Goal Setting Techniques

Success is the progressive realization of
a worthwhile goal. – Earl Nightingale

The ability to set goals and to make plans to achieve them is the one essential skill of success. In fact, becoming a continuous goal setter will contribute to your success more than anything else you could ever do. An average person can achieve more than even the most brilliant genius, if that average person has clear written goals and the genius does not. Still, less than 3% have goals in writing and less than 1% review their goals regularly.

The very best way to predict the future is to create it. Goals allow you to decide how your life will change, making sure that the change is in the direction you want. The reason why people with goals succeed is because they know where they are going. It is as simple as that. When you create a vision of something you want in your life you will suddenly begin to notice the distinctions between where you are and where you want to be. You will become aware and alert to opportunities in your environment that can be resources for you to achieve the goal and you will get creative ideas and inspiration to take action towards it.


A high level of ambition is a hallmark of all successful people. This means that you should set goals that are beyond your current ability and skill, yet still believable. You grow as a person from the demands you place on yourself, so always demand more from yourself than anyone else does. What is possible for you today comes from your past experiences, and if you limit yourself based on the past you will not go any further.

Set ambitious goals and continually work to surpass them. Your goals only specify the minimum results you will accept, not the maximum. Ambitious goals push you into action and even if you do not achieve every one of them, you will still go farther than if you had settled for goals that were too easy. Find goals grand enough to challenge you. Goals that will push you forward and let you discover what you are capable of. There are no limits to what you can accomplish. The only limits are those that you place on yourself. Do not let the limitations of others be your limitations.

Big goals will motivate and inspire you far more than less challenging goals. Most people settle for far less than they are capable of and get stuck in a comfort zone. The way to get out of the comfort zone is through continuous goal setting – to continually stretch yourself, always striving for something more. The more ambitious your goals are and the stronger your desire for them is, the more motivated you will be to make yourself do what you need to do to get where you want to go.

How badly you want your goals will more than anything else determine whether you achieve them or not. You can have virtually anything you want in life if you know exactly what it is you want and you are prepared to do the tasks necessary to achieve it. The requirement is only that you do the tasks in advance and that you do all of them. To tell that the tasks have been completed is easy, because when they are the success will be there in front of you for all to see.

Choosing your Goals

Brainstorm at least 10 goals that you personally want to accomplish and organize them by priority. Write them all down with at least one for each of these major life areas:

  • Health, fitness and physical goals.
  • Emotional and spiritual goals.
  • Financial, business and career goals.
  • Family, social and contribution goals.
  • Material, leisure and experience goals.
  • Personal and professional development goals.

To clarify what you really want to be, have and do in life, you can project yourself forward 5 years into the future and imagine that all of your dreams have come true. What does it look like for each area? What kind of lifestyle do you have? Where do you live? Who are there with you? Another powerful way to find your goals is to consider how you would spend your time if you had only 6 months left to live. What if you only had 6 weeks, 6 days or 6 hours left? Finally, what would you do if you found out that you had only 60 minutes left to live?

The Five Steps to Goal Achievement

When you are done deciding upon your goals, here are five steps for achieving them at the fastest possible pace.

1. Define

A real goal is specific, measurable, time-bound and in writing. Once you have decided upon a goal the first step is to define it clearly, exactly as you want it accomplished. The more specific and concrete you are, the better. The second step is to make sure your goal is measurable. How much do you want and by when? Set the criteria for achieving it so you can measure your progress towards it. The third step is to decide on the exact date when you will have the goal achieved. Give yourself a realistic, but challenging deadline. Without one you will procrastinate and put things off. A deadline will motivate you to do the things necessary to make your goal come true. Commit yourself to the deadline and even try to beat it. If you for some reason do not achieve the goal by the deadline, set another deadline until you do achieve it.

Once you have done these three steps, the fourth and final step is to put the goal in writing. Just writing a goal down dramatically increases the likelihood that you will achieve it. A great method is to write your goals down in the present tense, as though they were already accomplished – for example: “I have acquired a certain amount of money”, “I have reached a certain percentage of body fat”, “I have overcome my fear of public speaking” or “I have developed the habit of reading one hour per day”, followed by the deadline date.

2. Plan

Write down a plan of action to achieve your goal and schedule it in a calendar. A goal is defined by the tasks you have to perform to accomplish it. If your goal is to form a positive habit, such as “I will learn a new skill every month”, the action plan is the same as the goal. On the other hand, if your goal contains lots of steps, write out a detailed list of everything you need to do. You can then organize the action steps by sequence and priority.

To determine the steps towards your goal, you can often visualize yourself having already achieved it and then work your way back to the present. You should also identify the obstacles in your way, the resources you will require and the people whose cooperation you will need. Write it all down. You can always add to your plan later as you discover more steps. If the goal is long-term, you should break it down into sub goals with deadlines every 30 days.

Once you have written your action plans for each of your major goals, it is time to make a detailed schedule. This will be talked about in the next chapter on time management. In brief, you take a couple of minutes at the beginning of each week to schedule tasks from your action plans to the days of the week. During these minutes you also review your plans, their progress, and set new goals.

3. Action

After you have planned your work, it is time to work your plan. Your goal setting must result in action, because even the best plan in the world will not work unless you do. Discipline yourself to perform the activities of your plan on schedule. Observe how effective your action steps are and adjust your plan accordingly to make sure that what you are doing is taking you towards your goals. A simple yet powerful success strategy to follow is to schedule and perform one activity for each goal every single day. If you do this, then no matter how big or distant your goals are, you will reach them sooner or later. It will also build a chain of habits that will put your progress on autopilot.

When you have set a goal, the question of whether it is possible is irrelevant. The only question you need to ask is: How can this goal be accomplished? How do you get from where you are to where you want to go? Always be on the lookout for things you can do to contribute to the achievement of your goals and continually look for better ways to achieve them.

4. Persistence

Make the decision in advance that you will never give up. Never even consider the possibility of failure. See defeat as just a temporary part of learning how to succeed. Know that as long as you refuse to quit you will eventually be successful. The ability to persist in the face of the inevitable obstacles and difficulties to your goals is essential. In fact, with enough persistence there are very few goals you cannot accomplish in life.

Your success in any area of life is largely determined by how well you deal with adversity. You can often tell how high and how far a person will go simply by looking at how they react to frustration and setbacks. Successful people are not those who do not have problems – they are the ones who refused to become discouraged by their defeats. Each time we face a challenge we have the choice to respond confidently, or to let it overwhelm us. If you choose deliberately to respond in a constructive way and to deal with the problem effectively, you will learn, grow and become better able to deal with future challenges.

5. Motivation

It is up to you to make an absolute must out of every goal you set. The more you think about, visualize, review and rewrite your goals, the deeper you will drive them into your subconscious mind, the greater your motivation will be and the faster you will move towards them. Get a clear mental picture of you reaching each one of your goals. Make it so real in your mind that it feels like you already have achieved them. It is the images we see in our minds that drive us towards our goals. It is these images that we can call to mind for support when the going gets tough.

You should surround yourself with symbols of your goals and plans to help keep them constantly in your mind. For example, find pictures of your goals or write them down on post-it notes that you place on your bathroom mirror or work desk where you can see or read them every day. Alternatively, carry your goals with you on cards in your wallet and review them regularly. You can even begin each day by rewriting all of your major goals, and visualizing yourself already in possession of them.


  1. Write your goals down clearly and set a deadline for their accomplishment.
  2. Make plans to achieve your goals, schedule them and take action.
  3. Do something every day that moves you towards your goals and never give up.
  4. Review your goals often and visualize them as already achieved.
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Handbook of Success