Goal Setting: 7 Steps to Set Your Life Goals

Life Goal Setting

“Failures do what is tension relieving, while winners do what is goal achieving.” – Dennis Waitley

Setting your life goals is one of the most life-changing thing you can do. During the process of goal setting you have to come clear to answer one of the most profound question:

What do I want from my life?

Many are still underestimating the positive effect that goal setting can have. The simple reason for this is more often than not that they haven’t experienced first hand how it feels to define clearly what really drives them. If done right, goal setting can easily motivate you to take massive action and to grow as a human being.

The Process of Goal Setting

A goal is a future achievement with a timely deadline you can work towards to. And on an even more subtle level we can define a goal like this:

A goal is a thought with commitment to make it real. [Tweet this!]

A compelling goal is something that has a deeper meaning to you. It is the kind of goal that excites you, that lets you grow and the achievement is fulfilling and rewarding.  The following is the fastest way I know, to develop real life goals that are personally meaningful. The whole process may take 10 minutes to get out at least 3 compelling goals.

I’ve proven this method to myself as working and I use it that way regularly, at least every quarter when setting my 3-month goals and reviewing my long-term goals. So even if you are pretty good in goal setting, I think to start the process fresh is always beneficial and can produce fresh results.

1. Get in State

First you want to get into the right state to set compelling life goals for yourself. You must allow yourself to dream. There are no barriers. Also forget to be reasonable, just for a moment here, flow high to the field of all possibilities :) Think of it like a child would do. Childs don’t have problems to come up with something that is challenging to achieve from a perspective of most adults.

It is also great to turn on some music in the background that fits the mood. I have a special soundtrack that I love to hear when setting goals and that is Vangelis’ 1492: Conquest of Paradise . It must be something that is not distracting, something more subliminal and best without lyrics (so put your Eminem Album back into the shelf ;))

2. Brainstorm Your Life Goals

Now begin thinking about what would really excite you. You know, the thing that gets a real big smile on your face ;) If you knew you could not fail, what would you start to dream about?

When brainstorming you get ideas into your head and you write them down as fast as you can. It is totally irrelevant if what comes to your mind is possible or not. Forget the “How?” Now we are all into the “What?”, all else does not matter. Especially avoid thinking about what it means or how difficult it would be to get there. We will do this later.

So don’t limit yourself here, get it all out onto the paper or screen.

I found that it works best if you choose important areas of your life to set life goals in, i.e. your body, mind, finances and things, relationships or spirit. Then write everything down that excites you and that you would like to achieve, to have, do or be.

Also and important: select a time-frame. Choose from short-term (3-12 month), mid-term (1 to 2 years) or long-term (3 years to lifetime). You can repeat this for every time-frame. My advice would be to start with 1 year-goals.

Just get it out, no worries, even if it’s total beyond what you currently can do. These can be skills, learnings, things ans all kinds of achievements. Just some examples as an inspiration:

  • learn a new skill (like a new language, to play the piano …)
  • start your own company
  • find a mate
  • become a vegeterian
  • buy a new car or house
  • make a trip around the world or visit a certain place
  • earn a certain amount of money
  • start to meditate
  • lose weight to a certain number
  • start the exercise habit

Ok enough examples, you surely have your own ideas :) Brainstorm for about 5 minutes on the area you have chosen.

3. Prioritize

After brainstorming for at least 5 minutes you now get your results in order. From all that you have written down in the area and time-frame, select the life goals that are most compelling to you. Give them numbers from 1-10 where 10 is the most motivating, that means if you reach it you really made progress towards what you really want in life.

4. Choose the Top 3 Goals

From this list select now the 3 highest rated goals and highlight them. And also determine your number 1 goal. This number 1 goal is the most compelling thing you want to achieve.

Selecting the goals is the primary step to take. Next is now to start bringing them into reality step by step:

5. Set Deadlines

For your 3 top life goals including the number 1 goal set deadlines to when you will achieve them. That means a specific date. This is important because it creates the tension that is necessary to give ourselves the message, that we are serious about our happiness ;)

Now … this was the most important part. If you really did this, then congratulations! You really are among the 3% of the population who have actually written goals . If you work from there and review them regularly you would even step into the 1% of the population who do this. The goal setting is done.

