How to Set a Goal and Actually Achieve It

How to Set a Goal and Actually Achieve It

When you start something new, the process is often full of ideals, enthusiasm, resolutions, dreams or setting goals that you’d like to achieve in life. Of course, it would be amazing if these goals didn’t remain only in the realm of your imagination and you managed to turn them into an actual success.

However, not many people realize that the way of how they set their goal also plays a role in succeeding. Just saying that you want to find a better job or have a better figure is not going to cut it. The problem of setting a goal is much broader. Today we will look at how to grasp it in order to achieve the desired success, whether your goal is to lose weightgain muscleeat healthier, get promoted at work or change your life in any way.

Why is it important to set a goal?

You should imagine the goal as a certain point to which you want to get. When setting a specific goal, you should think about the fact that it is necessary to supplement it with active steps that will lead you to its accomplishment. For example, if you desire a promotion at work, you can set specific steps you will take to achieve this career goal. Setting the goal itself is important because it can help create your strategy for achieving it. In addition, it can increase your engagement and give meaning to the steps you take.

The world-famous James Clear, author of the book Atomic Habits, has an interesting take on setting goals. He claims that if you are serious about achieving goals, you shouldn’t focus on the success itself. According to Clear, most people who tell themselves that they want to lose weight, make a ton of money or gain muscle all make this mistake. After all, who wouldn’t want that, right? Clear says that the real key to success is rather the question of what sacrifices you are willing to make in order to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to lose weight, ask yourself if you desire a lifestyle that goes along with that goal. This way you’ll be able to realize that although there’s a difficult process ahead of you, the sacrifices it requires will lead you to the desired result. [1–2]

Why is it important to set a goal

Benefits of goal setting

Setting a goal gives you certain advantages that you can benefit from while trying to achieve it.

The advantages of setting a goal include:

  • Guiding you to the right path
  • More focus on what’s really important and better decision making
  • Higher productivity
  • Help with staying motivated
  • Better understanding of expectations
  • Awareness of your strengths, which can be used to overcome obstacles
  • Defining reality and separating it from dreams
  • The possibility of monitoring progress

Goal vs. (non) goal

If you want to achieve success, it’s good to distinguish what is and what is not a goal. A goal is something you want to achieve that will bring you the desired result. Goals are often divided according to their time-frame [7–8]:

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Division of goals according to time:

  1. Short-term (few days)
  2. Medium-term (several weeks)
  3. Long-term (several months)
  4. Visionary (several years)

Simply put, you can say that a goal is a kind of dream with a specific deadline. Don’t worry, we will give you some more precise definitions below.

The goal is

  • Your vision for the future, which is the result of careful consideration of what you want to achieve
  • A specific point in time that should bring the desired result, usually in a longer time frame

The goal is not

  • A plan. While goals describe what you want to achieve, a plan is the specific steps that will lead to the result. For example, the goal is that you want to lose weight. The plan is that you will work with a trainer and nutritionist. They can help you set up your training, diet and monitor your progress.
  • A desire. Desire itself is mostly something temporary that provides short-term satisfaction. In contrast to a goal, which, on the other hand, is more long-term and includes a decision to achieve something.
Achieving goals

Setting goals step-by-step

1. A successful goal needs a good reason behind it

Even before you start to fulfil your goal, it is necessary to think and find your “WHY”.

Try asking yourself questions that are relevant to your goal:

  • Why do you want to start exercising?
  • Why do you want to lose weight?
  • Why do you want to get promoted at work?
  • Why do you want to gain muscle?
  • Why do you want to read more?
  • Why do you want to learn to play the guitar?

Try to answer these questions, ideally as comprehensively as possible, not in one sentence. You have to understand that the stronger your “why” is, the longer you can maintain your motivation. And that’s how you maximize the chance to finally achieve your goal successfully. Motivation alone is not enough, and when the “why” is too complicated and distant, there is a good chance that on the way to your destination you will run into obstacles. Also, keep in mind that you can divide your “why” into several smaller reasons. This is especially important if your “why” is too big. Dividing it can help maintain your motivation and keep you on track.

2. When setting a goal, have the right mindset

Understanding what a goal is and finding your “why” is a great start. If you want to maximize the chance of success even more, you can use something extra for a backup. And that something is hidden in the right mindset. You can try, for example [10]:

  • Choose approach goals, not avoidance goals. An example of an approach goal would be a decision to change jobs, with the goal of a higher salary. On the other hand, avoidance is leaving work because you have a low salary. The difference is that the approach creates more positive energy.
  • Choose intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals. Intrinsic goals are closely related to your needs and desires. On the contrary, people choose extrinsic goals because they think they are being pushed towards them by society or someone else. Intrinsic goals lead to greater satisfaction and happiness.
  • Prioritize the goals of well-being over those driven by the desire for power. Intimate goals related to a sense of well-being or spirituality lead to greater happiness than those focused on getting a bigger house, buying a better car, or having more money.

