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      @ jpcmc - thanks, I'm glad you found it worthwhile to read. I think one of the harder things to do sometimes - once you settle on a goal - is to figure out the steps to take to get there.

      @ Bernard - so very true that we are the architects of our lives! It's what I've been telling my kids for years and I think they get it. Thanks for reading and leaving such a thought-provoking comment.

    • sunkentreasure profile image


      9 years ago from RUIMSIG, SOUTH AFRICA


      You are the architect of your life.

      Create your own opportunities

      and make things happen.

      Set yourself a specific goal

      and monitor your progress.

      Be of service.

      Keep doing things for others

      without counting the cost.

      Turn your defeats into victories.

      Control your environment.

      Mix with the kind of

      people who inspire you.

      Keep your attitude positive

      and your health in fine trim.

      Let God go before you

      in everything you do.

      Pray regularly with feeling.

      Always be planning

      something constantly.

      You are the magnet of

      your circumstances.

      Never give up!

      © Bernard Levine

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 

      9 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      Reading your hub is always worth the time. This one is truly valuable. You're right setting performance goals is more productive. I've been preaching to my MMA students and it has worked for all of us. Moreover, breaking down your goals into concrete tasks really helps achieve more.

      This hub deserves a vote up!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks Debbie. As a goal-oriented person, I know that I'm really at my best when I have something to work toward, as are most people. The trick is finding the methods that work to help us set and achieve them.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      9 years ago from Greece

      Your hub is full of sensible ideas to help us achieve any goals we may set ourselves. Setting ourselves sensible goals helps to keep us motivated and achieving our goals helps us to feel good. Well done, Danette.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment, thelyricwriter. I'm glad you found them useful and good luck reaching your goals in 2012!

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      9 years ago from West Virginia

      Up, useful, and awesome votes. This truly is great advice. These tips are great. A full clear plan, a very well written article Danette. I believe writing them down really helps, instead of reciting them in your head or to yourself. Best wishes and take care.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      @ carol3san - Thanks for reading and I wish you lots of success in your writing as well.

      @cclitgirl -- Thanks. Yep, I still haven't actually written mine down yet - thought about them, mulled them over, but haven't put pen to paper yet.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      Great advice. Now I have to actually sit down and write down some goals. :)

    • carol3san profile image

      Carolyn Sands 

      9 years ago from Hollywood Florida

      Thanks Danette. All great advice. I'm loving this week's topic. Wishing you a happy new year and much success with your writting. Voted up.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Angie, how very cool, finding that paper. It's always interesting to come across journal entries or something as you had and see what's been fulfilled and how. Best to you in 2012!

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      9 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Many years ago, Danette I drew a wish circle and wrote inside it all the things I wanted to achieve in my life. I then put it away amongst my papers.

      Years later I came upon it whilst sorting out for a house move and I was stunned by how many of my 'wishes' I had actually achieved. I had not consciously kept them in my mind but it did feel as if the Universe had somehow helped me. Especially as some of them had seemed a bit 'way out' at the time!

      We are never too old to set goals for ourselves ... in fact it has been proven that people with goals are the happiest. All we need to do is to not set the bar too high at any one time ...

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      @Movie Master - thanks for taking the time to leave a message. I wish you success in reaching your goals in 2012.

      @simeonvisser - I think that's really the key - knowing what you want. Sometimes that can take a few false starts before we figure it out but once we do, everything seems to fall into place after that.

      @Chin chin - thanks for reading and commenting and have a great 2012!

    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 

      9 years ago from Philippines

      "Write down your goals." That is what I am planning to do right now. Thanks for the wonderful reminder tips you shared. Happy New Year to you, too.

    • simeonvisser profile image


      9 years ago

      Good hub really. It basically comes down to knowing what you what and to measure your progress along the way. That's why it's recommended to write things down (what you intend to do, what you've done so far) so you can see how your days, months and years are going. Happy 2012 by the way!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Excellent tips and advice Danette, I am bookmarking as I will refer to these great ideas again.

