How to Set Smart Goals that Motivate You To Take Action

Benjamin Mays

The tragedy in life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

Did you know that you are constantly setting goals?

Whether we like it or not, goal setting is an integral and important aspect of all our lives. For some of us, this is a conscious process, however for many others it is an unconscious act that has very little direction or purpose. Some people may even be surprised to learn that they are actually setting goals on a daily basis.

If you reflect back on your day, you will realize that you are actually setting and achieving an immeasurable amount of goals as you progress throughout your day. Some are relatively small and seemingly insignificant such as deciding what you will eat for lunch, while others are more important and relevant to your future endeavors.

There is in fact a method and process to goal setting that allows for greater clarity, focus and brings out the natural resources of motivation buried deep within you. This post will delve into some detail about the benefits of goal setting and how it can literally transform your life overnight. We will also explore some very important and critical rules of goal setting and delve into the details of the extended goal setting process. In fact, you will learn that there is much more to goal setting then just listing down a bunch of things that you want to achieve.

In addition to all of this, we will identify some techniques and strategies you can use to constantly keep yourself motivated and moving forward towards the attainment of your goals and objectives, and also take a look at some common obstacles that prevent people from setting goals.

The Incredible Benefits of Goal Setting

I’m sure we have always been told by at least one person how important it is to set daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and lifetime goals. However, most of us will never truly understand how critical this process is, that is until we realize and comprehend the dramatic psychological changes that setting goals can bring into our lives.

Goal setting isn’t simply something that you do once and then forget about it for the remainder of your days. It is rather something that needs to be repeated over-and-over again on a daily and weekly basis. We will discuss more about this later. However, for now let’s take a look at some extraordinary benefits of goal setting and how this simple habit can literally transform your entire life.

8 Ways Goals Help Encourage Growth and Development

Goal setting encourages the growth and development in the following ways:

Personal Growth

The moment you begin setting goals, you will immediately feel a shift and transformation within your mind. You may find that for the first time you are thinking about your life in a renewed and invigorated way. You are seeing your future with greater clarity then ever before, and the emotional rush of energy that is now circulating through your arteries is forcing you to think in new, unique and creative ways that will move and propel you forward. You may also come to a realization of the essential skills that you must now learn and master in order to achieve these goals. This will further encourage you to pursue new avenues of self-education and personal growth.


Setting goals brings with it a set of responsibilities. When we have no concrete goals, life just seems to pass by without a second thought. During these phases of our lives we may be feeling somewhat free, yet empty at the same time. Once you start setting clear, defined and passionate goals, you will likewise come to acknowledge that you are now fully responsible for your life.

Responsibility brings with it a greater clarity of thought, it encourages better decision making and forces one to take smarter actions in directions that will bring long-term happiness and fulfillment.

Achievement Orientation

Without goals we tend to become lazy and scattered in thought and action. What goals do, is they focus you on a specific aspect or area of your life. This focus directs your mind towards the attainment of this goal in the most efficient and effective way. As a result, all of your choices, decisions, behaviors, habits, and actions are now directed and focused upon this one objective. And because of this achievement oriented perspective, you now have a renewed energy and vigor that will build momentum and pick up speed over time.

Better Decision Making

Without focus or direction we become very scattered in our thinking and hesitant when making decisions. However, once you set and clarify your goals following this smart goal setting process, you will find that your decision making almost immediately improves and helps you to further clarify what you want and what is most important in your life.

Prioritization of Activities

Setting goals and making effective decisions requires the process of prioritization.

Goal setting naturally enhances your ability to prioritize your activities and tasks in ways that focus you on areas that are most important to your long-term objectives. Prioritization is closely tied into the process of effective time management.

Control of the Changes in Your Life

Without our own personal goals, we are naturally swayed by other people’s decisions, actions, opinions and behaviors, as well as by the circumstances of the environment within which we live, play and work.

Even though it is impossible to control everything that affects our life, we can however gain some form of sanity by directing aspects of our life in ways that will bring a sense of purpose and intention.

Instead of being flung around by other people’s ever changing decisions, behaviors and perspectives, you will now have control, and as a result will make your own decisions based on the goals that have the greatest personal and professional impact on your life.

Development of Skills and Talents

Goals provide us with great clarity and insight. One of the insights that you are likely to gain once you begin the process of setting goals is the need to develop your skills and talents in specific areas of your life.

