How to set the right goals and actually achieve them

Follow these three steps to set and reach meaningful goals that can transform your life: 1) Keep your goals specific and achievable.  2) Ask -- Are you motivated on your own?  Or are you trying to please someone else? Make sure it's the former.  3) Make sure you can form everyday habits that help achieving your goals over the long run.


Reaching the top feels great!

The key is to set goals you would actually achieve.

Keep goals specific, achievable and focused. When we set too many unspecific goals (travel more, weigh less, cook at home, take up a new creative hobby) and/or difficult to achieve goals (lose 50 pounds by July, run my first marathon in March), we're setting ourselves up for failure. Once we start to feel these goals slipping away, it can be easy to become discouraged and give up.

Try this instead: Pick one specific area of your life you'd like to improve and start with one realistic goal to set yourself up for success. Perhaps it's eating healthier (I cook healthy meals at home at least 3 nights every week), or working out more (I go to the gym for 30 minutes 3 times a week), or spending more intentional time with your loved ones (I am home for dinner with my family 6 days a week).


How will you be happy when you get there?

Pay careful attention to why it is that you want to set a certain goal. Goals which you have the highest likelihood of actually achieving are intrinsically motivated (where the motivation is internal and comes from your own desires); however, many of the goals we set for ourselves are actually extrinsically motivated (when we are too focused on fulfilling other's desires for us).

Try this instead: For example, if your initial goal is to lose weight, then ask: why is it that you want to lose weight? Chances are a large part of your motivation comes from others' perception of you as overweight, or your own fear that you're larger than you should be.  Instead, ask how meeting the goal would improve your life: How might losing weight positively affect your life? How do you hope to feel by exercising more?  Think about the prizes at the end of the journey, then ask: will I be happy when I get there?


Focus on establishing new short term habits, not fuzzy long-term aspirations.

Most new year's resolutions fail to last much longer than a few weeks; in fact, only about 8% of people are successful in achieving their New Years Resolutions. Why is this? People are often too focused on glamorous long-term goals, instead of putting in the upfront time at the beginning of the year to set new, sustainable habits.

Try this instead: When setting your goals, create a small change you can make to your routine on a daily basis to incorporate this change and follow through every single day for a full 30 days. If your goal is to establish an exercise routine, perhaps you start by beginning every morning with a brisk 10 minute walk around your neighborhood. Start small, establish the habit, then ramp up the targets. As long as you put in the effort to form a habit, you're halfway to success already.