Discover These Smart Goal Setting Secrets

When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.  Greg Anderson

smart goal setting secrets

There are some who argue against setting goals.  Leo Babuta, in fact, argues this very point on his Zen Habits blog.  I believe he is reacting to an over-emphasis on achievement.  Mr. Babuta wants his readers to avoid the trap of being human “doings” versus human “beings”.  I can understand Leo’s and others’ points of view.  But by doing away with goal setting, we may end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Values driven goal setting is .

(This article represents Step 8 in planning your Best Year Yet for 2011.  I’ll list the first seven steps below so that you can catch up, if this is your first time here:

Step 1: Who Else Is Ready for 2011?
Step 2:  Get Rid of Your Baggage Once and For All
Step 3:  The Lazy Man’s Way to the Best Year Yet
Step 4:  Get Out of Jail NOW!
Step 5:  What Everybody Ought to Know About True North

Step 6: HOW TO Balance Your Success in 2011
Step 7: Smart Goal Setting In 2011

Benefits of Value Driven Goal Setting

Here are some benefits of goal setting from LIVESTRONG. I further add here that you want to set goals that are in line with your values.  By carefully thinking about your roles and your values, you will be setting goals in line with your core priorities.

Sport psychologists D. Burton and S. Naylor reviewed 56 different goal-setting research studies to see if goal setting was beneficial. Their review showed almost 80 percent of the studies had positive results, indicating that goal setting is beneficial in a number of areas.–



There is something about having a meaningful goal that inspires excitement, motivation, and commitment.  I wrote about setting a goal to run a half marathon last year.  This goal provided motivation for me to get up and run on many days that I did not ‘feel’ like it.  However, the benefits of running that half marathon were many: better health and stamina; character development; and a sense of pride and well-being.

A Measure of Progress

In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are.
Arnold H. Glasgow

Studies of happiness levels show that striving toward meaningful goals are part of increased levels of life satisfaction.  Setting goals provides motivation, but the goals also help us measure how we are doing in getting there.  Last year, I had a goal of setting up a website to help my clients who are on the autism spectrum.  Immediately after I wrote down my goal, I was reading up on web hosting sites, web design, and the steps needed to get there.  Each week, I knew where I was going and how far I had yet to go.  The mere act of writing down our desired outcomes helps us start becoming aware of our progress in getting there.

A Sense of Control

Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.  Fitzhugh Dodson

The Serenity Prayer, written by theologian Reinhold Neibuhr, asks God for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change (the unpredictable things in life), courage to change the things we can (goal setting–my take), and the wisdom to know the difference.

Setting goals helps us work on areas of our lives that we can control.  We need to, as Leo Babuta points out, be aware of the ever changing nature of life.  However, it’s helpful to have some lights in the harbor to guide us toward our final destination/s.

Better Decisions

This is a very interesting finding from some research by psychologist Richard O’Connor: setting goals can actually simplify our day to day decision making, thus making it more easy to live in the present moment. With some end goals in mind, these goals help us filter out extraneous stimuli in favor of decisions and choices that are in line with our goals. For example, I have a goal to spend more time in meditation and prayer: thus, instead of just sitting down to the next TV program, I have an automatic decision now to spend time according to my goal, instead of just flicking on the TV. TV can come later, after I have achieved my main objective (which for me includes time with family, time working out, time in meditation, study, prayer, or time writing).

Write Goals For Each Role

You’ll want to take time to write down your life roles for 2011.  Don’t limit yourself here: you can write as many goals as you would like for each life role.  You will later go back and narrow them down.  Here’s an example of some goals I have for myself to improve in the area of my role as father:

  • take a special trip with my daughter this year to visit my parents and her cousins
  • take a special father son trip with my son
  • take time each month to spend extended time with my son and with my daughter (a father son day, and a father daughter day)
  • spend time each night connecting with my kids before they go to bed (as opposed to blogging, watching TV, etc:  this will ensure that I put my relationships before my tasks and entertainment).

Questions to Ask Yourself

Once you have taken the time to write all the goals down for each of your roles, you will want to go through your list again, asking the following questions (these questions come from Ms. Ditzler’s book, Your Best Year Yet!: Ten Questions for Making the Next Twelve Months Your Most Successful Ever).

  • Will I make sure this happens?
  • Am I merely hoping this goal is achieved because it’s on the list?  (in other words, you’ve got to have a goal that stretches you, but that you believe you can achieve).
  • Is this goal specific and measurable?  Does it start with a verb?
  • Is this goal a SMART Goal? (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely).  This article, SMART Goal Setting: A Surefire Way To Achieve Your Goals, will help you write truly effective and powerful goals.

Final Tips

Make Sure that Your Goals Match Your Values.

As you review your list of goals, keep your list of your top 5 values beside you. (If you need help identifying those core values, make sure you read my post regarding Finding True North). Cross off goals that will conflict or take you further away from your goals. For example, if my goal is to spend more time at home with my family, a goal to work extra hours at work could conflict with my core values of family and integrity.

Avoid “Should” Goals

These are goals that may have been on your New Year’s resolution list for the past few years. If you don’t truly feel excited or compelled by your goal, and you have not accomplished this goal in years past, you may need to either modify or get rid of it.

In the spirit of collaboration and excellence, I found some helpful articles from some of my favorite personal growth bloggers around the net.  I encourage you to read and apply their principles for more effective goal setting:

Personal Goal Setting, from Mindtools.Com

Ramping Up the Way You Think About Setting Goals, from Jonathan Wells at Advanced Life Skills Blog.