Setting goals has an interesting way of unveiling neglected areas of our lives that need to be attended to and expanded upon. It is only through the process of goal setting that you will come to an understanding of the skills and talents you must work on developing in order to one day experience the exhilaration and satisfaction of attaining your goals and objectives.

Sense of Purpose and Direction

Goal setting will provide you with a sense of purpose, while directing your decisions and actions in ways that will help you to accomplish and obtain this purpose.

If you’ve ever read a biography about an achievement oriented person, then you would’ve probably come to a realization of the deep and inspiring purpose that drove and propelled their behavior forward on a daily basis. Without it, they would be nothing, however with it, they probably accomplished what others would have deemed to be quite impossible and improbable.

Goals Help Prevent Self-Sabotage Behavior

The process of goal setting naturally decreases the habits of laziness and procrastination. These two behaviors go hand-in-hand in sabotaging many promising creative ideas, wishes and dreams. Goal setting will provide you with a renewed energy and a sense of direction which promotes and motivates action and quick decision making.

Goals Encourages Forward Movement

When you set clear, passionate and definitive goals you will find that this process naturally increases your desire, passion, motivation, the certainty you feel about life, and the action you take on a daily basis that move you forward towards the attainment of these objectives.

Another overlooked aspect that is also increased and enhanced is your awareness. The process of goal setting naturally focuses your awareness not only onto your future, but it also redirects it internally unto yourself.

Goal setting will help you to identify both your strengths and weaknesses, as well as possible unfulfilled desires that have been languishing within your mind for years.

Goals Improve How You Feel About Yourself

Smart goal setting is a process of personal growth and development that will help to enhance your self-image (the way you see yourself in the eyes of the world), while at the same time dramatically energizing your body in ways that will enhance many other seemingly unrelated aspects of your life.

The Value of Setting Goals

The Fundamental Rules of SMART Goal Setting

There are specific and fundamental rules for goal setting that are essential to understand before you move through the goal setting process. These rules will help to build the motivating foundations that will inspire and move you forward with a greater sense of purpose and clarity.

It is easy to overlook these rules and not give them the attention that they deserve. However, please do not neglect them. Your future fulfillment is dependent on this decision.

The 6 Essential Rules of Goal Setting

The following is a list of some of the essential rules that you must follow when setting and laying out your personal goals.

Positively Written

Your goals must be written in a positive manner. This means writing them out in a way that focuses your mind on what you want, and not on what you don’t want.

Having Personal Benefit

Your goals must be of personal benefit to you. This means that each goal you set must help or assist you in ways that will benefit your long-term satisfaction and fulfillment.

Many people fall into the trap of trying to achieve goals that are set for them by other people. If you belong in this category of goal setters, then you must come to understand that you will never develop your full capacity of motivation, unless you personally take responsibility for your goals and align them in ways that will benefit you long-term.

Preserves Current Life Benefits

Another goal setting trap, is when people set goals that remove them so far from their current life’s pleasures/benefits that the goal becomes painful and somewhat de-motivating. Your goals must naturally preserve your current life pleasures/benefits to some extent if you are to find the ongoing motivation to pursue them down the long road.


You must desire to accomplish your goals in the deepest and most passionate manner. Without desire, you will simply struggle to find the motivation to pursue your goals when problems, obstacles and challenges get in your way.

People who set goals that are not desirable don’t have any problems with pursuing their goals when there are no obstacles in their path. However, once the obstacles start to appear along their path, they simply wilt away and re-direct their energies on other pursuits. A lack of motivation, is a time waster that you don’t want to experience, as it will keep you revolving around in circles for the remainder of your life.


If your goals are not appropriately challenging then you will simply become bored and will not find the passion within yourself to pursue them long-term.

For a goal to be challenging, this means that it is just outside your reach. However, it is still very attainable if you put consistent work and effort into bringing this goal to fruition.

In Everyone’s Best Interests

Always look at the moral high ground. Your goals must essentially be in the best interest of everyone who is either influenced or involved. If your goals do not support the interests of all, then you are walking on thin ice and will face many challenges along your journey towards the attainment of these objectives. Make your life easier by setting goals that benefit everyone involved.

Guidelines for Setting SMART FOR ME Goals

The SMART FOR ME goal setting process provides a little further clarity about the important aspects that you must focus on when setting and writing out your goals and objectives.


Your goals must be specific. This means that you must point out with clarity and detail exactly what it is that you would like to achieve. The more detail the better.

