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 essential aspect of our lives. For some of us, it’s a conscious process, however, for many others, it’s an unconscious act that has minimal direction and purpose. Some people may even be surprised to learn that they are actually setting goals each day.

Did you know that you are actually setting and achieving an immeasurable amount of goals throughout the day? Some are relatively small and seemingly insignificant like deciding what to eat for lunch. Other goals are, however, more critical and relevant to your future endeavors. However, achieving these other goals isn’t as straightforward as deciding what to eat for lunch.

Achieving our life’s goals requires us to work through a process of steps that allows for greater clarity, focus, and motivation.

Here, in this article, we will delve into the benefits of goal setting and how it can literally transform your life overnight. We will also explore the goal-setting process, along with several crucial rules that will help you set more effective goals. In fact, you will learn that there is much more to goal setting then just listing down a bunch of things you want to achieve.

Also, we will identify several techniques and strategies you can use to keep yourself motivated, and also take a look at some common obstacles that prevent people from setting goals.


The Tremendous Value of Goal Setting

You’ve probably heard it time and again that you should be setting regular goals. However, most of us will probably never truly appreciate the value of goal-setting until we actually take the time to understand the incredible psychological impact goals can have on our lives.

With that in mind, let’s, now, take a look at some extraordinary benefits of goal-setting and how this simple habit can literally transform your entire life.

First of all, the process of goal setting curbs laziness and procrastination. These two habitual behaviors go hand-in-hand. They work together to sabotage your progress.

Goal setting will provide you with a renewed energy and a sense of direction that encourages decisive action.

When you set clear, passionate, and definitive goals, you will find that this process increases your desire, passion, and motivation. Moreover, it provides you with more certainty and clarity as you move toward your desired objectives.

Goal setting helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses, along with unfulfilled desires that have been languishing in your subconscious mind for years.

Smart goal-setting is a process of personal growth and development that will help to enhance your self-image. Moreover, setting goals will dramatically energize your body and will subsequently magnify many other seemingly unrelated aspects of your life.


How Goals Help Encourage Personal Growth and Development

The moment you begin setting goals, you will immediately experience a psychological shift in the way you think about your life. You may even feel invigorated.

Setting a goal allows you to see your future with greater clarity. As a result, you, now, begin thinking about your life in new, unique, and creative ways. You may even come to a realization that you lack in critical areas.

For instance, there could be skills you may need to master, knowledge you might need to procure, support you may need to garner, resources you may need to acquire, etc. These are all requirements for the attainment of your goal. And all this will, of course, further encourages you to pursue new avenues for self-education and personal growth.

Setting goals also bring with it a set of responsibilities. When we have no concrete goals, life just passes by without a second thought. During these phases of our lives, we may be feeling somewhat free, yet empty. 

Once you start setting clear, defined, and passionate goals, you will likewise come to acknowledge that you are now entirely responsible for your life.

Responsibility brings with it a higher clarity of mind that likewise improves your decision-making. Subsequently, you act more decisively and proactively pursue your goals and objectives.

Without goals, we tend to become lazy and scattered.

What goals do very well is they focus you on a specific aspect or area of your life. As a result, all of your choices, decisions, behaviors, habits, and actions are now aligned with this one key objective. This, subsequently, infuses you with a renewed sense of energy as you begin building momentum working toward your goal.

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

Goal setting naturally enhances your ability to prioritize your activities and tasks in ways that help you make the most of your time and efforts.

Without goals, we often get swayed by other people’s decisions, actions, opinions, and behaviors. Moreover, we get influenced by environmental circumstances.

These are, of course, things that we may not have full control over. However, what we do control is our sense of purpose and our intention in every situation.

All successful people are driven by an inspiring sense of purpose. Without it, they would’ve achieved very little, however, with it, they managed to accomplish things beyond imagination.

Instead of succumbing to changing opinions, perspectives, events, and circumstances — goal-setting now gives you a way out. It gives you a sense of control over various aspects of your life. Subsequently, you are far more likely to make your own decisions based on the goals that have the most significant personal and professional impact on your life.

Setting goals also has an interesting way of unveiling neglected areas of our lives that need some care and attention. Only through the process of goal-setting can you honestly come to understand the skills you will need to master and the knowledge you will need to acquire to move your life forward in an optimal way.


