Setting goals you can achieve

Setting goals effectively can be a real challenge sometimes, but it is also important. Goals serve as directional beacons, helping us know whether we’re doing the right things in service of our greater objectives in life.

It can be hard to identify and set the right goals. And it can be even harder to figure out what steps you should take in order to start to achieve them. But with a bit of effort and a bit of support, you can do it!

There are four steps to get from a vague idea of where you want to go to an action plan.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Step 1: Identify your values

The first step in effective goal setting is to identify your values. Goals are easier to achieve if they align with some overarching principle that is important to you. Your values are personal to you and you may have different values than your friends or your family members. That’s perfectly normal.

Here’s an example list of values to get your started, but the possibilities are endless!

Example of Possible Values

It can be tempting to look through those words and pick out a laundry list of values, because yes, many of them are virtues. The important part of this step, though, is to pick the most important things to you personally. We all have to make trade-offs in life — I can either take that trip or buy that new car, I can either quit and go back to school or stay in my job and work for that promotion — so pretending that all our values are equivalent and can be pursued at the same time will lead us to disappointment.

If you’re struggling to prioritize your values, think about times when you had limited resources (usually time, money, or energy) and competing wants. Which one did you pick? Why? Can you connect it back to a value that is important to you?

It may be helpful to set up a practice of self-reflection if you’re unsure what your values are. Be patient with yourself; this isn’t always easy.

Step 2: Setting goals linked to your values

Once you’ve identified your values, think of something you’d like to achieve related to one or more of them. This is another reason why you don’t want a laundry list of values to try to align your life to. It’s not possible to effectively pursue too many goals at once, so selecting 3 or 4 of the most important things will help you set yourself up for success.

At this stage your goals can still be quite vague. You’ll give them more details later.

As an example, if one of my values is ‘creativity’, I may decide to set a goal of painting or writing a book. If I value ‘spirituality’, I may decide to spend more time attending church services, praying, or meditating.

Whatever you choose as your goal, consider whether it aligns with one or more of your values and whether you believe your life will improve once you meet the goal. If the answer to both is yes, great work! If you’re unsure, spend a bit more time thinking about what’s important to you. It can sometimes help to discuss this with a trusted friend or a coach, especially if this is new to you.

Step 3: Make your goal SMART

A vague goal was a good starting point, but you’ll need to add more details to it to make it achievable, so the next step is to make your goal ‘SMART’. You may have heard this acronym before or it may be unfamiliar to you. Either way, it’s simply a reminder to ensure that any goals you set are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.


A specific goal is a goal that is well-defined and unambiguous. It’s something that you can definitively say whether you’ve achieved it. If we take the goal of ‘writing a book’ and make it more specific, it may sound more like ‘write a science fiction novel.’


A measurable goal has some sort of metric around it that you can measure yourself against. You can decide when you’ve met the goal. If we make our new goal measurable, it might become ‘write a science fiction novel containing 100,000 words.’


Achievable goals are goals that are possible to achieve. You should look at your goals and determine if it would be possible for you to accomplish it in any timeframe. For example, writing a novel may be achievable for me, but producing and directing a major motion picture may not be. If I set the latter as my goal, I am setting myself up to fail.


To determine if a goal is relevant, you need to compare it against your values. Why do you want to do this thing? You’re probably in for some hard work, so ensuring your goal is relevant to you and your life is important to help you follow through. If I add relevancy to our goal, we can create ‘write a science fiction novel containing 100,000 words so that I can live in alignment with my core value of creativity.’


Finally, a goal needs to be time-bound. Without a deadline, there’s no urgency to work towards your goal and you may find it difficult to finish. The deadline should be achievable, while challenging you. You don’t want to give yourself a few days to meet a challenging goal, but you also don’t want to stretch it out over years. Adding this into the goal results in: ‘write a science fiction novel containing 100,000 words by December 2022 so that I can live in alignment with my core value of creativity.’

By going through this process with each of your goals, you should end up with a set of clearly defined goals that are linked back to one or more values you hold. You should write these down somewhere to help hold yourself accountable.

Step 4: Monitor your progress

To ensure you meet your goal, you need to monitor your progress. This allows you to make adjustments if you get off track to ensure your success. It also gives you the opportunity to celebrate your progress as you go. It is easier to stay on track when you see yourself inching towards your end goal.

There are lots of ways to ensure you’re monitoring your progress. You can keep a journal, use an accountability partner, or use an app. The important thing is consistency and accountability. Use whatever works the best for you.

Now you’ve got the basic tools you need to set goals that are aligned with your values and to hold yourself accountable for attaining them. Give it a try!

If you need help, get in touch to find out how coaching can help you or read more about the services I offer here.

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