3. Set your goals using the SMART method

If you have your “why”, it’s time to set your goal. In order for it to be successful, it is necessary to meet specific criteria. The ideal way to do this is the SMART method. Let’s try to explain it using an example. Meet Peter. He was once an active athlete who loved running. He even ran several marathons, but later fell into a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle.

What should your goals be according to the SMART method?

Peter decided today to do something about his unhealthy life and use the SMART method. His goals, according to this method, should be [11]:

  • Specific: Peter would like to get back into running, not only recreationally, but also competitively. Therefore, he specifies his goal with the sentence: “I want to run a marathon”.
  • Measurable: Peter hires a personal trainer who sets up his training sessions and leads him to his goal – to run a marathon under 4 hours, which can be easily measured.
  • Achievable: Peter knows he can do it because he’s been in shape before and can do it again with an experienced personal trainer. Basically, he wants to repeat a success that he already achieved before.
  • Relevant: Peter still loves running, even though he hasn’t worn his running shoes in a long time. He would like to re-experience the feelings of euphoria that running a marathon evoked in him.
  • Time-bound: Peter wants to participate in a big-name marathon in six months, when he will reach his goal.
How should goals look like according to the SMART method?

4. Start the progress

Of course, it doesn’t end with setting a goal based on the SMART method. Because no matter the goal, if you do nothing to achieve it, the result will be zero. In order for your first steps towards the goal to be stable, it is necessary to start cultivating a habit. But don’t worry, it won’t take forever. According to several sources, it takes about 21 days to develop a habit for the activities you do daily. Time does not really play such a big role here, because sooner or later, the habit will form. Feel free to set sub-goals that will lead you to success. For example, if you want to start exercising, commit to training twice a week and try to last for a whole month.

Your action steps can be even smaller. For example, you can use the two-minute rule, which says that any habit can be slowly developed, 120 seconds at the time. [12]

How to create a habit using the 2-minute rule

  • If your goal is to start excersicing, start by doing 10 squats.
  • If you want to start reading books, start by reading 1 page every day.
  • If you want to live a healthier life, start by drinking a full glass of pure water every morning.
  • If you want to start running, start by tying up your sneakers.

5. Have a backup plan

Imagine a situation where you are travelling by car to an urgent job interview that could land you your dream job. You are the last applicant and you only have one chance. You are fully aware of the importance of the whole ordeal, so you set off with enough time to spare. However, the road on which you are driving is closed due to an accident. You can’t get through, but you simply need to get to that interview. What would you do? Would you turn the car around and go home or would you try to find another way to reach your destination?

In that situation you might remember the saying “All roads lead to Rome”. One of its meanings is that there are multiple ways to achieve your goal. Even in ordinary life, you can often come across situations which don’t develop according to plan. Therefore, it is always advisable to have a backup plan. Of course, it may differ from your original intentions, but the important thing is that it will help you not to fail on the way to your goal. An example could be following; You can’t make it to the gym, plan B will be to work out at home. [13]

If you don’t have enough time or energy, you can choose just a few minutes of training with your own weight. Feel free to get inspired by our Effective 6-Minute Abs Workout at Home.

For a backup plan, try following this formula [14]:

If (any contingency occurs), then (I’ll switch to this simple plan B, which is still time-friendly for me)

Achieving a goal requires a backup plan

More tips to help you reach your goal

When it comes to achieving goals, it’s important to mention that motivation is often the reason you started. However, the key to going all the way and successfully achieving a goal is persistence and consistent action. You can also try using one of the tips below:

1. Set up a support system

A support system should ensure that the pursuit of your goal is as smooth as possible. Several factors may play a role in this regard. One of the most crucial is certainly the support of those around you. That’s what the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger often attributed his success to. In order to achieve your goals, it may be crucial to connect with people who can give you the so-called social support. That is, to provide help, feedback or point you on the right path every time you go off it.

Types of social support

Social support can take several forms [15]:

  • Emotional, which includes expressions of empathy, love, trust and care that are related to you on a personal level
  • Instrumental, which represents tangible manifestations of support
  • Informational, consisting of suggestions, information and knowledge that can help you to move forward
  • Appraisal, which includes constructive criticism

Don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends or anyone close to you for any kind of this support.

2. Visualize your goal

Visualization techniques are often an underrated method during the journey to success, but the fact remains that they are used by many experts, including professional athletes, such as elite NBA player LeBron James or Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. [16]

So, if you want to succeed on the way to your goal, you should learn from the best. Visualization is the process of imagining what you want to achieve in the future. Let’s try to explain the power of visualization using the example of Lucy, who would like to lose weight. She could be looking at things in two ways:

  • Scenario 1: Lucy reflects on her life. Every day she looks in the mirror and tells herself that she would like to lose weight. But she can’t imagine what it would be like.
  • Scenario 2: Lucy imagines a thinner version of herself. She is happier and more active. She can exercise and play outside with her children without being out of breath like before.