The 6 Essential Rules for Setting Smart Goals

There are six fundamental rules for goal-setting that we must go through before jumping into the smart goal setting process. These rules will help build the foundations that will inspire and move you forward with a greater sense of purpose and clarity.

It would be easy to overlook these rules and not give them the attention they deserve. However, please do not neglect them. These rules are designed to help you get the most from goal setting. Use them each time you sit down to set your goals.

Rule 1: Goals Must be Positively Written

Your goals must be positively stated. In other words, write them out in a way that focuses your mind on what you want, and not on what you don’t want.

Rule 2: Goals Must Have Personal Benefit

Your goals must be of personal benefit to you. This essentially means that each goal must benefit you in some way in the long-run.

Many people fall into the trap of trying to achieve goals that are set for them by other people. If this sounds like you, then you must come to the realization that you will never develop your full capacity or motivation unless you take personal responsibility for your goals and align them for your long-term benefit.

Rule 3: Goals Must Preserves Current Life Benefits

A goal setting trap that many people fall into is when they set goals that pull them away from what they currently enjoy. In other words, these goals remove them so far from all the great things they have in their life, that this instantly demotivates them.

Your goals must preserve your current life pleasures to some extent if you are to find the ongoing motivation to pursue them in the long-run.

Rule 4: Goals Must be Desirable

The goals you set must be desirable. You must pursue them with vigor and passion. Without desire, you will struggle to find the motivation you need to overcome problems, adversity, and the setbacks you will inevitably face along your journey.

People who set goals that aren’t very desirable don’t have any difficulties pursuing their goals when there are no roadblocks along their path. However, once an obstacle arises, they quickly wilt away and re-direct their energies on other pursuits.

A lack of motivation is a time waster that you don’t need. Chasing motivation isn’t your goal. You need to, instead, spend your time on productive tasks and activities that help you achieve your goal.

Rule 5: Goals Must be Challenging

If your goals are not appropriately challenging, then you will quickly become bored. You simply won’t be able to muster up the passion needed to work on your goal consistently over time.

For a goal to be challenging it needs to be just outside your reach and beyond your comfort zone. When something is beyond your comfort zone, it’s still very attainable as long as you put consistent work and effort into bringing this goal to fruition.

Rule 6: Goals Must be in Everyone’s Best Interests

When it comes to goal-setting, always take the moral high ground.

When you set goals, they must be in the best interest of everyone concerned with that goal. If your goals do not support the interests of all, then you risk affecting other people in negative ways. As a result, these people may become a hindrance to the achievement of your goal.

Make your life easier by setting goals that benefit everyone involved.

The Rules for Goal Setting


Guidelines for Setting SMART FOR ME Goals

The SMART FOR ME goal setting rules provides us with another model for useful goal setting. SMART FOR ME is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, timed, focused, optimistic, ready, meaningful, and exciting.

Let’s now take a more detailed look at each of these areas:

  • Specific: Your goals must be specific. They must outline precisely what it is that you would like to achieve. The more detail, the better. Specifically, focus on what you want and not on how you will accomplish these things.
  • Measurable: Your goals must be measurable. Spend some time developing a process that you will use to measure your progress as you work toward your goals. How will you know you are making progress?
  • Attainable: Your goals must be attainable. This effectively means that you must wholeheartedly believe that you can achieve your goals.
  • Realistic: Your goals must be realistic. Your goals are realistic when you have the time, money, resources, and skills needed to achieve the goal. If you lack in any of these areas, then you need to get to work or set a different objective.
  • Timed: Your goals must be timed. You must set a deadline for the achievement of your goal. Without clear deadlines, you will likely succumb to procrastination and instant gratification.
  • Focused: Your goals must be focused. When setting goals, don’t spread yourself too thin. Focus your attention on one to two primary goals that support your life purpose, then direct all your skills, resources, money, and time toward these objectives.
  • Optimistic: Your goals must be optimistic. This was mentioned above when we discussed that your goals must be written in a positive way.
  • Ready: 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. Set goals that are within your control and sphere of influence.
  • Meaningful: Your goals must be meaningful. In other words, they must have a profound significance, which is tied to your life’s purpose. Meaningful goals are also tied to your legacy. What kind of lasting legacy would you like to leave behind?
  • Exciting: Your goals must be exciting. They must move you emotionally, must inspire proactive action, and must breed a deep-seated passion that keeps you awake at night.

