How to Set Goals You Can Actually Achieve

reaching goals through actions

Have you ever set goals, and not achieved them? What went wrong with these goals? What steps can you take to succeed in life? How can you set goals you will actually achieve?

Setting goals is critical for reaching your dream life, and living the life you WANT and DESERVE.

Throughout childhood, and even into adulthood, we are always told how goals will change our life, and the importance of setting good goals.

How can you set goals you will reach? Is there a goal setting framework for success? Many people don’t know how to set goals, or don’t have the consistency to achieve their goals.

For example, a recent study by the University of Scranton found that over 92% of people who make New Year’s resolutions will fail to complete them.

Even if you’ve never tried to set concrete goals for yourself there are a number of steps you can take that will significantly increase your odds.

In this post, you’ll learn how to set goals for success, learn about S.M.A.R.T. goals, and learn a framework for setting goals you will actually achieve.

How to Set Goals for a Successful Life

The process of setting goals is not too hard.

However, the process of setting goals which you will actually achieve is a little tricky.

Make no mistake though, you can definitely learn the steps to setting good goals, and get in an action based mindset to achieve your goals.

When creating goals for your life, career, health, money, etc., there are a few things you need to do:

  • Deconstruct your destination and goals and break them into smaller sub-goals
  • Set both short and long-term goals
  • Keep Things S.M.A.R.T.
  • Write down your goals and keep them somewhere visible
  • Share your goals with friends and family

Let’s get into each of these goal setting techniques so you can get on to setting goals you will actually achieve.

Deconstruct Your Goals into Smaller Sub-Goals

What is deconstruction?

Essentially, deconstruction is exploration.  To deconstruct something is to dig around, get the lay of the land, and understand what there is to do to reach your goals.

After getting a feel for what is out there, the next step is to try to figure how the smallest steps which you will be completing.

How can you find these steps?

  • Reduction of the goal
    • What are the common patterns, strokes, actions, etc. which make up the desired result?
    • Figure out the mechanics of the result, and try to break it down:
      • For example, if your goal is to become a better runner, there have been countless studies on how to bring your foot up and then bring your foot down, for maximum power.
      • Without this knowledge, just going out and running probably won’t get us to our goals as fast as possible.
  • Interview to learn more about other people’s success
    • Who are the experts in the skill or action you want to become better at?
    • Better yet, who are the people and practitioners who aren’t just talking heads, but actually have practiced and became better over time?
    • Find out from others who have been successful – stand on the shoulders of giants!
  • Reverse engineer the problem
    • Have you ever heard of reverse engineering? Essentially, you go from a finished product, back to the bones.
    • This method works well with physical objects: cooking, electronics, etc.
  • Look to other areas to see if there are any similarities you could apply
    • Are there any parallels you can draw to the current task at hand from previous experience?

Some of these goal setting methods will be better than others. Think critically about which one makes the most sense for you, and figure out what the best path is for your hopes, wants and dreams.

Set Both Short and Long-Term Goals to Achieve Your Goals

reaching goals through actionsWhen setting goals, it’s important to distinguish between short term and long term goals.

I want to become a millionaire during my lifetime, and realistically, I realize that this probably won’t happen in the next day or week.

However, if I make it a goal of mine 10 years down the road, and set short term goals which can build up to the long term goal, then I will be successful.

For you, as we talked about when deconstructing your goals, if you can find the smaller steps, you can make these your short term goals. For the long term goals, this is your dream.

Short term goals include things like cleaning your room, paying the bills, and things that are on a week to week basis. This could even be something like not spending money during the week so that you can go out during the weekend.

Long term goals include things like saving money for a car or house, losing weight, and learning a skill.

By chipping away at the short term and long-term goals, you will be able to get more done and get closer to your dream at the end of the road.

The Power and Potential of Using S.M.A.R.T. Goals

When learning about goal setting, a very popular goal setting framework and template are S.M.A.R.T. goals.

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals allows you can clarify your ideas, focus your efforts, use your time and resources productively, and increase your chances of achieving what you want in life.

S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

  • Specific
    • Create goals which are laser focused, and have a clear outcome.
  • Measurable
    • If you had to, could you quantify your progress to see where you are along the way?
  • Attainable
    • Are there any barriers in the way of your goal, or do you need additional steps?
  • Realistic
    • Is your goal relevant to your life? Are you the right person to do this?
  • Time Frame
    • How long are you giving yourself to achieve this goal? One week, one month, one year?

Creating your goals using the S.M.A.R.T. framework is one of the highest impact ways you can set yourself up for success.

Which do you think you would be more likely to follow through with:

“I am going to lose weight”


“I am going to lose ten pounds in two months by eliminating sweets and fast food and exercising for a minimum of twenty minutes per day”?

