How To Set Achievable Goals (5 Steps To Ensure Success)

A man on top of a mountain, celebrating successfully achieving his goal. How to set achievable goals.

Setting goals allows you navigate life in the direction you want to. They create the path for you as you work towards achieving your dreams. With that being said, working towards your dreams can be overwhelming and at a times, appear as though you aren’t making progress. For these reasons, it is important to set smart and achievable goals.

In this article, we focus on how you can set achievable goals by following five steps. They include:

  • determining your goal (what you want to achieve?)
  • writing your goal down
  • assigning a timeframe to your goal
  • creating a plan to achieve your goal
  • giving thought to the roadblocks you might encounter while working towards your goal

Before we focus on the five steps, let’s take a closer look at what goals are, and how they can apply to different aspects of your life.

What Are Goals?

A goal is something you set out to achieve or overcome. Goals can vary in complexity, length, and ambition. Some may be achievable in an afternoon, while others may only be reached after the accumulation of effort over a number of years.

Regardless of the ideas that come to mind for you as you read this article, you need to be smart about the goals you set so you have a chance at actually achieving them.

It is great to set ambitious goals that push you out of your comfort zone and force you to reach beyond what you thought was capable. However, in order to do this, you need to create a plan with achievable milestones that will lead you in the direction towards your ambitious goals. 

Goals can be categorized by the aspects of your life they apply to (personal, professional, health, fitness, financial, spiritual) or the length of time (short-term or long-term) you give yourself to achieve them.

Short-term Goals

Can typically be classified as ones that can be achieved within a year or less. They aren’t life-altering goals, but they help you work towards an objective that will take some considerable time and effort on your part to achieve.

Long-term Goals

Are generally classified as ones that take over a year to achieve. An accumulation of several short-term goals can lead to the successful completion of a long-term goal.

How To Set Achievable Goals

The five steps that you can use to set achievable goals are explained in detail below. After step 5, you can read through a real-world example to understand how these five steps can be applied to set an achievable goal.

Step 1: What Is It That You Want To Achieve?

First, give some thought to what it is that you want to achieve. Why do you want to achieve it?

You are about to start a journey that will involve a lot of effort, determination, and patience. The more meaningful and impactful the goal is to you, the more likely you will find success.

Step 2: Write Your Goal Down

When you write your goals down on paper, they become real, actionable items that can not be forgotten about. They are no longer just thoughts in your head that you may one day take action on. Writing your goals down helps to keep you accountable. Every time you see them they stare at you in the face as a reminder to keep working hard.

Be sure to write your goals down in a journal, day planner, smartphone application, on a whiteboard, or something that allows you to revisit them often. The more often you see your goals, the more you are reminded as to what you are trying to achieve. 

Step 3: Assign A Timeframe To Your Goal

With any goal in life, it is important to assign a timeframe. Without a timeframe to achieve your goal, you may fall into a habit of working at a leisurely pace instead of working with urgency.

A lack of urgency allows you to be more easily distracted. Distractions can be demotivating as you begin to focus your attention on other things than your goals.

When you assign a timeframe to your goal, it helps in two different ways:

1. Helps Measure Progress

It enables you to measure your progress at different intervals as you work towards achieving your goal. When you measure progress, you are able to see areas that you have had success, and where you may have opportunities for improvement. 

2. Creates A Deadline

When you create a deadline for your goals, you are held accountable to achieve them within the given timeframe. As stated previously, it creates an urgency about the work you are putting in.

It should be noted that timeframes should be realistic. While you should work with urgency on a day-to-day basis, in the big picture it will take time to achieve your goals, so be patient.

Step 4: Create A Plan To Achieve Your Goal

You have thought of a goal, wrote it down, and assigned a timeframe to it. But how do you actually achieve your goal?

To achieve your goal, you need to create a plan. This is the most important step.

In order to create a plan, take your goal and continue to break it down into smaller goals. You keep doing this until you have actionable items that you can complete on a smaller timeframe, such as an hourly, daily or weekly basis. 

A goal can be quite general and it doesn’t provide much insight into how it will actually be accomplished. By breaking your goal down into tasks that you can complete on a shorter timeframe, you are taking small steps in the direction to achieving your goal.

What once may have seemed like an overwhelming, unachievable goal, now has a plan with actionable items. 

After you have completed your plan, it is at this point where you can determine if your goal is realistic and achievable within your given timeframe. Do you have the time to put in the required amount of effort to reach your goal? If not, are you willing to make sacrifices in other areas of your life in order to do so?

Step 5: Give Thought To Roadblocks You Might Encounter

With any goal you try to achieve, there will always be roadblocks. You can classify roadblocks as things that might get in the way of you working towards your goal. They could be people, life events, distractions, or even self-doubt. 

After you have completed your plan, give some thought to what roadblocks you might face in your journey to achieving your goal. If you are proactive in this area, you can either prevent roadblocks from happening or create a plan to overcome them when they inevitably appear.

For most people, the major roadblocks they face are impatience and self-doubt. As you are working towards achieving a goal, it may be taking longer than you anticipated.