Setting goals that are aligned with the SMART FOR ME guidelines will help you to structure your goals in optimal ways. In other words, these guidelines will essentially build an optimal structure for goal achievement.


8 Essential Steps for Goal Setting Success

What follows is a breakdown of the 8 crucial steps for goal setting success.

You don’t necessarily need to work through all of these steps when setting your goals. However, what these steps do very well is they take you on a journey where you gain greater clarity, motivation, and self-confidence. These are, essentially, the key ingredients needed to help you set and achieve your long-term goals and objectives.

To gain an even more profound understanding of this process and to work through specific questions assigned to each step of this process, please go through the 200+ Goal Setting Questions eBook.

Step 1: Identify Past Successes and Achievements

First, let’s work on building your self-confidence. Take some time to identify your past successes and achievements.

This step of the process is designed to help you recall your past accomplishments and the steps you took to achieve them.

Every goal that you’ve chosen to pursue in the past you accomplished because you took a specific set of steps. In other words, you used a particular strategy for achieving each goal. What approach did you use? What steps did you take? How did everything come together?

Recall these accomplishments fondly and take time to celebrate the fact that you’ve been successful many times before. Moreover, consider how accomplishing these goals has changed you. And, above all, remember that who you have become is far greater and more important than the goals you have achieved.

Step 2: Outline Consistent Accomplishments and Skills

Secondly, take time to identify your consistent accomplishments and skills that have brought you to this present moment.

This stage of the process will bring awareness of the consistent goals you’re already accomplishing each day. Moreover, it will highlight how small consistent daily actions become a catalyst for the attainment of your bigger goals.

Step 3: Assess Your Current Life Circumstances

Thirdly, take time to assess your current life circumstances. In other words, determine where things are at right at this very moment.

This stage of the process will help you identify the areas of your life that you are most grateful for. Moreover, it will help you to better understand what aspects of your life are not entirely living up to your expectations. As a result, you will better be able to identify what’s missing and what it is you want to accomplish.

Step 4: Gain Leverage to Accelerate Your Motivation

Next, you need to gain some leverage using the pain and pleasure principle. This will help inspire the motivation you need to help you accomplish your goal.

At this stage of the process, you will need to figure out the impact that your dissatisfactions have on your life. Specifically, these questions will highlight the long-term consequences of your discontents. The idea here is to gain enough leverage to help you make optimal changes to your life.

Step 5: Highlight Your Life’s Purpose

Here, your next step is to identify your life’s passions and purpose. This stage of the process will help you determine your unique strengths, talents, skills, passions, and abilities. After which, you will be better able to clarify your life’s purpose and primary objectives.

Step 6: Set Passionate Goals

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

This step 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).

The set of questions posed here will also assist you with prioritizing what’s most important in your life. However, make sure that you are following the goal setting rules discussed in the previous section.

Step 7: Gain Clarity About Your Future

Once you’ve laid out your goals, it’s important to gain clarity about what it will take physically, emotionally, financially, and intellectually to achieve those goals.

This stage of questioning will take you through the process of identifying two possible futures. One future will be full of negative consequences, while the other full of rewards.

Secondly, it will help you gain further leverage and provide you with a greater array of reasons to pursue your goals.

Thirdly, you will be taken through the questioning process to help you identify the type of person you need to become to deserve your goals.

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 requires us to draw up a plan of action for the achievement of our goals.

There is an actual step-by-step process involved here. Please read more about it in the 200+ Goal Setting Questions eBook.

Goal Setting Obstacles


How to Find the Motivation Needed to Achieve Your Goals

There are a great many people who have gone through goal setting workshops, seminars, read goal setting books, and have actually taken the time to sit down and write out their goals in vivid detail. However, for most, it was an unfortunate waste of time. It was a waste because these people didn’t quite understand how to keep themselves motivated and focused over the long-run.

Years ago, I was one of those people. I actually spent five whole days writing out my goals, gaining clarity, and following all these goal setting rules. Three months on, I found myself riddled with guilt, laziness, and procrastination. I just didn’t know how to motivate myself, or how to beat the procrastination bug. But, hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes I did.

Here are some ideas for building unstoppable motivation.

