How to Set Totally Achievable Goals

20 January, 2014

Goal SettingThis time of year is all about setting goals. Unfortunately for most people that means recycling the same ones you had last year. If you’re anything like me then that leaves you with the weird combination of feeling inspired closely followed by doubt and insecurity.

According to John Demartini, we set goals because we have an empty space we need to fill. Anything that we think is not filled, for example, a romantic relationship, or more money, we will try and fill it.

Think of it in terms of business – if you don’t have enough customers, you set goals towards attracting more customers; if you don’t have profit, you search for more profit. Whatever it is you are looking for, whatever you think is missing most you are most likely to set goals towards achieving.

Why we don’t achieve our goals

Why is it that more often than not we don’t achieve our goals? Why do we abandon those carefully created new year’s resolutions after a month, or week? Why do we get to the end of the year feeling like a failure because we haven’t achieved what we set out to do? And then repeat the cycle all over again?

We can blame it on many things: poor economy, poor health, poor motivation and so on. But have you ever considered that perhaps the goal you are setting, or the void you are trying to fill, is not what you really, truly want?

Look at it like this: when you’re motivated to achieve a goal, it’s because you’re taking action towards something that’s important to you.  Sometimes what we think is important to us might in reality not be that important. For instance, the person who says that money is the most important thing to them might be unconsciously sabotaging their efforts to save money, because for example travel might really be more important to them than money. So any extra money earned is not saved or invested, but is spent on travel. Is this person going to meet their goal of becoming financially independent?

Probably not.

When we set goals that are in line with what’s really important to us we become more confident and are more likely to succeed. Any time we set goals that are not in line with what’s important to us, we tend to lose confidence and are more likely to fail.

Know what’s important to you

Why do we consistently set goals towards things that aren’t that important to us? Perhaps it’s because a) we don’t know what’s really important to us and/or b) we tend to think that what’s important to other people is more important than what’s important to us. We replace our set of values with those of others.

When you put other people’s ideals higher than your own, whether consciously or unconsciously, what you’re doing is sacrificing what is truly important to you and attempting to be somebody that you’re not. Interestingly, even though you consciously think what’s important to you is X (e.g. being financially independent), you still live according to what’s really important to you (i.e. wanting to travel) because this is ultimately you.

The result of this is internal conflict because you’re trying desperately to be the way you think you should be, but are still who you are. Then you wonder why you can’t stay focused on the things you think you are supposed to be doing and you move into the world of ‘should-landia’. “I should do this” and “I shouldn’t do that.” So not only is there an internal dilemma, but you start to lose confidence in yourself and have to rely on outside motivation to get you nearer to your goal. And if you don’t have sustainable motivation from the outside, you’re probably going to stop doing whatever it is you’ve set your goal towards and feel like a failure.

Make sense?

The good news is that all is not lost. Anytime you want to get out of the negative cycle of repeat goal-setting you have some choices:

How to set achievable goals

  1. Work out what’s really important to you and set your goals accordingly OR
  2. Change what’s important to you OR
  3. Change your goals so that they support what’s important to you

Let’s look at these in more detail:

What is really important to you?

To help give you some idea of what you consider important, ask yourself these 3 questions (for more, go to

  1. What do you spend money on? Anything you consider worthy of spending money on (besides bills) has value to you. Is it art, music, food, books, movies, entertainment, sport, spa treatments etc?
  2. What do you think about most? Some famous person said that we have ±65000 thoughts per day. 95% of these thoughts are the same ones we had yesterday. What you think about most is what’s important to you.
  3. What do you surround yourself with? Look around, is it art, family portraits, academic certificates, sports trophies, people? We surround ourselves with what has meaning and value to us.

Change what’s important to you

There’s nothing wrong with changing what’s important to you. After all, what’s important to a single person is vastly different from what’s important to the same person when she becomes a wife and a mother.

Change your goals

If you have a goal that seems important but you never get around to it, for instance learning a new language, and every time you think about it you lose confidence and feel like a failure, take it off your list. Especially if it’s been there year after year after year. Don’t delay, delete.

Setting your goals

Now that you’re considering the possibilities of why you don’t achieve your goals, and what in fact is important to you, you’re much better equipped to set goals that will be ticked off your list at the end of the year. Don’t forget to make your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based (for instance “lose 3kg by April” rather than “lose weight”).

And one last tip: what’s the one thing you want to achieve more than anything? For 2104, consider having just this one goal. No delusions, no distractions, no disappointment.

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Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.