Here you are determining the WHAT part. The HOW part is a work in progress that you will develop at a later time.


Your goals must be measurable. Spend time to develop a process that you will use to measure your progress towards the attainment of your objectives.


Your goals must be attainable. Essentially you must believe that you can achieve your goals. If you have no belief backing up the goals you set, then your goals are nothing more than a fleeting wish and dream that you will long for without ever attaining your objectives.


Your goals must be realistic. This means that logically — given your time, money, resources and level of skill — that you will be able to achieve these goals successfully. If any of these is lacking, then you either need to improve your time, financial situation, skills and resources, or simply set a different set of goals.


Your goals must be timed. You must set a deadline for the achievement of your goals and objectives. Without setting clear deadlines, you are essentially growing the seeds of procrastination within your mind. Don’t fall into this trap.


Your goals must be focused.

Because the sun’s rays are scattered, they provide us with life and nourishment. On the other hand, if we were to direct the sun’s rays and focus them under a magnifying glass, they become far more powerful. The same process applies to your goals.

When setting goals, beware not to spread yourself too thin. All the goals you set should in some way be connected to each other, and alternatively they must also work together to assist you in achieving your larger purpose and objective. The best suggestion is to focus your attention on one to two major goals that support your life purpose and direct all your skills, resources, money and time into the achievement of these objectives.


Your goals must be optimistic. This was mentioned above when we discussed that your goals must be written in a positive way.


Your goals must be ready. This essentially means that you must be at a point in your life where you are ready and able to achieve these goals that you have set. There is no point in getting ahead of yourself and setting goals that are outside your current means.

There is also no point in setting goals that require other people and circumstances to come through for you. If you are waiting on things to happen within areas of your life that you do not and cannot control, then you are simply falling into the subtle trap of procrastination. Instead, set goals that are within your control and sphere of influence. Your goals must be READY.


Your goals must be meaningful. They must essentially have a very deep significance and meaning to your life. Essentially this is tied into your life’s purpose that goes far beyond one specific goal, and into the realms of leaving a legacy behind that keeps touching and influencing the lives of others in positive ways long after you have walked away from this world.


Your goals must be exciting. They must move you emotionally, must inspire you into action, and must breed a deep seated passion that keeps you awake at night.

Goal Setting Rules

The 8 Essential Steps for Goal Setting

The following presents you with an introduction to the step-by-step process of goal setting. All of these steps are not necessary in order to set effective and smart goals, however each step of the process effectively takes you on a journey that will help you to gain clarity, motivation and confidence that will assist in setting you along the right path towards your ultimate life’s purpose and objectives.

To gain a better understanding of this process, please read the 200+ Goal Setting Questions eBook.

Step 1: Identify Past Successes and Achievements

First, in order to enhance your confidence about the goal setting process, it is important to identify your past successes and achievements. This stage of questioning will assist you with remembering your past accomplishments and celebrate the fact that you have been successful many times before. It will also help you to better understand the process that you went through along your journey towards achieving these objectives.

Thirdly, it will assist you with developing confidence within yourself to use similar goal setting strategies to accomplish anything that you want in the future.

Lastly, it will help you to see that who you have become is far greater and more important than the goals that you have achieved.

Step 2: Identify Consistent Accomplishments and Skills

Secondly, it is essential that you identify your consistent accomplishments and skills that have brought you to the present moment in your life.

This stage of questioning will build awareness within you of the consistent goals you are already attaining on a daily basis. Moreover, it will show you that it’s the achievements of these small and somewhat insignificant goals, that naturally lead you to the attainment of the larger accomplishments in your life.

Step 3: Identify Current Life Circumstances

Thirdly, accumulating an understanding of your current life circumstances will provide you with greater clarity and insight.

This stage of questioning will help you to identify the areas of your life that you are most grateful for. It will also help you to realize what aspects of your life you are most unhappy about at this particular moment in time. Thirdly, it will help you identify what is missing in your life, and therefore help you to better understand what you want. Finally, it will assist you with unleashing the feelings of dissatisfaction within unfulfilled areas of your life.

Step 4: Gain Leverage to Accelerate Your Motivation

Here at this stage, you now need to gain leverage in order to bring forth the motivation you need to move you towards the accomplishment of your goals and objectives.

This stage of questioning will help you to see how your life is being affected by your current life dissatisfactions. Secondly, the questions will propel you into the future and show you how your life will be affected by this dissatisfaction years from today. And finally, this stage will hopefully provide you with enough leverage to change your future and transform your life in definitive ways.

