What Does Successful Goal Setting Look Like?

goal setting success

One of the primary reasons that people struggle to become successful is because they don’t have a clear vision of what they want to accomplish.  They probably have vague ideas of the benefits they would like to enjoy, but no solid goal setting strategy for getting there.

This kind of scenario will often lead to jumping around from one idea to another, but never really committing to any of them. When results don’t come quickly, it’s easy to lose interest and move on to something that might bring faster success with less effort.

Has this been your experience?

In these cases, the problem is rarely that success is unattainable. Most of the time the problem has to do with clarity.  If we don’t have a clear enough vision of exactly what we want to accomplish, it is impossible to design a viable goal setting strategy for turning our vision into a reality.

We start with clarity because if we don’t know exactly where we want to go, we’ll never figure out how to get there. The reliability of the strategy is directly related to the clarity of the vision! So the first step toward successful goal setting is always to identify precisely what you want to accomplish. This principle applies to any endeavor in life. The clearer we are the shorter the journey.

Planning for goal setting success

Below you’ll find a simple 5-step process to help you develop a clear vision and put it into action:

1)  Know exactly what you want to accomplish and why. Rather than just thinking about the perks and benefits that your success will bring, focus on identifying the reasons you want to accomplish this particular goal. Why is this goal setting endeavor so important to you and how will it add value to your life?  How will this accomplishment affect or contribute to the lives of others and especially those closest to you? What are your deeper motives?

2) Have an approximate timeline for completion. Realistically, how long should it take for your objective to be completed?  Barring any unexpected delays, have a general idea of when you should reach your goal. This is important because it adds clarity to your vision. Your mind will adjust your goal setting strategy and the corresponding actions you take to the timeline you establish. Very often things take as long we allow them to take, so having a tentative timeline adds structure to our goal setting strategy.

3) Have a list of clear action steps. Besides knowing exactly what you want to achieve, understanding the steps involved is absolutely vital.  Think about the end result you want to create, and then consider exactly what you will need to do in order to get there from where you are right now.  Write each step in order, and make a note of any obstacles you are likely to face along the way. Now, give some forethought to how you will overcome those obstacles so you won’t get caught off guard.

4) Have a solid plan for putting those steps into action. Is there a clear progression that needs to be followed for your goal setting strategy to work?  If a delay comes up, will it require that you change the order of your action steps? You can’t plan for every possibility, but having a plan B will add flexibility to your strategy and help you stay within your timeline. Once you start, make sure you put your plans into action, and keep them in action.

5) Finally, re-evaluate and adjust as necessary. Once you are moving forward toward your vision, it’s important to avoid unnecessary detours and delays. To do this you will need to evaluate your progress and make any needed adjustments. Expect circumstances to change because they will. That’s why you need the ability to respond accordingly if you want to experience goal setting success.

Plan to succeed

This may sound like a lot of work, and perhaps that explains why success continues to elude so many. We all know the old quote: “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” Goal setting success in any area of life rarely happens by accident. Those who understand and implement the process correctly are the ones that succeed. In my Breakthrough Strategy Coaching practice, these are among the most common issues that hold people back.

How about you? Maybe you want to lose some weight or get in better shape. Perhaps you want to create a new business or take your career to the next level. In a relationship, both people can go through this process together with the goal of adding greater value to their partnership. If you have been chasing success in any area of your life, I encourage you to put more thought into the five goal setting steps listed above. If you do, you’ll likely find yourself on the fast track to success like never before!

Do you have a goal setting success story to share?
How about a favorite strategy for achieving your goals?
The lines are open!

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  1. Nea January 18, 2011 Reply

    As much as I like to skip around the steps, I know how important they all are. Something else that helps me is having another person to help hold me accountable.

    • Jonathan January 18, 2011 Reply

      Excellent point Nea, it’s amazing how much motivation and determination can come from accountability.

  2. Marty January 18, 2011 Reply

    Sounds like a plan for a good personal mission statement.
    I’m guilty of skipping bits too. That will improve with practice.

    • Jonathan January 18, 2011 Reply

      Hi Marty, I think we are all guilty of that, and sometimes we even get away with it. But when we really want to succeed at something, following the process really improves our chances.

  3. Rocket Bunny January 18, 2011 Reply

    Love this quote “Those who fail to plan, plan to fail”.
    It is so true and many people who can’t see beyond the box get scared.They choose to live safe when they really remain dormant.

    • Jonathan January 18, 2011 Reply

      Hi Bunny, life is just too unpredictable to think that we can accomplish much of anything of importance without having a plan. Sure, we will probably need to make adjustments along the way, but that’s just part of the process.

  4. Evan January 18, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathon, I have difficulty with knowing exactly what success looks like. Most things I’ve set out to do have taken me different and more interesting places than I anticipated.

    I think we can only know exactly what success will look like in fairly simple and unchanging contexts (like running a hundred yard sprint). Other times and places are more complex – I don’t know exactly what it would look like for me to be a successful blogger – I’m still trying out different things. There is much more to know and many more factors to sort out than in a sprint.

    • Jonathan January 18, 2011 Reply

      Hi Even, those are all valid points. My reference to “look” was representative of much more than knowing exactly how the story will end. It’s more about the visions and motives that get us moving in the right direction. Naturally, the end result will vary from out initial imagined image, reality usually does. But the energy to continue taking action in the direction of a goal is fueled by how we think the end result will look and feel.

  5. Stuart January 19, 2011 Reply

    Hi Jonathan, thanks for the great read.

    I think Step. 5 (Re-evaluate and adjust as necessary) is the most important of all, as having that skill means you don’t burn out immediately, and you can keep going.

    Change happens to us all, and if we can’t keep up with the constant river flow of today’s world, then we get left behind, we get stuck on the riverbanks. This applies to businesses, life, anything :-)

    • Jonathan January 19, 2011 Reply

      Hi Stuart, we definitely need to be flexible with our approach. No plan should be cast in stone because it is all part of a learning process. As we learn our approach gets adjusted accordingly.

  6. Shailender January 19, 2011 Reply

    Sometimes we choose our goal but we really don’t know the exact action steps to accomplish it. We take steps according to the our changing environment. In some cases we succeed and in some not, so we should try again to succeed as we must know where we lacked in first try.

    • Jonathan January 19, 2011 Reply

      Hi Shailender, yes, that’s how we learn!

  7. rob white January 21, 2011 Reply

    Excellent point Jonathan. To define success we really must come to know ourselves. Indeed there is no ONE definition of success. My own ideas have changed as I’ve become older and wiser. Now my ultimate definition of success is freely expressing more and more of my infinitely unique nature.

    • Jonathan January 29, 2011 Reply

      Hi Rob, I think there is a natural progression where our view of success changes in tandem with our personal growth. I love how the passage of time coupled with experience changes our priorities.

  8. Steve February 3, 2011 Reply

    I was reading Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Blog, and he shared some of his specific goals he has for his blog in 2011. When I saw those goals, I knew that he is not very successful in his niche by accident. It’s a great illustration of everything you write about in this post :)

    • Jonathan February 5, 2011 Reply

      Hi Steve, thanks for joining in. I’ll have to check out Pat’s site. Always appreciate learning about an insightful blogger, thanks.

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