Goal Setting Technique

A Radical Goal Setting Technique That Works

Goal setting techniques are not always very effective. They are often overcomplicated or do not inspire motivation from the user. When it comes to goal setting, simpler is better. You want to accomplish as much as possible by taking the quickest road from A to B. This goal setting technique is simple enough and it will destroy your excuses and obstacles along the way.

As we travel through life different challenges often emerge in the form of obstacles. One obstacle is forgetting what our most important goals are because they are either too too far away or do not require daily action. Another obstacle is fear, and this happens when our final result is too large to fathom an action plan.

This goal setting technique is interactive, meaning I would like for you to take out a piece of paper as you read this. At the top of a fresh page, write down what it is that you would like to achieve. Make sure your goal is specific and measurable such as ‘I want to save $10,000 by September 1st, 2009’. Once you’ve got that down I want you to write down your biggest obstacle.

The Goal

  1. Goal to achieve.
  2. What’s stopping you.

The next step is to reorganize what you have just written into another format, one that has a unique purpose. The way to go about this is to write: I want X, but Y. Where X is your goal, and Y is your biggest obstacle.

  1. I want X
  2. but Y

For example…

  1. I want to save $10,000 by September 1st, 2009.
  2. but, I have no money saved and I spend too much.

The first time I did this exercise one simple truth hit me in the face; when you use “but” you are lying. Focus on X, not on Y, and you will be thinking about solutions instead of excuses. Remember to keep your goals somewhat realistic. If you’re broke and your goal is to have 1 million by tomorrow night you are likely kidding yourself, and if you have no legs you aren’t winning a marathon that involves running (although they do have bionic legs now).

This technique will work on absolutely any goal, and while I say to be realistic, I believe in you, and I know you can stretch yourself here. You don’t even have to pick realistic but highly improbable goals either. You can pick very practical goals like finishing school, or having X amount of dollars in the bank.

The Big Why

Why you want to accomplish your goal is more important than how you will accomplish it. Human beings are amazing in how we can overcome really improbable odds when our heart is in it and our mind is set.

On that same sheet of paper write down how your goal:

  1. Inspires you
  2. Helps other people
  3. Makes a difference

For example…

  1. I’ll be able to put 50{54c12dad2cc2b53ae830e39915b1a3e70288dbcbbeb8bbf8395437c5dc3c512c} down on my new car.
  2. This will make my wife happy.
  3. I’ll be able to get to my job, where we are changing the world, and saving lives.

Many times people only consider themselves, others, or the big impact, but not all 3 (or at least not all 3 at the same time). By having it all together in one place for you to look at every morning when you wake up and every evening before you rest your head you will have triple the WHY. When one why isn’t good enough, you can pull out another, or another, and motivate yourself through anything.

Reverse Goals

Now that you have your goals in place you can take 3 steps backwards from goal to present. In the example above we used September 1st, 2009 as our deadline for saving $10,000. This is fine, and doable, and we’ll work backwards. There are of course rules to this game.

Meet the following criteria:

  1. Work backwards and take 3 big steps.
  2. Write down as if you have acquired, not as if you will get.
  3. Let there be no excuses.

For example…

  1. September 1st, 2009 I have saved $10,000.
  2. June 1st, 2009 I have saved $7,000.
  3. January 1st, 2009 I have saved $3,500.
  4. July 1st, 2008 I have saved $500.

Congratulations! You have arrived at ground zero.

Forward from Ground Zero

Ground zero is right now, the present, without the past, and with a future that is inspiring, contributing, and making a difference. Hold on, it’s not time to celebrate yet. This is the fun part where we get to fill in the pieces.

Now that we have our major milestones and we are looking at a future without a self-limiting past, we can plan direct actions that will bring us to each milestone one step at a time.

  1. Create a to-do list.
  2. Work out the details and direct actions towards each milestone.
  3. Keep each action as simple as possible.

The to-do list will give you a daily focus as to what your next step should be. You’ll never be stuck in a rut for what to do because you have this paper to guide you. This will take out a lot of the confusion, and the small action steps will take away the fear and ambiguity of tackling a huge project.


Take care to review your paper often, especially your big why. This will serve as your motivation and light a fire under you. Use this technique for all your major and minor goals. This will allow you to live a life where your word means something, a life of accomplishing what you set out to do – a powerful and happy life.


This article is contributed by Alex Shalman, a freelance writer with degrees in Psychology (BA) and Biomedical Science (MS). Alex writes passionately and extensively about Personal Development at AlexShalman.com while making his way through further studies.

What are your big goals? Please share one of them in the comment box below.


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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