Can you see the difference? Which scenario will give Lucy more motivation to lose weight? Of course, the answer is the scenario no. 2. The more detailed your visual image of the result, the more it will motivate you to achieve the goal. Let’s have a look at how to do it.

Visualize your goal

5 Steps to help you visualize your goal

  1. Write down what you want to achieve on a piece of paper and add more and more details until you feel that you are really living the experience you are writing about.
  2. Imagine the emotions associated with achieving your goal, because the more you understand what it will feel like, the more you will believe in your success.
  3. Take steps towards your goal every day and accept that you will fail occasionally. Close your eyes and visualize yourself dealing with setbacks and getting back on track.
  4. Expand your knowledge, for example, by talking to experts about your goals, taking courses, or you can delve deeper into this topic by yourself by reading books or surfing the Internet. Consequently, the difference between the visualized and the real goal will be slightly smaller.
  5. Spend some time visualizing and thinking about your goals by visualizing them twice a day for a few minutes. It turns out that the most effective way of doing this is before you go to sleep and in the morning after waking up. It will help engage your subconscious mind and focus more efforts on the path to the desired result. Feel free to read your notes about your goal in the morning and in the evening. You can also create a vision board and keep it somewhere you can see it. [16]

3. Celebrate your successes

A reward can be a great motivator. Right at the beginning of your journey to your goal, think about how you will reward your achievements. It is ideal to divide the goal into smaller sub-goals and treat yourself to something that pleases you when you reach each of them. The reward itself can vary. For example, if you’re trying to lose weight and you’ve followed your calorie deficit diet for a whole month, you can reward yourself with a cheat meal in the form of a dessert. More examples of what could be a good reward for someone include going to see a movie, going for a trip or treating yourself to a new piece of clothing. [17]

4. Break down your goal

You can approach achieving a goal in the same way as eating. When you imagine a plate with a tasty lunch, you don’t pour it all into yourself, but eat it in individual bites. Eating is thus not only more pleasant, but also easier. You can look at your goals the same way and divide them into several bites, or smaller parts. Accomplishing each of these parts will give you a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated. You can try, for example, creating a timeline divided into several parts according to chronological sequence. [20]

5. Connect with the people like you

One of the things that can help on the way to achieving the goal is the fact that you are not left alone. This time it’s not meant the social support of family and your friends mentioned in the first point of the article. It’s more about surrounding yourself with people who have similar or the same goals as you. They will understand your journey best and you can support each other. You will also gain a greater sense of belonging. You can imagine a situation where you don’t want to work out, but you have already agreed with your sparring partner. In an effort not to disappoint him, you will automatically pick up your sports bag and walk to the gym, where you encourage each other during training. This can also be a great motivation to continue towards the goal. [18]

Connecting with people like you helps you achieve your goal

6. Evaluate your progress

Reflecting on what you have already achieved can be a great way to conquer your goals. The methods of this evaluation can be different. It is ideal to write down your goals on a piece of paper, divide them into several sub-parts that are easier to follow, and then evaluate what you have achieved. Every little win will push you forward. It’s definitely worth a shot to try one of the mobile apps for achieving goals, like Goalscape. It will help you set, visualize and monitor your goals directly on your smartphone. [19]


Behind setting a goal is a complex process of preparation. The more you dedicate yourself to it, the greater your chance of success. The main thing to think about is that a successful goal needs a strong “WHY” and, in addition, it should meet several other criteria that the SMART method can help with. After you carefully plan your goal, you are ready to take action. However, make sure you take into account unpredictable circumstances and think of a plan B. You will then appreciate the resulting progress every time you pursue your goal, whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, live healthier or get a promotion at work.

What helps you achieve your goals?


[1] James Clear - Goal Setting: A Scientific Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals –

[2] Susan Ward - How To Set Goals and Achieve Them –

[3] Mark Pettit - 10 Crucial Benefits of Goal Setting –

[4] 9 Benefits of Goal Setting & Management –

[5] Goal Setting –

[6] Brittany Warnock - 10 Reasons Why Setting Goals Is Important When It Comes to Success Online –

[7] Leila Cruz - Short-Term vs Long-Term Goals –

[8] Erin Eatough - 10 tips to set goals and achieve them –

[9] Duhigg, C. – The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

[10] The Secret to Successful Goal Setting –

[11] SMART Goals –

[12] James Clear - How to Stop Procrastinating by Using the “2-Minute Rule” –

[13] Vene Tirta - How Backup Plans Can Help You Achieve Your Goal –

[14] Tyler Graf - Why You Absolutely Need a Backup Fitness Plan –


[16] Kristine Moe - 5 visualization techniques to help you reach your goals –

[17] Leon Ho - How to Get Motivated Every Day When You Wake Up –

[18] Tips for getting and staying motivated –

[19] Daniya Gulzar - Why reflecting on your progress is important for success –

[20] Samir Luinter - How to Keep Yourself Motivated: 10 Best Tips and Tricks –

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