Step 5: Identify Your Life’s Purpose

Fifth step of the smart goal setting process involves identifying your life’s passions and purpose.

This stage of questioning will help you to identify your unique and amazing strengths, talents, skills, passions and abilities. After which, you will be better able to clarify your life’s purpose and major objective. This purpose is essential as it will better assist you with clarifying your goals in the following section.

Step 6: Identify and Set Passionate Goals

The sixth stage involves the process of setting and writing out your goals and objectives.

This stage of questioning will help you to clarify your goals in a variety of different areas of your life including your health, finances, relationships, business, self-growth, career, contribution and toy goals (material possessions).

This set of questions will also assist you with prioritizing what is most important within your life. However, make sure you are following the goal setting rules discussed in the previous section when laying out your goals and objectives.

Step 7: Gain Clarity About Your Future

Once you have laid out your goals, it is important to gain clarity on what it will take physically, emotionally, financially and intellectually for you to achieve them.

This stage of questioning will take you through the process of identifying two possible futures: one full of negative consequences, while the other full of rewards. Secondly, it will help you to gain further leverage and provide you with a greater array of reasons to further pursue your goals and objectives. Thirdly, you will be taken through the questioning process to help you identify the type of person you essentially need to become in order to deserve your goals.

Many people are under the impression that they do not have to change in order to achieve their goals and objectives. This is a big misconception, as goals can only be achieved when we make the necessary adjustments in our own personality.

Finally, the questions prepare you for the possible challenges that you may face as you move towards the accomplishment of your goals.

Step 8: Create Your Action Plan

The final stage of the smart goal setting process is drawing up your plan of action that will help you to achieve the goals and objectives you have laid out.

There is an actual step-by-step process that is required to move through this stage successfully. Please read more about it within the 200+ Goal Setting Questions eBook.

How to Find the Motivation to Achieve Your Goals

There are so many people out there who have gone through goal setting workshops, seminars, read goal setting books, and actually took the time to sit down and write out their goals in vivid detail. However, for most of these people, it was unfortunately a waste of time, because they were never informed about relevant motivation strategies that would encourage them to keep moving forward.

Years ago, I was one of these people. I actually spent five whole days writing out my goals, gaining clarity and following all the essential goal setting rules that I was aware of at the time. Three months on, I found myself riddled with guilt, laziness and procrastination. I did not know how to motivate myself, or how to beat the procrastination bug.

Here are some motivation strategies that will keep you excited and inspired:

Write Your Goals Daily

Writing out your goals daily is an effective way of keeping them at the forefront of your mind at all times. You can do this in a list type format or by journaling your daily goal experiences. Not only will you gain new insights and understandings but it will also keep you focused and centered on what is most important in your life.

Create Goal Reminders

It is easy for us to lose focus when things tend to get a little hectic and out of hand throughout the day. At these times it is important to get back to basics, and to focus upon the process of achieving your goals. This is best accomplished when you have creative goal reminders you can refer to throughout the day.

For example, create a collage poster of your goals comprising of magazine pictures and words that represent these passionate objectives you have set yourself.

Another example is to create a mind map of your goals, or put your goals down on flash cards that you carry around with you on a daily basis.

Another very effective way of keeping yourself on track and motivated towards the achievement of your goals, is to create a countdown to the day when you will successfully accomplish each and every one of your goals. As the days keep passing by, the reality and expectation of reaching your goals will become very real and will help keep you motivated.

Finally, affirmations are also great tools to keep you centered and focused on the achievement of your objectives.

Study People, Topics and Skills Related to Your Goals

A great way to constantly refresh your motivation levels is to absorb yourself wholeheartedly in the process of achieving your goals. This doesn’t always mean to take actions that are directly driving you forward. Instead it means taking the time to learn new skills associated with your goals, to study interesting goal related topics, and to associate with people who have had experience with attaining the goals you are working towards.

For instance, reading biographies of successful people who have achieved what you are aiming for, is a great way to find sources of continuous motivation that will drive you forward towards the attainment of your most passionate goals and objectives. However, be careful not to delve too deeply into reading about other people’s lives while forgetting about your own.

Find Support from Other People

Support from other people can come in many ways. First and foremost everyone and anyone who is serious about attaining their goals should hire an accountability partner. This is in essence a person who regularly checks up on you to see how you are progressing with your goals, tasks and objectives.