The first goal is too vague, and vague goals will most likely never be achieved.

The second goal is much better because it gets captures exactly what the final result is (lose ten pounds), specifies when it will happen (two months), and lays out the precise actions necessary to achieve it (eliminate junk food and get exercise).

By using S.M.A.R.T. goals, you will be able to create goals which can help focus your thoughts and actions.

The Power of Writing Goals Down on Paper

Setting goals is straightforward, but the real power comes from making them REAL. When setting goals, it should be more than just thinking about them.

To be successful with setting goals, write them down on a piece of paper and hang that piece of paper on the wall.

By writing your goals down on paper, you will keep your goals front and center. You will allow yourself to have them in the front of your mind every time you see that piece of paper.

To quote Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do”.

You’ll be much more likely to keep doing whatever action is necessary to reach your goal if you have a constant reminder.

By writing down your goals on paper, you make our goals REAL. When you put your goals out into the world, this makes them that much more tangible and powerful.

Share Your Goals with Friends and Family to Have Accountability

Do you know any people who constantly are setting goals and talking a big game, but never go anywhere in life?

What do you think of those people?

Instead of telling people about your goals and not following through, telling others about your goals can be a powerful tool.

You can keep yourself accountable by sharing your goals with friends and family.

Any goal becomes much more achievable with the right support network! 

If you want to lose weight, then say to your friends, “I am going to lose 10 pounds in the next two months.”

As time progresses, your friends and family will ask about how you are doing on your goals and want to help. With this support, the grind becomes a little easier.

Writing down your goals on a piece of paper will make them feel real, while sharing your goals with others will keep you accountable and motivated.

Now, let’s talk about the importance of action when setting your goals.

Focus on the Action, Not the Result When Creating Goals

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve?

When I read those questions and think about my answers, I generally will go straight to the result.

What are my goals?

  • I’d like to have better relationships.
  • It would be awesome to do 100 push-ups in a row.
  • I want to be debt free.

All of these thoughts are fantastic, but how am I going to do any of this?

Let’s talk about becoming debt free for example.

It’s a great thought to have that you want to be debt free, but if you are just putting the minimum payment towards your debt and hoping it goes away, do you think you’ll get there?

Instead, we need to focus on the actions: pay off an extra $200 a month. Pay off an extra $600 a quarter. Pay off $2,500 this year.

YOU CAN CONTROL YOUR ACTIONS. You cannot always control the result.

This is why it’s so critical to focus on actions for achieving your goals this year.

Focus on actions, you cannot always control the result.

A 3 Step Framework to Setting Goals for Work and Life

Here are 3 simple steps for setting goals for your work and life.

As we discussed above, it’s first about asking yourself the right questions and understanding what you want in life, and then working backwards to find the actions that make sense.

  1. Identify your goals and dreams
    • Split your goals and dreams into multiple buckets: social, financial, spiritual, physical, emotional, work, fun.
    • Ask yourself: where do you want to be in 1 year? In 5 years? In 10 years?
    • Do you want to get a promotion at work?  Do you want to increase your savings rate? Are you looking to retire early? Do you want more friends? Are you happy with your job? What things stress you out? Do you want to lose 10 pounds?
  2. Figure out which actions you must take to reach those goals and dreams
    • You have your dream, now what do you have to do to make it happen? GO DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE!
    • Do you want to retire early? Ask yourself, what’s your savings rate? What is your retirement income goal? Are you currently saving enough to allow yourself to retire at age X?
    • Are you looking to get a promotion at work? Who are the key influences of your career? What skills are necessary to be successful at the next level? Should you be networking X times a week?
    • Do you want to lose 10 pounds? What are you eating each day? Are you exercising enough to get your body in a calorie deficit?
  3. Make a Plan and Take action
    • If you goal is to lose weight, decide to cook your own food 5 times a week. If your goal is to save money, pursue money saving options in your housing, transportation and eating. The possibilities are endless!
    • It’s great to know what you have to do, but if you never take action, you will never achieve your goals and dreams.

Through using this framework for setting goals for work and life, you can create a plan for your success. There are so many ways to reach your dreams, and through effective goal setting, you can get there.

The Importance of Taking Action for Achieving Your Goals

“An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ideas, goals, and dreams are worthless without action.

Humans underestimate how much they can accomplish in a year, but overestimate what they can accomplish in a day.

Everyone on this Earth has 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, 720 hours in a month, and 8,760 hours in a year.

What’s your idea? Where do you want to be in a year? What about 3 years? 5 years? What’s your goal?

Successfully setting goals is possible and doable. Now, that you have a framework for setting goals you will actually achieve, it’s time to get out into the world and achieve those goals.

Readers: what are your goals? What are you looking to achieve? How do you set goals?

How to set goals you can actually achieve