The Goal Setting Series by Celestine Chua at the Personal Excellence Blog.

The Science of Setting Goals, at StepCase LifeHack

photo credit: pedrosimoes7

Please get busy writing your goals down this week.  I look forward to your comments below!

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  1. says


    Goal setting is something that I am continually doing. It what keeps me going on a daily basis.It certainly does give me a sense of control.
    Justin@Mazzastick recently posted…Blogging QuestionsMy Profile

    • says

      Justin, great to hear that you are practicing goal setting continuously. One app that was recently recommended to me for keeping track of tasks related to my goals is Toodledo.Com (they also have an app for smartphones). I’m loving it so far!

  2. says

    Stephen, Goal setting is one of the best things we can learn and teach our children. I sincerely believe that without setting goals our lifes will end up void of any happiness. Stephen “Make it a Great Week”
    Ross Joyner recently posted…Tips from a Search Engine ProfessíonalMy Profile

    • says

      Ross, thanks much. It’s one thing to learn goal setting as adults; it’s quite another to be able to help our children see the value and apply it in their own lives :)

  3. says

    I think goals are very important. I have been writing goals for years. Making new goals as I reach them or adjusting ones I didn’t quite make it with. I notice that whenever I get out of the habit of writing goals I get unfocused and don’t work as efficiently. I make long term goals and short term goals.
    Melodie Kantner – Network Marketing Success Newsletter recently posted…Do Realize The Power In The Social Media RevolutionMy Profile

    • says

      Melody, thank you for talking about the success you have achieved through goal setting. I hope you continue to stay in goal writing shape :)

  4. says

    Hi Stephen,
    This is my first visit to your blog, but it certainly won’t be my last. I am going back to get caught up with your series on making 2011 our best year ever. And I really like the idea of writing down goals based on all the roles we play in our lives. What a wonderful concept for making sure that we ‘cover’ all the areas that matter. Creating a mindmap based on the roles would be an easy way to visualize if I’m ignoring one of my roles. I’m doin’ it! Have a POWERFUL week! Allegra
    Allegra Sinclair recently posted…Being Authentic–Can You Handle ItMy Profile

    • says

      Allegra, thanks for your encouragement about my blog. I’ve also used mind mapping as a way to visualize my roles when I’m engaging in weekly or yearly planning. And it’s a great way to make sure I don’t leave one of those roles out.

    • says

      Jasmine, thanks for sharing the information about Goals on Track. Looks like a very helpful site!

    • says

      I’m glad you enjoyed the tutorial. Feel free to pass it along to others who can benefit from it :)

  5. says

    I would not know how I would ever get anything accomplished if I did not set goals for myself. Especially working from home, where there is no outside pressure to get things done. It would be extremely difficult. I oftentimes laugh at myself, when I feel pressure because I have not finished a task, that I had given myself, in the time I expected it to take.
    So, I agree with you that doing away with goals is very risky. I know that it would not work for me. I decided to give myself some very challenging goals and so far I am still on track. Without the goals I would not be half way of where I am today. And it feels very good to be able to say this. I draw energy from the accomplishments, just like you describe with your half marathon. Thanks for sharing this great post, with all the background info to back it up. I appreciate it.
    Karin@SocialBookmarking recently posted…How to make your Twitter life easierMy Profile

    • says

      Karin, thanks for your thoughtful remarks. Knowing all that you have put together in your life up until now, I know that you have a list of detailed goals :)
      By the way, I don’t know if you are familiar with Teach Jim, but he’s put shared some great free resources he uses to keep track of his important tasks and goals. I’ve signed up myself: Toodledo.Com and I think I am more using Toodledo, as I have the paid app on my iPhone: it’s been a great way to stay motivated and on track.

  6. says

    Great post, Stephen! It is vital to set goals. I’m a little surprised that someone would say that setting goals is completely wrong. Something that I think is just as bad is the vague goal, like “I want to make as much money as I possibly can.” Well, how are you going to know what you possibly can. Even if your vision isn’t very big, start with what you have, and sooner or later, you will get better when you apply consistent efforts and learn skills. This is why it is so amazing to see what opens up (and even how our vision gets bigger) when we set our goals.
    Steve Nicholas recently posted…The Voice and Finding a Unique AngleMy Profile

    • says

      Well, Leo Babuta from Zen Habits, has set quite a few goals, and he’s an extremely successful blogger, and he’s the one who said this. However, I think he’s making a point that there are some of us who can be almost too obsessed with accomplishment and goals at the expense of just being satisfied and content in the present. He’s a good corrective influence. But I know I definitely need goals to stay on track.

    • says

      Jans, I think you’ll find that writing out your goals helps you accomplish quite a bit! I recommend a couple of resources that are free of charge: and Toodledo.Com. I found out about them through Teach Jim at You might want to check them out for tracking your goals and activities.

    • says

      Raverture, thanks for stopping by. Often times, just making the decision to pursue the goal gives our subconscious the sign to start finding solutions and strategies.

  7. says

    I stopped making resolutions since I was never able to work on it but goals? I think its important to set some goals in life. Without goals we’d look like vagabonds without a purpose. We need to concentrate and work on the strategies which can help us achieve our goals. Working towards our goals really teaches us many things.


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