Set up a day of the week where you will speak with this person over the telephone or in person, and provide them with an update about the progress you have made over the past week in relation to your goals. After which you can inform them of the tasks that you will focus on next week and the objectives that you hope to attain.

Another effective area of support is to find a mentor. This is someone who has achieved a certain amount of success in the field of endeavor that you are aiming for. Utilize them as a sounding board for ideas, and as a means of learning from their experiences and mistakes. This person could effectively be a Life Coach, however it is probably best that it is someone who is very familiar with the goals you are working towards.

Take Small, Consistent and Flexible Actions

Small, consistent and flexible actions are some of the important keys that will help you to beat off procrastination.

Create small daily actions and tasks that will consistently keep you moving forward towards your goals each and every day. And always maintain flexibility in your thinking to allow for a change in direction if unexpected circumstances, people or obstacles cross your path — as they inevitably will. Also vary up your tasks and actions by making them creative and fun. This will help to build your interest long-term and will keep you focused and motivated on what is most important.

Measure Your Progress

By regularly measuring the progress you make towards your goals will help you to stay motivated and on track. However, be careful not to measure your progress just for the sake of seeing how quickly you can achieve your goals and objectives.

The process of measuring should incorporate an analysis of the progress you are making through your daily and weekly actions. This includes identifying trends, lapses, mistakes, victories, oversights, and other information that will provide the feedback you need to keep you focused and moving forward.

Once collected, the data should then be utilized in ways that will assist you to improve your actions and thusly move you towards your goals in a more effective and efficient way.

Key Obstacles for Setting Goals

How People Sabotage their Own Goals

For one or more reasons, there are people who always seem to find some kind of excuse to avoid the process of setting goals. This is of course a big mistake that has irreparable consequences for the rest of their lives.

Here is a list of some common excuses people utilize that deflect them away from the process of goal setting:

Seeing the Process of Achievement as a Burden

Some people see the process of achieving goals as a burden that is difficult and arduous to manage and maintain. They rather prefer to live the simple life. They enjoy the experience of regularity and consistency without any drama or future planning. They essentially live life on a day-to-day basis, never looking too far beyond tomorrow.

Afraid of Awakening Past Regrets

Some people don’t set goals because they are afraid of awakening past regrets, failures and missed opportunities that have filled their life with much regret and sadness. They are afraid to set goals because they do not want to experience the pain of not getting what they want all over again. Instead they choose not to set goals, and therefore continue to live in denial.

Holding No Responsibility for the Future

Some people simply do not want to be responsible for their own personal future. These are the types of people who will work for large corporations, yet seem to make no ground working their way up the corporate ladder. The only responsibility they will take on board, is the responsibility handed to them by their company. Whatever the company says, they will do. Whatever the company’s goals are, they will work to achieve them. Their lives continue to be dictated by other people for better or worse. For some, this works out to be quite a good deal, however for many others, a lot of sadness and deep contemplation awaits.

Having No Need, Patience or Time

Some people are so lost within the day-to-day running and managing of their lives that they simply do not have the time, patience or feel the need to set goals. These are the busy people of the world. They achieve many goals throughout their days and weeks that add up to very little at the end of the year. They are simply action oriented individuals with no sense of purpose or direction. As soon as events or circumstances change, they are immediately flung in another direction reacting to life in a haphazard and rushed manner.

Limiting Beliefs

Most people fall under this category. They simply have fear generated belief systems that are governing their life and preventing them from setting clear and effective goals that will improve their life circumstances.

These types of people have one of four potential fears: the fear of winning, losing, predictability and rejection. Each of these fears is directing and influencing their daily actions and decisions. Yet these people can do very little about their predicament as they do not quite understand how to effectively deal with these seemingly uncontrollable circumstances.

Barriers for Smart Goal Setting

Final Thoughts on Setting SMART Goals

Whether we like it or not, goal setting is undoubtedly a critical and fundamentally important aspect of all our lives. Without it, we will tend to be pulled by the seas and winds of change that will take us down unexpected currents — leading to many years of misery and unhappiness. However, if we choose to take control of the sails and harness the power of the winds to direct us towards a destination of our own choosing, then our futures may very well provide a deeper sense of fulfillment and satisfaction the world over.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you have any further thoughts, ideas, reflections or suggestions about this topic, than please feel free to comment below.

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How to Set Smart Goals

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.