Nevertheless, having goals means acting on them. Now comes the “How”-part of goal setting:

6. Create an Action-Plan

Create an Action-Plan for your number 1 goal. An Action-Plan is a specific list of actions that will lead to your goal. One of the most effective ways is to think from the end: you visualize your outcome as completed and think backward to where you are now. What steps have you taken to get there? Write them down and bring them into a logical order. If you have long-term goals, that process will include parts that are not completely clear and this is ok. Work on your Action-Plan if you make progress and get feedback. But put thinking and energy into it to the best possibly way. I found a pretty good tool in using flow-charts for action-plans. In her book “Wishcraft” , Barbara Sher talks a lot about using flow charts for that matter.

7. Start Now with Your #1 Goal

By all means identify the very first step to take. Now start with this first step from your Action-Plan. It is very important to do at least one step right now and start building momentum on your goal.

If you had difficulties with this little process, then maybe there are some things to consider to free your mind, so that you really become able to use the power of goal setting to the fullest:

If you created a goal or if you want to add anything to the routine, share it in the comments.

About the author Myrko Thum

I'm author of this site and I could coach you to make a giant leap ahead in your personal life and your business. I founded Personal Breakthrough Academy, a powerful personal development video course to create your personal breakthrough. Sign up below to get started:

33 Comments

  • INcubator

    August 11, 2008

    Really great list, I have set several goals over the last years. Usually I set around 10 or more. Maybe I should focus more on 3 goals. I usually only achieved about half of them, and another half of those achieved not by my deadline. I’ll try your approach now, thanks.

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  • D00dikov

    August 11, 2008

    I personally like to set and write my goals into a word-document that I called Goals-Journal. I rewrite some regularly if I have done one goal. Good list, keep up posting :-)

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  • Myrko

    August 11, 2008

    I learned that focusing on few but big goals clearly is very effective. If there are a lot of goals then possibly that aren’t really goals but 2do lists. Or otherwise it is likely to get overwhelmed or frustrated or both :)

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  • Michaela

    August 11, 2008

    In the bestseller “Goals!”, Brian Tracy teaches you how to identify in the clearest terms the things you want out of life, then how to make the plan to help you achieve those things. Brian Tracy says there are four reasons why people don’t set goals:

    • They don’t realize about the importance of goals. If the people with whom you spend the most time — family, friends, colleagues, and so forth — are not clear and committed to goals, there is a chance that you will not be, either.
    • They don’t know how to set goals. Some set goals that are too general. These are, in reality, fantasies common to everyone. Goals, on the other hand, are clear, written, specific, and measurable.
    • They fear failure. Failure hurts, but it is often necessary to experience failure in order to achieve the greatest success. Do not unconsciously sabotage yourself by not setting any goals in which you might fail.
    • They fear rejection. People are often afraid that if they are unsuccessful at achieving a goal, others will be critical of them. This is remedied by keeping your goals to yourself at the outset; let others see your results and achievements once you’ve accomplished your goals.

    Make a habit of daily goal setting and achieving, for the rest of your life. Focus on the things you want, rather than the things you don’t want. Resolve to be a goal-seeking organism, moving unerringly toward the things that are important to you. (from the link http://www.lifemastering.com/en/harvard_school.html)

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  • Myrko

    August 11, 2008

    Michaela, great quote! I really appreciate Brian Tracy and his outstanding work to communicate the importance of goals in Personal Development. He teaches very useful stuff and I read some of his books and listened to most of his audio-books.

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  • Gilbert Ross

    October 14, 2009

    Great post! Good choice of music…long time I didn’t hear 1492. Thanks for reminding me!
    I perfectly agree with all points and their sequence. It’s exactly the way I go about it…from brainstorming all possibilities to narrowing it down, prioritizing, choosing, setting deadlines and acting. Of course, I must say that the most difficult step for me is often #7. It’s that final leap from a good plan to doing it now.

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  • Abdallah

    December 18, 2009

    Success is defined by many in so many ways. Many people define it by what the have yet to attain or by what others have attained. In the pursuit of success we often prostitute ourselves to many things we would eventually live to regret. We run miles down one street only to find we are completely lost.

    www2successway.blogspot.com

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  • used tires

    January 5, 2011

    One of the best things in my opinion you can do for yourself is to always make sure you are taking action and following up on where you really wanna be. Its way too easy to say a goal, without actually working towards that goal. I know I’ve made that mistake in the past too.

