How to Get There From Here: The Beginner’s Guide to Goal Setting

When you have a dream, it sneaks around the edges of your consciousness, coming to the forefront of your mind in the oddest times — in the shower, listening to radio interviews, when someone asks ‘What do you do?’  But how do you cross over from a dreamer to a doer?  With thousands of books and hundreds of methods, how do you find a way that works for you and moves you toward your dreams?

For myself, I both feel like I’m falling short all the time and that I’m making real progress.

Quote by Sarah Cerulean

I recently heard on the radio that February 8th is when more people cancel their gym memberships than any other day.  And many people give up their New Year’s resolutions far earlier.

But this is about changing your life in a big, permanent way — so keep fighting, keep learning, and know that starting again is still progress.  Just a few easy steps can also immeasurably increase your chances of success — for example, almost all very success people (millionaires, famous athletes, etc)  have written goals, and yet the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions are never put on paper.  Here’s what I’ve learned that has helped me make my life so exciting —

How to reach your goal:

  1. Make sure it’s a goal worth reaching.  This may sound silly but if you’re about to put hundreds of hours (oh yes) and tons of effort into a dream, first make sure it’s your dream (not your parents’ or spouse’s or society’s) and then make sure you really, really want the life you’ll have at the end of it.  Want to run a marathon?  Are you ready to give up lots of free time, family time, etc to reach that goal?  Want to be a lawyer?  Go talk to lawyers, read books by them, and decide if the day-to-day is something you’d enjoy.  The idea here is not to scare you off but to make sure you really care — that passion will be a key ingredient.
  2. Find a way to make your dream quantifiable.   Jack Canfield suggests that for a goal to work he’d have to be able to show up at a certain date and time to see if you’d accomplished your goal.  So if you said ‘I’ll weight 155 pounds on 12:00 pm on September 15th, 2021’, then someone should be able to show up and weigh you on that date, whereas if you said ‘I’ll get in shape in 2021’ there’s no way to test that.  Now, I’m a little more flexible with my goals, but a goal that a child could understand will help you immensely.
  3. Pick a goal that depends only on you.  I can’t say “I’ll win a Pulitzer and get a job at Valve Software this year” because no matter what I do, it’s in other people’s hands who gets those awards and jobs.  Now, something like ‘I will sell 100 copies of my book,’ or ‘I will get 600 followers of my blog’ could be more realistic because you could work toward it and it doesn’t rely upon one or two people deciding to back your goal.  For the earlier example, a more self-focused goal would be ‘I’ll write (and complete all drafts of) my best novel ever in 2021,’ or ‘I’ll read two books on resume writing, write a great resume, and send it to fifty companies I would love to work for (including Valve) in 2021’.
  4. Limit your number of goals.   “If you have more than three priorities then you don’t have any.” ~Jim Collins.  One site suggests one goal from each category — Health, Finances, Career.
  5. Understand that willpower is a finite resource.  You want a balanced life, and you want to move forward on different goals at once, but realize that you may have more success if you focus your strength.  I’m hitting it hard in exercise, writing, and yoga and so I’m allowing myself to have a few extra snacks right now (actually, I’m now into ‘Paleo month’, but this was true when I wrote this piece for a class a few weeks ago 😉 ).
  6. Make a ‘setback’ plan.  You’ll fall off one day — it’s human nature — so why not have an emergency plan to breakout for when that happens?  Either make up / replace what you’ve lost (an extra workout later in the week to replace an earlier one) or figure out the best road back after an ‘off’ week.  Remember, your goal is progress, not perfection.
by Austin Kleon

First pick three goals.  Then break each one down like this —

GOAL: Run a marathon this year.

PLAN: Last race in my area is the Xmas Day run.  But, I’ll be pretty busy at that time of year, so I’ll plan to run in the Spooktacular Halloween Marathon, with a fallback of the Turkey Day Trot Fun Marathon.

BREAK IT DOWN: It’s January 18th now, so I want to be halfway to my Oct 31st goal by roughly the end of May.  So I’ll enter the June 1st, Summer Half Marathon to keep me on track.  I’ll need to be able to run 13.1 miles then and I can now run 1 mile.  So I want to run 6 and a half miles by the end of April and three miles by March 15th.

HELP: I’ll read two running books and talk to the people at the local shoe running store about training and new shoes.  I’ll also read up and buy food to help me feel my best and put on muscle.

WEEKLY PLAN: Go on three runs this week, each a mile long.  Next week go on three 1.2 mile runs.

OTHER POSSIBILITIES: Find a running buddy; buy a sports watch, talk to my doctor.

Found on

In the end, YOU can change your life.  All it takes is determination, hard work, flexibility about your methods, and a burning desire to see your dream become a reality. This is the moment — you got this! 

Published by katherinecerulean

Novelist, founder of The Athens Writers Association, and enthusiast of all things awesome and magical. Need my help with ANYTHING? Just ask!

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