      Voted up and thank you for sharing.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Hi mljdgulley, thanks for reading and leaving a comment. I think the most successful people have mentors and guides. Happy New Year to you as well.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great ideas. I like having a mentor to talk with as I go about trying to accomplish some goal or institute a plan. Happy New Year

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      BarryR - thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a comment. Hope they help you set and reach your goals.

      Cara, thanks for the comment. Interesting that Michigan has included goal setting but a good idea.

      Hi Nell, I agree, having a mentor is so important. As I mentioned in the hub, I have my sister but I also just made an arrangement with my meditation partner for us to check in with each other weekly as well.

      Debby, I think you give me more credit than I deserve. Well organized? Yep that's me! But I'm stumbling over the first tip I wrote - know thyself. I think I'm having an identity crisis at age 55!

      DzyMsLizzy - We must have gone to the same school of hard knocks! I'm sure I saw you roaming the halls a few times. :) Thanks for the vote and taking the time to comment.

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Hi K9keystrokes. Yes, that cape can be troublesome! For those of us who try to do too much and set very high standards for ourselves, those manageable pieces are important. Happy new year!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Hi Jyoti, I'm glad you found the hub useful and I hope if you are making some goals for yourself this year these tips help you reach them.

      Denise, thanks for reading. I have that first quote taped to my bathroom mirror. It's a good reminder for me.

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Wow, you are right-on-target with the idea that most parents have no clue how to teach their kids to set goals and follow through with a plan. I sure didn't--I've learned everything at the College of Hard Knocks!

      At this stage of my life, I'm not too concerned with 10-year goals--I may not still be on the sunny side of the ground by then--but I do have things I want to do in the meantime.

      This was very well organized. Voted up, interesting and useful.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      9 years ago

      Dear Danette ~ I'm surprised more folks haven't read and commented on this succinct and well organized list of advice and tips to reach your goals. I suppose if I implemented them all I would probably be standing in a most desirable place that I could measurably say was nearer to my dreams. However, since I'm not as well organized as you, perhaps I shall just take one of these delicious tidbits and see if I can apply that one. Blessings, Debby

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      9 years ago from England

      Hi, you have some really great ideas here, I think for me, your idea about having some one else help you is probably the best way to make me attain my goals, I am so disorganised when it comes to doing anything new, thanks for the info, cheers nell

    • cardelean profile image


      9 years ago from Michigan

      Setting goals is part of the State of Michigan's evaluation process for teachers. A few years ago they revised them from outcome to performance based. As Simone said, it really is an important distinction. Great hub with really important advice.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      9 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Great hub lots of useful tips here! Thanks for this !

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      9 years ago from Northern, California

      For me, the "manageable pieces" rings loud and clear. I have often (more than I care to admit) taken on so much more than I am able to accomplish with an acceptable degree of success. However, I have discovered that being a super woman is quite an unrealistic goal!(That darn cape keeps tripping me up);) I respect your reasonable approach to setting and then achieving ones goals. Setting achievable goals, rather than setting oneself up to fail, has a far better ring to it!



    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      9 years ago from North Carolina

      This is a fabulously useful hub. I love the quotes! I especially love the provocative questions one doesn't usually see in a goal setting read: know who you are...that is an important one. I've bookmarked this and will be sharing it with others. Thanks!

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 

      9 years ago from Jaipur


      Well written hub. It looks that you have planned the hub before writing it. Rated useful and up!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thank you sabrani44 and Jynzly for reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Simone. I already knew most of these tips but came across the first point and it just made so much sense to me. Duh! :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Performance vs. outcome- that's SUCH an important distinction when it comes to achieving goals! I'm so glad you've pointed that out. I'm also huge on regular review- it has made a big difference for me! Thanks for sharing the useful pointers :D

    • Jynzly profile image

      Jenny Pugh 

      9 years ago from Marion, Indiana, USA

      This is very informative. Thanks for sharing.


    • sabrani44 profile image


      9 years ago

      Great hub, thanks for sharing!

    • Danette Watt profile imageAUTHOR

      Danette Watt 

      9 years ago from Illinois

      Thanks James. I think most successful people have had a mentor to guide them along. I hope you find one if that's what you're looking for.

    • JamesPoppell profile image


      9 years ago

      This is great advice. I especially like the idea of having mentor to work with you.

      Thank you!


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