    -Jean

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  • alexis

    January 28, 2011

    I’m a Novice to goal setting, so I’ll have a go at short-term goals at first. Being a teenager (16 years old) that’s the best I can do ;)
    Have all good luck in achieving your goals :)

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  • Komodo Dragon

    February 10, 2011

    I have to say that a lot of times, I just do things to relieve tension or stress rather than doing it to achieve goals. Maybe if the goal itself is creating the tension in me, I am being productive but it’s hard for me to take extra initiative is what I mean.

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  • finest man van

    June 7, 2011

    I have realized it is somewhat hard to get motivated if you do not set goals (or deadlines) for yourself. For example, I want to get some p&ss& badly, but I have not had a date in over two months. In order for me to get girls I have to initiate contact and ask them out, even if that means leaving my comfort zone. If lets say, I set a goal to ask atleast one girl out a month, that would be a good motivation, don’t you agree?NO GOALS=NO MOTIVATION

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  • Property Marbella

    October 30, 2011

    Important to remember, failure is not a loss but simply a failure to win and you have learned something new and perhaps come closer to a victory.

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  • farouk

    December 5, 2011

    hi Myrko
    its my first visit here and surely it wont be the last
    amazing post :)
    thank you for sharing

    ReplyReply
  • Myrko

    December 8, 2011

    farouk, nice to have you here. :)

    ReplyReply
  • Johnny Salter

    October 31, 2012

    In theory it’s imposable to happen every time but if I set a goal that’s farther out than a couple of days. That’s as close to a guarantee that it will not happen as you can get. Naturally when I tell people this they say it is a negative attitude and that thinking like that will make it not happen. And they are correct however I used to not have that attitude but after so many failed attempts I don’t know how it is possible to have another attitude about it. It used to destroy me when such things I was counting on would fail. I had such a failure in June and I am not functioning fully yet, close but not there. I was totally convinced my plan would work. I could watch it like movie, I could feel it.

    In a way though it was very helpful. I learned with complete awareness: that there is no god there to help and that the only logical conclusion to Jesus is Jim Jones. There is no other place for jesus but Jim Jones.
    Actually focusing on this lesson makes me realize the whole deal was a complete success. I feel grounded, serene. safe.

    However, i still can’t do goals.

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  • Myrko

    November 1, 2012

    There are two things that make achievable goals happen.

    The first and necessary step is to get in harmony with your goal. This means you have to be aligned with what you want to achieve. It’s not enough to “only” really want it, you have be in harmony with it too. And harmony doesn’t mean softness or esoteric, it means you have to become the person for which the goal comes naturally: build the skills, think the thoughts, have the friends fitting your goal. Otherwise there would be a conflict and it would show. Your life will ALWAYS reflect your inner state, which means your inner belief-system and your most dominant thoughts. If you move yourself to harmony you will probably encounter blockers and beliefs you want to change.

    The second thing are the mechanics: you have to build a plan from beginning to end and then start and do the first step.

    I would work on those two things. And it’s also important to break the belief again that you won’t get them. You have to want to believe otherwise.

    And I would look at the specific reasons why the goals were not achieved and look at new ways around that. As I said the most important part is the 1st step: harmony with your goal. You have to be/become the person that naturally attracts your goal.

    Three followup reads that could help:
    - Self-Reflection: How to Do It Right
    - Are You Asking the Right Questions?
    - How to Change Limiting Beliefs

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  • Jacob Becker

    October 28, 2013

    Awesome article about goal setting! The crazy thing is that so many entrepreneurs don’t even bother to set goals when it is very important to have a vision for what you are trying to achieve in my opinion!

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  • Myrko Thum

    October 28, 2013

    Absolutely Jacob!

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  • Tony

    December 29, 2013

    Hi, Myrko

    Really nicely put together website. Right on to the point. I think I have never truly set goals and my life has been everybody elses life. I really am sick of it where it has lead me and I want out. I have one question about the goal setting. You said that it better to set goals for your important life areas. If I have 7 life areas, will I have 7×3=21 main life goals or just total 3 extracted from all the life areas.

    Cheers,
    Tony

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  • Myrko Thum

    December 30, 2013

    Thanks Tony!

    You extract the 3 most important and compelling goals from all life areas, so you just have those 3 for now. Then also identify your #1 overall goal.

    The reason is, the more goals you set, the less likely they become to get realised. You need to focus your energy.

    What you can do is set 3 short-term and 3 long-term goals. That way you are compelled to take immediate action as well as have a vision for your — say 5 years ahead — future!