Write Your Goals Out Daily

Writing out your goals daily is an efficient 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 this process will also keep you focused on your highest priorities.

Create Goal Reminders

It’s easy to lose focus when things get a little hectic and out of hand. During such times it’s essential to get back to basics and to focus on the process of achieving your goals. This is best accomplished when you have creative goal reminders to refer to throughout the day.

For example, create a collage poster of your goals. Use magazine pictures and words that represent various aspects of your goals.

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

Another useful method for keeping yourself motivated is to get a countdown timer. Set up a countdown timer that counts down how many days left before you need to accomplish your goal. As the days keep passing by, the reality and expectation of reaching your goal will become very real and will help keep you motivated.

Finally, affirmations are also fantastic tools to help keep you centered and focused on your daily objectives.

Study People, Topics, and Skills Related to Your Goals

An excellent way to continually refresh your motivation is to undertake goal related learning tasks. This, essentially, means taking the time to learn new skills associated with your goals, to study interesting goal related topics, and to connect with people who have already achieved the goal you’re 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 drive you forward. 

Find Support from Other People

Support from other people can come in many forms. First, and foremost, anyone who is serious about attaining their goals should hire an accountability partner. This is a person who regularly checks up on you to see how you’re progressing.

Organize a day of the week when you will speak with this person. Provide them with an update on the progress of your goal. After which, inform them about the next tasks/projects you will undertake.

Another effective area of support is to find a mentor. This is someone who is typically already successful in crucial life areas you’re aiming for. Use your mentor as a sounding board for ideas. Moreover, encourage them to share their stories and experience, then learn from their mistakes.

Take Small, Consistent and Flexible Actions

Small, consistent, and flexible actions are fundamental ways you can beat off procrastination.

Create small daily actions and tasks that will consistently drive you forward toward your goals. However, make sure to maintain a flexible approach when unexpected circumstances, people or obstacles cross your path.

Finally, vary up your tasks every now and then. Make them fun, creative, and exciting. You could even turn them into a game. This will help build your interest long-term and will keep you focused and motivated on what’s most important.

Measure Your Progress

By regularly measuring the progress you make toward your goals will help keep you motivated an on track. However, be careful not to measure your progress just for the sake of tracking how quickly you can achieve your goals.

The process of measuring should incorporate an analysis of the progress you’re making. 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, this data should then be used to improve your actions as you continue to work toward your goals.

Overcoming Obstacles for Goal Setting


How People Sabotage their Own Goals

For one or more reasons, some people always seem to find some lame excuse to avoid setting goals. This is, of course, a big mistake that has irreversible consequences. Let’s explore several examples of the types of excuses these people make.

First of all, some people see the process of setting and achieving goals as a burden. They instead prefer to live the simple life. They enjoy the experience of regularity and consistency without any drama or future planning. They mostly live life day-to-day, never looking too far beyond tomorrow.

Secondly, people don’t set goals because they’re afraid of awakening past regrets, failures and missed opportunities. They’re afraid to set goals because they don’t want to experience the pain of not getting what they want yet again.

Then there are other people just don’t want to take responsibility for their future. These people will often work for large corporations. However, they 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 are ruled by other people — for better or worse.

Some people are so lost in the day-to-day running and management of their lives that they just don’t have the time, patience or feel the need to set goals. These are the busy people of the world. They achieve many insignificant goals throughout the day.

These people are very much “live in the moment” 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 unexpected ways.

Most people, however, don’t set goals primarily because their belief systems hold them back.

These people have one of four potential fears: the fear of winning, losing, predictability, and rejection. Each of these fears influences their daily choices and decisions. Yet, these people do very little about their predicament. They take no action because they don’t quite understand how to efficiently deal with these seemingly uncontrollable circumstances.


Concluding Thoughts

Whether we acknowledge it or not, goal setting is without a doubt a fundamentally important aspect of our lives.

When we choose not to consciously set goals, we tend to be pulled by the seas and the winds of change in unpredictable ways. These winds take us down unexpected currents and paths that often lead to misery and pain. However, when we choose to take control of the sails and harness the powers of the wind we subsequently take charge of our direction and ultimate destiny.

When you set goals, you take the reigns and ultimately control the next chapter of your life. You just need to decide on the destination.


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

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.