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The Goal Setting Process – A Step-by-Step Guide

Goal-Setting Process

A Guideline for Goal Setting?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a generic goal setting process you can apply for all your wishes? Maybe something like this:

But, is this correct? Well, not quit. It is not that simple. On the other side, it is not overly complicated either. There is no one-fits-all approach. You can just see what works for you and what doesn’t. This article shall give you some ideas.

The above diagram shows that the ultimate goals is happiness. This is right and wrong at the same time. It is right because usually the ultimate goal is some kind of emotion, like happiness, love, security, etc. For example, if you want to have a new car, this is usually because you think it will make you feel better, happier.

It is also wrong because as soon as you have achieved the goal happiness (or whatever other feeling) it won’t last too long. After some months, you might want to have a bigger car.

Your Vision and Your Why

Let’s start at the beginning. Of course, there is a wish. But, there is (or should be) something more important even before, and this is your vision. What is your overall life vision, your purpose, core values or your life goal if you will? It is essential to know this because otherwise you might end up chasing goals that are not at all essential for you.

For example, your vision might be to live a fulfilled life, be a good parent and spend more time with your family. Now, your wish is to get this new car and you have to work over hours to safe the money. The result is that you spend less time with your family, which is definitely not aligned with your vision.

Therefore, the starting point is your vision along with a strong why. Why would you like to achieve something? If you have a clear vision and a strong why you can easily (OK, easier) decide if a goal is suitable – aligned with your vision – or not.

Start with a vision and with a strong why:

Vision & Why, Goal, Result

A Well-Formed SMART Goal

We are getting closer. Now, you can work on your goal. What do you really want? What matters most to you? In order to find out, you can make a list and just write whatever comes to your mind. Then, you can prioritize and see what is on top of your list. Is this aligned with your vision? Do you know why you want to achieve this goal? If yes, you are good to go. You shall make your goal SMART (Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, Time-bound).

An example of a well-formed SMART goal is the following:

I want to finish next year’s New York Marathon in under four hours.

What comes next? The Result? No, there is still some work to do. And, work is the right word here. Besides planning, you also need execution or action.

Vision & Why, Goal, Action, Result

Always have a next action. Action produces results but it also is motivating by itself.

Obstacles and Your Daily Routine

It looks good now, right? One moment. There is still something missing. Many New Year’s Resolutions start that way but then in February or March motivation fades away and other things become more urgent or seemingly important again. Or, there is some problem you just cannot deal with because you have other things to do. This is why more often than not the goal setting process looks like this:


Not good. What can you do? Of course, this blog article cannot explain every detail but there are at least some points that make the whole process a bit more suitable and the achievement of your goals more likely.

While it is good to have big, ambitious goals, also known as BHAG’s (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) they tend to be scary and you might think you have no chance to accomplish them. In this case, it is a good idea to chunk the goal down into smaller pieces or sub-goals. This makes your tasks more tangible and you are more likely to stay on track.

For every ambitious goal, there will be obstacles. Otherwise, it is just a task and not a real goal. However, in some cases, you can anticipate certain obstacles and prepare possible solutions.

For example if you plan for a long vacation, you might expect your boss to have some objections. You can think about these objections and come up with possible responses upfront. You might show that your projects will go on and that you are willing to take your laptop with you, just in case. This might mitigate your boss’s concerns.

The Action Loop

When it comes to execution, the following three steps can be very effective:

The Action Loop: Action, Reward, Review

Action is the action at hand, the execution. Always having a next action is essential. When you take the first step and then keep going into the right direction you will inevitable reach your goal. It does not even have to be a big action, just scheduling a phone call is fine.

Reward is a small treat. You can define your reward for reaching a sub-goal upfront. For example, you can go into the spa after you have accomplished your monthly marathon training. The reward should not be something contrary to your goal – having a whole cake and two milkshakes is a bad reward when your goal is to lose weight.

Review is about taking some time to reflect. Do this at least once a week and preferably at a fixed time. The objective of this review is to reflect on whether you are on track, and to plan the next steps. You might also recognize that you need to adapt. Or, you might even recognize that the goal is no longer relevant for you. Also this is fine. It is even better to recognize this early and then go with your next goal instead of chasing something just because you have invested time and money already.

The Whole Goal Setting Process

Now, only one important ingredient is missing. Sometimes it is hard to work on your goals on your own. Then it is a good idea to ask for help or support. Seek people (friends, family or colleagues) that really want you to achieve your goals and that believe in you. Ask for help. Avoid naysayers.

Also, make sure you create a supportive environment for your goals. It is hard to stop smoking when you go into a smoking lounge every night.

This is it. Now, our goal setting process looks like this.

The Goal Setting Process

When you have accomplished your goal, this is not the end of course. This is just the beginning if your next, even more ambitious goal.

And, what about the happiness? Well, working on your goals and taking control of your life is very fulfilling. You will find happiness on the way.

Now It Is Your Turn

Start setting your goals today. Our free goal-setting app can help you.

You can download the VidaGoals app for Android here:Get it on Google PlayHappy goal setting.

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