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  • Anthony Vigneron

    January 4, 2014

    Myrko,
    Great article and contributions in follow-up comments, in particular on the harmony needed to get flow towards your goals. I use those 3 steps to keep me on track:
    - Make sure I am going to work towards the right things, which are “true” to me (that’s your harmony reference)
    - Make sure I have the necessary relentless focus on meeting those goals,
    - With the focus on those goals, make sure I was completing them in the most efficient manner.

    Last one is, Have fun!

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  • Myrko Thum

    January 6, 2014

    That’s a good guide as well Anthony. I would probably go in more specifics what that exactly means – and I’m sure you have that for you.

    I would also always ensure to get into a emotional peak state before setting goals — things look different then and dreaming big and creative comes naturally.

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  • J.W.

    January 6, 2014

    I don’t know what I’m doing to cause it but every time I try something like this I fill overwhelmed and very stressed out, panicked.

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  • Myrko Thum

    January 7, 2014

    @J.W.: This has probably one of the following reasons:

    1. you feel the responsibility and commitment of the work that is involved to go from where you are to where your goals will take you

    counter: go baby steps and don’t try to do it all at once. focus on your one most important goal only (if that helps)

    2. you feel restricted by the path any goal gives you, so you fear losing flexibility, creativity, even freedom

    counter: realise that with any goal you set, you still keep full power to change course in an instant, if that is necessary and the better way – Don’t see the goal as a restriction, rather as a flexible guide to keep yourself focused on where you want to go

    3. and this is more subtle: you may feel the fear of success. that may sound weird, but we as humans are weird sometimes :) There may be an internal question arising: what if I reach all this? wouldn’t that make my life so much more complicated, stressed etc.?
    this may also include the fear of failing and not reaching your goals

    counter: your life is not necessarily getting more complicated than it is now. you will grow with your goals. that’s the great opportunity you have with goals. The goal is not only about reaching it, but also who you become along the way.

    You can also simplify along the way. Here are three great follow ups, that may help you here:

    - The Simplicity Guide to Live a Simple Life
    - How to Focus Your Mind: Develop a Laser-Sharp Mental Focus
    - How to Create Balance in All Areas of Your Life

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  • Jimmy Chell

    January 9, 2014

    Hi Myrko, I come across your post via the FB status of my friend, and I have to say this post helped me a lot for setting my goals. I’ve just made my first goals list and planning to finish it all. I called it is “The Impossible List”. Thanks, again.

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  • Myrko Thum

    January 9, 2014

    Awesome Jimmy! Thanks for letting me know, that’s cool.

    “The Impossible List” is possible for you, just because you could imagine it, which is the first step in making anything a reality.

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  • Vuk

    April 15, 2014

    Hi Myrko!

    I have a long-term goal since I was a kid, and now I’m 24 years old … I never worked on that goal, and now I’ve decided to start (even though I thought it is maybe too late), but don’t know where to begin…
    My goal is to become rich. I set myself a period of 5 years.
    The problem is that I don’t know how to do it, how to start, what to learn, where to start, what would be my first step…and I really don’t care how I do it, and what job that’s going to be, I just want to become rich…
    I was born in a poor environment and I don’t know anyone around me who is successful or rich and who could help me with some advice or experience, to show me some direction, because I don’t know anything about business… All the people in my environment live average lives, and are generally satisfied with that, and if not, they never tried to change it, never risked , and they blamed the economic situation in the country, the world, etc…(and they taught me so)…but I want more, I want to have enough money to travel the world, to help people around me, and people in need of financial assistance, and also to work when I want and how I want (it may sound like I’m lazy, but I’m really not, I just want to have some time to enjoy life the way I want).
    Basically I have a problem with an action-plan…for a couple of months im trying to find out what type of work I want to do, how to do it, but it seems to me like i’m not making any progress at all…

    Sorry if my English is not good :) Thank you!

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  • Aa. Zazai

    June 17, 2014

    Dear Myrko,

    Outstanding writing.. Its very helpful and I liked it.

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  • Vince

    July 28, 2014

    Hi Myrko,

    I enjoyed reading about your goal setting process, especially the tip on music .. Vangelis :). I have an app on the Apple app store that avid goal setters may find useful. It’s called Jutsu and it’s a simple tool to help you set & track your life goals. Its a bit more visual than checklists. Hope you like it.

    ReplyReply

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