goal setting

Tips On Setting Realistic Goals That Will Ensure Success

When affecting change in our lives we are often stymied by our own human nature to get things done and get them done now.  I want those ten pounds gone tomorrow!  Patience and our lack of it is a certain killer of change.  Even if we lost those ten pounds in one day, they will be back tomorrow.

Our unrealistic expectations are also another certain killer of change.   We set our goals based on these unrealistic expectations.  Combine poor goals with our lack of patience and our much needed or wanted change does not have a chance.

Setting good attainable goals with realistic action steps are key to not only implementing change but also to help curb the desire to quit when our patience runs thin.

I have worked with adults, for over ten years, on how to set good goals.  In this article I will provide the steps to set good goals with workable action steps.

What is your goal?  Go ahead write it down right now.

Does it look something like this – “I want to make more money, or I want to lose 50 pounds?”

When people make a list of intentions, such as New Year’s Resolutions, a vague goal is where they stop.  You are doomed to failure before you even start with goals that are too broad and do not include a plan of action.

“I want to make more money.”  What does more mean?  One dollar more or $20,000 more?  Do you want to make more money in a year, a week a month?    This goal of more money – we are going to write it so that it works.

“I want to have $5,000 in a savings account by (here we would insert a date so please make that realistic as well.)

We don’t stop at the goal.  We place action steps along the way to help provide the path to our overall goal.  It breaks the goal down into timely and manageable pieces.  Action steps are guidelines.

Goal:   I will have $5,000 in a savings account by December 15, 2013. 

First Action step:  Open savings account by February 1, 2013. 

Really you ask, I need to write that down?  Yes you do.  First of all it provides a tangible reward by checking it off the list.  And second, you have a date this action needs to be done.  You are accountable. 

Second Action step:  Determine amount of money you can put into savings account every week by February 15, 2013

Depending on your set of circumstances under this action step you would plan activities such as, looking at your income and expenses.   Do the math, how much each week do you need to contribute to have your $5,000 by the expected date?  Put a “complete by” date after each activity as well.  Once again, it gives you positive reinforcement and it let you visually see you are making progress toward your goal.  One easy way to not let your lack of patience derail you.

If after you complete this set of activities and you see that the goal of $5,000 is unrealistic in the time frame, given your circumstance, then change it!  You can do that.  You can go to your computer or your pad of paper and you can change the dollar amount.  At any time during the process, you can go back and readjust.

Do not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Many times when people set a goal and something happens that set them back, they just give up. “Well I can’t make that extra $5,000 so why bother.  I won’t do anything.”  Readjust your action steps or activities if you need to and just carry on.

Third Action Step:  Deposit X number of dollars into savings account by Friday afternoon of every week.

Activity – Set up automatic deposit from checking account by March 1, 2013.  Or write in your calendar that you will deposit the money yourself on Friday’s.  Put a big X through the date on the calendar to indicate the task has been completed.

Add additional action steps if needed.   Then go online or look in your savings account book and take a peek at how well you are doing.  Positive reinforcement.

Setting goals is not hard.  Following through is.  However, if you have a plan, that provides deadlines and activities, following through becomes easier.

Shelly Drymon is a woman who has learned to be true to herself. Her goal and passion in life is to help other women in mid-life create the life the life they want.  You can find Shelly at her website The Moments Of My Life and at 3 Sassy Broads. 

  • Morgan Decker

    Great advice. Creating smaller, attainable goals to build up to an ultimate goal is definitely smarter than having one large goal and setting yourself up for disappointment and failure. I need to create a savings plan like this to keep me on track and stay focused about saving money, thanks for the tips!

  • sdrymon

    Thanks Morgan. It is certainly smarter to have small action plans that lead up to the completion of a larger goal. Also, for me, it is these small rewards that provide positive reinforcement along the way. Good luck on the savings plan, you will have to let me know how it turns out for you!

  • Michael Shelton

    Great points! I especially like the one about renegotiating a prior commitment. We really have three options to avoid broken commitments to self; Don’t make a promise in the first place, do the thing you said you’d do or renegotiate the commitment.

    • sdrymon

      Thanks Michael and those are great points you make. I always tell people I work with on setting goals that you are allowed to re-evaluate. Not get off the path entirely but things happen in life so we need to be flexible!

  • Rynessa Cutting

    I’ve never really been much of a planning person- I guess I just don’t like too much structure. For me I like to just live life and I feel like having to constantly refer to some document to see whether I’m on track will really dampen my spirits. Despite that, it’s not like i spend money badly or don’t have any direction in life- quite the opposite actually. But I just feel like people become obsessive with their goals and wind up successful and discontented.

    • sdrymon

      Hi Rynessa, I agree we should not become obsessive with goals. We should always have the flexibility to change things up when life warrants it. And that goes for everything in life. That being said, I have to have some planning because I am so unfocused! I don’t have a goal for every aspect of my life, but I do for the bigger items.

      • http://www.CeciliaHarry.com/ Cecilia Harry

        Same here. Some stuff is so important to me or so time sensitive, that without a plan, the risk of not achieving the goal is too great.

        • sdrymon

          Cecilia, that’s a great point! Setting goals for the important or time sensitive keeps me accountable!

  • http://www.chrisakins.com/ Chris Akins

    Planning to achieve goals is important. Even more important is creating an emotional attachment to achieving the goal. It does not matter how meticulously planned a goal is, if there is no emotional significance to achieving the outcome, most often you will fail. A good way of truly setting, planning, and creating emotional motivation to achieve a goal is using the well-formed outcome method in NLP. This method involves using quite a bit of visualization in the goals setting process that helps not only to clarify exactly what the goal is, and what the consequences of pursuing and achieving the goal will be, but also creates that emotional component which is the driving factor in good outcomes.

    Big changes don’t occur as a result of logic and planning, they occur as a result of emotion and motivation.

    • sdrymon

      Chris, yes one does have to be emotionally attached to a goal in order for to achieve the goal. In writing this piece, the assumption would be made that there is a certain motivation factor involved. Setting a goal without that component would indicate, probably, a pretty high failure rate. Both an emotional attachment and logic and planning are needed.

  • Decisive action workshop

    Life is a constant game of “what’s the next step?”. Failure to understand it results in not having a next step which leads to imminent failure. I think the article is great. step-by-Step, broken down system with a recourse if the goal was too big. I will certainly go a head and share it with my own group.

    • sdrymon

      Thanks! It’s a system I have used for years in working with volunteers and staff. When I first start the training and have them write down their goals they are always way too broad and then can appear just too much. If there is no next step, you are right, failure is sure to happen.