This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Have you ever wondered how to set goals and ACHIEVE them? I’m sure you have. Everyone has set at least one goal they want to achieve in the near future. Goals are what drive us forward and give us the motivation to keep growing. They’re so important to personal development. But many of us have gotten so discouraged with goal setting because goals are hard to follow through on. If you’ve ever felt discouraged or like you shouldn’t set another goal, this post is for you.

I’m pretty much the queen of setting goals and then forgetting about them. I like to dream big and think about alllll the possibilities. But there isn’t enough time in the day to go after all the goals I can dream up. I’ve learned a lot over the years, and have set some pretty big goals AND accomplished them. If I can do it, you guys definitely can too. Here’s all the best tricks on how to set goals and achieve them, from someone who sucks at follow-through.

If you’re serious about going after that big goal so close to your heart, I have something that can help. Just enter your email in the form below and I’ll send you a worksheet to help you work through all the steps we’re talking about in this post.

Find your why

This is a really important first step in setting goals that will stick and where I often fail. I decide I want to do something because it sounds good, I know I’m “supposed to, ” or everyone else I know is doing it. Don’t do this to yourself! It’s goal suicide. The only surefire way to guarantee that you won’t follow through on a goal is to not know your reason for why you want to do it.

Dig deep and think about what you’re really going after. Keep asking yourself why, because the first answer that you get to is probably not going to be the truest answer.

Here’s an example:

Goal: Eat healthier.

Why? Because I know I need to eat healthier.

Why? Because I’m supposed to.

Why? Because it will make me feel better.

Why do you need to feel better? Because I’ll be happier.

Why do you need to be happier? Because it’ll make my life better and make all the people around me happier too. 

See what I mean? Keep asking yourself follow-up questions until you come up with an answer that will truly matter to you and make a difference in your life. If you don’t have a strong why, it’ll be hard to follow through.

Think about what you’re really going for

Maybe when you were asking yourself why, you discovered that you didn’t really have a good answer for why you wanted to go after your goal. That’s great news! That’ll make it so much easier to set a goal that will stick. Maybe your goal was to lift weights so you could have a hotter body, but at the end of the day, you knew that wasn’t going to be enough to get you to the gym every other night. But you know exercise is important, right? So reevaluate what kind of exercise it is. Maybe you can sign up for a Zumba class with a friend. Your goal would be to get healthier so you can feel better AND spend more time with your friend. So much more uplifting and motivating right? And I have a feeling it’s more in line with what you really value anyways.

Know HOW you’re going to reach your goal

It’s not enough just to have the goal of getting in shape. You need to know HOW. Is it going to be lifting weights? Going to Zumba? Taking a long walk by yourself every night? The how is almost as important as the why. Make it as enjoyable and realistic as you possibly can. You’re not going to get in shape in a month, so don’t expect yourself to work out three hours a night until that happens.You’re also not going to get in shape with the vague idea that you’re going to work out a couple times a week. The more specific and actionable your plan is, the more likely you’ll be to follow through and achieve it!

Know your tendency

I’m going to borrow from Gretchen Rubin for this one. I think her four tendencies can be SO helpful when it comes to goal setting. Here’s a summary of each tendency:

Obliger: respond to external expectations. An obliger is more likely to do something if it’ll let someone down if they don’t.

Questioner: motivated by internal expectations (everything has to make sense to them!). A questioner is more likely to do something if they can really see the value in it.

Upholder: respond to outer and inner expectations. An upholder is likely to do something if they see the value in it OR if it will let someone down if they don’t.

Rebel: resists both internal and external expectations. A rebel is more likely to do something if they WANT to.

Here’s why knowing your tendency is helpful. A questioner isn’t going to be motivated to get up early and meet their friend to run if they don’t see the point in running. An obliger isn’t going to get that one thing done that they’ve always dreamed of but never told anyone about because no one’s checking in on them. Knowing your tendency can help so much in figuring out how to set goals in a way that will work particularly well for YOU.

You can find more about the four tendencies in Gretchen Rubin’s book here or here.

Use more than one strategy

While knowing your tendency can be a huge help for coming up with a strategy for reaching your goal, I’ve found that it’s even better to use multiple strategies. If you want to start running, then schedule a time to run with a friend AND read up on the health benefits of running. You can also use things like the strategy of pairing. This might look like doing an unpleasant task while doing something pleasant. Like filling out boring paperwork while listening to your favorite album, or only watching your favorite show when you’re running on the treadmill.