Instead of remaining to work hard to accomplish what you set out to do, you become impatient from the lack of results. Results assure you that your hard work is amounting to something.

Without results, you begin to doubt yourself and your ability to achieve your goal. It is at this point that many people either quit or begin to get distracted by other ambitions.

An Example Of Using The Five Steps To Set Achievable Goals

Below we provide an example of how you can apply the five steps to set achievable goals.

Step 1: What Is It That You Want To Achieve?

In recent months you have been very busy with work. As a result, you have developed some poor eating habits, stopped going to the gym, and gained some weight.

You have decided that it is time for you to take some action and get back to the weight you were previously at when you had a more balanced lifestyle. Therefore, you determine that your goal is to lose 20 lbs of weight.

Step 2: Write Your Goal Down

You carry your personal day planner with you everywhere you go, so you decide it is best to write your goal in there. There is an ‘Important Thoughts’ area on the first page of your day planner. You write it in this area of your day planner as you notice it every time you open it up.

Furthermore, you also write your goal on your home office whiteboard. It sits just above your computer desk and stares at you each time you walk into the office.

Step 3: Assign A Timeframe

You are attending the wedding of a family friend mid-summer in about six months time. It would be great to have lost the extra weight by then as you know there will be lots of pictures taken on the occasion.

Therefore, you set yourself a realistic and achievable timeframe of six months. Your goal now becomes more defined as you have assigned a timeframe to it in order to hold you accountable. Your goal is to lose 20 lbs of weight within a six month period.

Furthermore, a timeframe allows you to gauge your progress throughout the journey. For instance, at three months in, you can step back to see if you are on track to lose 20 lbs of weight.

Step 4: Create A Plan

At first, your goal may seem overwhelming, or unachievable with your current habits, but you begin to break it down into smaller steps.

If you want to lose weight on a consistent basis, you aim to lose 10 lbs at the midway point, which equals just over 3 lbs a month and just under 1 lb every week. But how will you be able to lose around 1 lb of weight every week?

After doing some research, you recognize that drinking water, eating healthy and exercising are three important ways to help you lose weight. So you break these down further.

You set a new goal to exercise three times a week. The weekends are always busier for you, so you plan to go to the gym after work each day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You aren’t sure about what exercises are best for losing weight, so you book one session with the personal trainer at your gym to give you some tips.

Next, you focus on your diet. As previously mentioned, you have developed some poor eating habits. You always struggle to find the time, and motivation to make healthy lunches during the week. Instead, you go out for lunch at work and resort to snacking on cookies/pastries in the breakroom throughout the day.

You decide to set another new goal. Each Sunday afternoon is to be spent preparing and planning healthy meals for the week. You already do your grocery shopping on Sundays. So now you will come home from the store and prepare five healthy meals and snacks for the week ahead.

Finally, you have recognized that you need to drink more water. Work is busy and you often go the whole morning with just one cup of coffee. The thought drinking water doesn’t even cross your mind.

You decide to purchase a reusable water bottle. This way it can sit right on your desk throughout the day as a reminder for you to drink. Furthermore, it has a spill-proof lid so you can carry it around the office with you as you go to different meetings.

As it is easier to track how much water you drink each day when using the same water bottle, you set some daily hydration goals. You aim to finish your water bottle in the morning, refill it at lunch, and then have it finished again before you leave work in the evening.

Here, you have broken your goal down into smaller actionable items that you can complete on a shorter timeframe. The idea of losing 20 lbs of weight might seem overwhelming, but when you break it down into smaller items, it seems a lot more manageable. You have broken your main goal into smaller actions that include:

  • exercising one hour a day, three times a week
  • blocking off Sunday afternoons for preparing healthy lunches and snacks for the week ahead
  • daily hydration goals to increase your water intake, and allow you to be more alert in the evenings as you go to exercise

Step 5: Give Thought To Road Blocks

You have created a meaningful goal, wrote it down, assigned a timeline, and broken the goal down into several actionable items that you can complete on a daily basis. Now before you get into a routine of putting in the hard work to lose weight, you give thought to some roadblocks that you might encounter.

You have always had a stop-start relationship with the gym. You go consistently for a few months at a time, then eventually fall into a pattern of not going for weeks at a time.

To help keep your motivation high, you ask a work colleague if they want to be your workout buddy. You decide to travel straight from work to the gym together three times a week. This helps to hold each other accountable.

Now it is just a matter of you putting in the hard work on a consistent basis to achieve your goal.

Final Thoughts

The journey to successfully achieving a meaningful goal is one that requires a lot of hard work, patience, and determination. However, before the hard work starts, be sure you have given yourself every chance at success by setting an achievable goal. An achievable goal is one that:

  • is meaningful to you
  • has been written down
  • has a realistic timeframe
  • has a detailed plan with actionable items
  • thought has been given to potential roadblocks

The realization that there are 86,400 seconds each day. What are you doing today, so that tomorrow you are a step closer to where you want to be? If not now, then when?

eightysixfourhundred, make them count

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Hi, I'm James! I want to help you make the most of your day by providing helpful tips and informative articles on motivation, time management, productivity, and happiness.

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