How to Set Goals the Right Way

How to Set Goals the Right Way
Written By Greg Bahlmann
Published on September 10, 2020

Knowing how to set goals will help you do more and get more out of life. However, do you know how to set goals properly to make the results worthwhile? And yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to set goals. Not knowing how to set goals can lead to wasted time and disillusionment that results from not getting what you want out of life.

I will be dealing with setting goals in what follows and will only be touching on the achievement of those goals.

Types of Goals

Although some authorities maintain that there are three types of goals, I propose that there are just two.

  • Transitional goals, through which you hope to change your behavior. The goal you set is a target meant only to orientate and validate your efforts. The intention is that you continue with the desired behavior change well past the goal deadline. Setting goals like losing weight, getting fit, saving money and the like are transitional goals.
  • Bounded goals, in contrast, have a definite deadline at which point they are complete. When you reach the deadline, you can objectively ascertain whether or not you achieved your goal and the goal-related activity usually ceases. Setting goals like completing a project, writing a book, building a house or the like ar bounded goals.

Why is Knowing the Type of Goal Important?

The type of goal you choose to set will dictate the way you will approach it.

  • Transitional goals focus on a change of behavior and so establishing a positive routine – and eventually a habit – is the most important thing. To this end, bolstering your motivation is the key to sustained commitment to achieving the goal is paramount.
  • Bounded goals are result-orientated, and while establishing a routine is important to ensure that you reach the targets you set within the required time, far more important is the focus on execution. Perseverance becomes important where you need to push yourself over the short term to reach touchpoints on the path to your ultimate goal.

Set Goals Effectively in 7 Steps

Here are 7 steps to helping you set better, more achievable goals.

  1. Use a goal-setting framework like SMART, GROW, CLEAR, FAST or, even better, the GREATER² Goal Achievement System (which includes the best parts taken from the previously-mentioned ones). A framework acts as a checklist for your goal to make sure that you don’t overlook anything. The characteristics of an effective goal (taken from the GREATER² Goal Achievement System) are;
    • The goal must be gaugable. In other words, it must be specific, precise and have a set deadline.
    • The goal must be exigent, or challenging and ambitious.
    • You must have an emotional stake in the achievement of the goal. You must really. really want to attain it.
    • When writing down your goal, use obligatory language like “I will …” instead of “I want to …” or “My goal is to …”.
  2. Next, create a goal path. Plan the steps you will take to reach your goal. Each of those steps will become what I call a “step goal” – a mini-goal that you must try to achieve by a specific date. Breaking your goal path up like this and setting regular step goals makes achieving it that much more doable.
  3. Visualize success and write down a motivational visualization that you are going to reread often while moving towards your goal. A motivational visualization is something you write from the perspective of the future you who has achieved your goal. In it, you describe the benefits of having achieved your goal and how you feel about your success. When writing it, refer to as many sensory and emotional inputs as possible; what you feel, see, hear, smell and taste. Sensory visualization is extremely powerful and will help make it real in your mind.
  4. Prepare by taking stock of what you have and what you need, as far as skills, relationships, and tools or equipment are concerned. Make sure you have everything in place before starting out as you don’t want to have started along your goal path only to realize you cannot continue because of something you don’t have. Preparation might also involve telling those around you what you are doing so that they understand that you may need “quiet time” to work towards your goal.
  5. Find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is a person who you can talk to and report back to about your performance and any problems you face while trying to achieve your goal. A good accountability partner will be part mentor, part sounding board, part coach and part critic. Accountability partnerships work best when the relationship is reciprocal; that is, where you act as the accountability partner for one another.
  6. Set up reminders, which can be virtual alerts on your phone or computer or slips of paper on which are written inspirations and admonitions. The latter are then dotted around your home and/or office to act as triggers for the desired actions and to keep you focused on your goal. Reminders are helpful components for establishing routines and creating new habits, especially with regard to transitional goals.
  7. Create rewards and penalties to spur you towards taking the right action. Rewards, in particular, can be powerful enticements to motivate you, while penalties can be used to force you into action, especially where you have an accountability partner or are setting a goal in a team environment. Penalties should not be punitive, but rather fun (and preferably constructive) activities like repainting your office or taking the recycling to the recycling center or even spending an hour in the park picking up trash.

Once you have properly set up your goal, you are ready to launch yourself along your goal path. As stated, however, we’ll leave that for another article.


As Antoine de Saint-Exupér stated,

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” 

This sentiment sums up the importance of proper planning when setting goals. While taking action to actually achieve your goal is just as (or perhaps more) important, taking the time to make sure that you are properly prepared for your journey towards success cannot be understated.

Featured Photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

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