How to Set Goals In 7 Steps & Never Fail

Jordan Tarver
September 19, 2021

Goal setting is a common practice—for good reason, too. Learning how to set goals can help you develop a roadmap for your journey. Your goals give you a handy way to measure your progress, hold yourself accountable, and motivate you to accomplish a challenge.

In this article, I'll help you navigate the seven steps of goal setting, which is just one piece of becoming the best version of yourself. If you're looking to add more value into your life beyond your goals and gain a sense of direction, my book, You Deserve This Sh!t, may be the resource you've been looking for.

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What Is Goal Setting?

Many people decide to only think of their desired achievements in their heads and never take the time to write them down. This typically doesn't yield the best results when it comes to achieving any goal.

Goal setting is an intentional process of identifying an objective and creating a written action plan to make it happen. A defined action plan will help you understand the specific steps you need to take every day to achieve any goal you set.

Why Should You Set Goals?

You may find that when you keep your goals in your head, you never complete them. This is because you don't develop an action plan or daily steps.

When you set goals, you give yourself a greater opportunity to achieve them. Goals give you a sense of direction and create a vision for your life. With defined goals, you'll be able to make consistent progress and aim for the best possible results.

There have even been studies proving that goal setting and success are linked. For instance, a study by psychologist Gail Matthews shows that people who wrote down their goals were 33% more successful in completing them than those who kept their goals in their heads.

How to Set Goals In 7 Steps

Most people fail to achieve their goals because they never take the time to create a specific plan. You can become an effective goal setter by following a specific goal-setting process that helps you understand your vision, create a plan, and take consistent action.

Follow these seven steps to goal setting.

1. Understand Your Vision & Define Your Goals

Before you start writing down your goals, think about what you want to achieve. It's ideal to choose goals that you want to accomplish for yourself and not ones to meet another's expectations.

When thinking about potential goals, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this goal resonate with me?
  • Am I willing to put in the time and effort to achieve it?
  • Does this goal align with my vision and values?
  • Will this goal help me grow as an individual?

It's crucial to ask yourself these questions because if it doesn't resonate with you or if you're not willing to put in the time, then you'll likely come up short. But if you answered yes to all of these questions, the goal is worth exploring and taking to the next step.

If you came up with multiple goals, it might be wise to shave your list down. Being over ambitious may seem exciting in the beginning but could result in failure later on. Don't bite off more than you have time to work on. You can always set more goals once you're making progress on others.

2. Create SMART Goals

Once you understand your vision and have spent time defining goals you want to set, it's time to create SMART goals. For a goal to be considered a SMART goal, it must meet the following criteria:

  1. Specific: Set specific and focused goals. This means your goal should be clear and defined. If you set a vague goal, you'll find it hard to feel a sense of direction.
  2. Measurable: Include precise dates or metrics you can track to measure your progress. For example, milestones to reach by specific dates is one way to measure your progress.
  3. Attainable: Be realistic when goal setting and choose goals you can complete within a specific time period. If you make the goal unattainable, you'll lose motivation on your current goal and hope for achieving future goals.
  4. Relevant: Set goals that align with your long-term vision and help you get closer to your largest aspirations.
  5. Time-based: Be sure to set a realistic end-date that motivates you to consistently work toward completing your goal.

So let's say you want to create a goal to help you save more money. Instead of setting the goal, "I want to save more money," set the SMART version of that goal: save $3,600 in 12 months, with milestones of $300 per month.

3. Write Your Goals Down

Writing your goals down helps make them concrete and tangible. As we saw with Gail Matthews' study, putting your goals down on paper (vs. keeping them in your head) leads to more success.

The way you write down your goals matters, too. Instead of using "I want" or "I will," write your goal in present tense using "I am" as if it's already happening, such as "I am saving $3,600 in 12 months."

When you write your goals using "I am," you put more positive energy behind it and help speak it into existence. When you use "I want" or "I will," you'll always feel like the goal is out of reach.

Once you write your goals down, keep them somewhere visible. This can be in a journal you open up every morning or on a post-it note stuck on your desk, bathroom mirror, or fridge.

4. Develop an Action Plan

Writing down your goals is one piece of completing them, the next step is to develop an action plan. An action plan helps you create concrete daily steps to take and help you determine how you'll achieve your goals. Without an action plan, it's likely you'll fall off track or not meet your intermittent milestones, such as saving $300 per month.

An action plan consists of specific individual steps you need to take to achieve your goals. In addition to providing a clear roadmap, it will give you something to cross off during the process, which can motivate you to keep going.

So, for example, let's look at the goal from earlier: save $3,600 in 12 months. Here's what a possible action plan would look like:

  • Identify your monthly expenses.
  • Write down your monthly income.
  • Calculate how much you need to save per month ($3,600/12 = $300).
  • Write down how much money you need to make to save $300 (monthly expenses + $300).
  • Determine how to save the additional money. Either look for places to reduce your expenses or find ways to make more money, or do both,

Many people miss this step of goal setting, which often leads to failure. If you want to achieve the goals you set, be sure to prioritize your action plan.

5. Schedule Your Work Into Your Calendar

Life is busy and even distracting for some, and the daily or weekly work around your goals may fall through the cracks because of other life responsibilities. To remind yourself of the required work, schedule it into your calendar. Look at your action plan and create reminders or calendar events that align with the steps you outlined.

For example, if you need to complete a specific task every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, add it to your calendar; if you need to do something every day at 8 am, add it to your calendar. This system will help you create a surefire way to stack on track and hit all your marks.

6. Take Action & Remain Consistent

Goal setting doesn't end after you identify your goal, write it down, and create your plan—it's an ongoing process. While setting goals can take time, the real work and test starts when it's time to take action. It's crucial you follow all your action steps and meet any reminders you create in your calendar. Your consistency will compound into accomplishment.

Too many people don't reward themselves until they've completed their goals, but I think it's important to reward yourself along the way. When you reward yourself for your small victories, such as consistently completing a weekly task or meeting your $300 per month milestone, you fuel your fire.

7. Reflect & Evaluate Your Progress

Throughout the process of working toward your goals, take time to evaluate your progress. This will help you see what's working well, any adjustments you might need to make, and how your hard work is paying off. Set time at least once per week to do this and schedule it into your calendar so you don't miss this valuable part of the goal-setting process.

Achieving Your Goals

When you achieve your goals, give yourself a moment of recognition. Celebrate! You deserve it. Rewarding yourself for your accomplishments will motivate you to work toward future goals.

Before moving on and setting your next goal, evaluate the goal you just completed. Consider the following points:

  • If the goal felt easy, challenge yourself more with your next goal.
  • If your goal took too long to achieve, adjust your future goals accordingly—maybe you bit off more than you can chew.
  • If everything felt just right, replicate your goal-setting process and attack your goals with the same work ethic.

If you failed to achieve your goal, don't be too hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to feel any emotions, but then take a step back and look at your goal-setting process objectively. Find areas where you need to improve or habits that you need to change.

The more self-reflection you do, whether you achieved a goal or not, the better your goal-setting experience will be moving forward.

Bottom Line

Learning how to set goals will help you create a roadmap for your life. With this roadmap, you'll know the exact steps you need to take and when to take them to achieve your aspirations. Use the seven steps and goal-setting techniques outlined in this article to master the goal-setting process.


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

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