Only work on one or two things at a time

This is my least favorite goal-setting advice and I’m definitely preaching to myself right now. But seriously, it’s really helpful if you only have one or two big goals at a time. The majority of this year, my primary goal has been to get this blog up and running. (P.S. It worked!) Meanwhile, I ignored the beckoning of other pretty goals while I focused on the big one, like learning how to be an awesome cook and launching a freelance editing business. But now that I have the blog up and running, I’m diving into the goal of launching my editing business while I maintain and grow the blog at a slower pace. Sadly for my husband, the excellent cooking skills will have to come later.

Find accountability

This works best if your tendency is Obliger, but I think accountability is great for anyone (excepting perhaps rebels, but maybe even then). Accountability doesn’t have to be this super formal or structured or intense thing. Maybe it’s a once-a-month coffee date to talk about how your goals are coming along. A great way to find accountability is to hire someone, whether that’s a personal trainer, business coach, or web designer. It’s their job to help you achieve your goals.Investing money into something can sometimes make you more committed to achieving it.

How to Set Goals and Achieve Them - setting goals and developing new habits | www.kelseysmythe.com

Break it down into tiny steps

Now that you’ve gotten your why and your what, figure out all the things that are going to need to happen for you to get there. If having a plan makes you feel large and in charge, write down every single thing you need to do to achieve your goal. I’m talking a reeeeeallly long list. If you have goals that will take more than a month or two to accomplish, you might have hundreds of things on this list. This can feel really overwhelming before you start, but I’ve found that it gives me a sense of focus and control.

Here’s an example. If your goal is to start a blog, your list might start off something like this:

  • Choose a domain name
  • Research hosting
  • Buy hosting + domain name
  • Buy theme
  • Design blog
  • Research post ideas
  • Write 1st post outline

You can get as detailed as you like for this. It helps in knowing exactly what it’s going to require for you to go after this goal. Sometimes it helps to work backwards. So say your goal is to run a half marathon with your friend next year but you’re not currently able to run a mile. Working backwards, your list might look like this:

  • Run a 10k
  • Train for a 10k
  • Run a 5k
  • Train for a 5k
  • Sign up for a running group
  • Ask a friend to join a running group
  • Choose a 5k training program
  • Buy running shoes

Do whatever feels most intuitive to you, or try more than one thing if you’re not sure.

If looking at the long list of all the things that you’ll have to do makes you feel totally overwhelmed and paralyzed, just skip this step. Write down the next 3-5 things and start with those.

Set milestones

Having big goals can feel daunting and impossible. I’m a big fan of setting milestones and celebrating each of them along the way. Some people plan on rewarding themselves for milestones. I’ve found that I’m more motivated if the milestone IS the reward. Put another way, I get the most motivation by actually achieving the mini-goals. It helps me keep going after the next one.

Surround yourself with inspiration

You really want to remind yourself WHY you want it. This is super important, especially for the longer goals. Set up things to remind you WHY you want it (remember that why we talked about earlier?) This might look like a reminder in your phone or a note in your calendar. You could create a cute printable of an inspiring quote and hang it on your wall. Keep that ‘why’ that you worked so hard to come up with close to your heart. It’ll help you stay focused. I love to follow inspiring people on social media for random bursts of inspiration. It helps me remember what my goals are, and when I see other people doing it, I feel empowered and realize that I can do it too.

Track your progress

I saved this for last, but this is the secret ingredient that is MOST motivating for me personally (after finding my why). I don’t know why this is, and it’s almost a little embarrassing. I just really love sticker charts. Not the ones that you literally put on your wall (though you do you). I’ve discovered that there’s a lot of sticker charts in the grown-up world.

  • savings goals in Mint
  • coach.me
  • The streaks in the Bible app
  • the % finished in Teachable courses

There are so many more out there. Some people track their goals in their bullet journals, which is definitely something I’m planning on doing soon. Others

Think about how you’ll feel if you accomplish it

How will accomplishing this goal make your life better?

Now go set goals and achieve them!

I hope that some of my tips and ideas will help you as you’re setting your own goals. I’m like a sponge when it comes to thinking about goal-setting, so if you have ideas I didn’t mention, LET ME KNOW. I’d love to hear them in the comments 🙂

If you’re serious about setting goals and achieving them, check out the free worksheet I created to go along with this blog post. It will help you work through all the stages of goal-setting we talked about and by the time you answer all of the questions, you’ll feel so much clarity and empowerment to go after the things close to your heart.

Happy goal setting, friends!

Kelsey Smythe is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.