How to set (and successfully achieve) ambitious goals


In my last two blog posts ‘Are you unknowingly chasing someone else’s dreams?’ And ‘How to truly enjoy the journey towards reaching your goals’ I’ve been talking about the importance of defining your success and feeling great as you strive towards your goals.

You can read these posts here and here.

Today I want to get back to basics and explore the question… what makes a great goal?

This might seem like a trick or a little bit obvious, but if coaching has taught me anything it’s this: not all goals are created equal. When it comes to setting and successfully achieving goals, there’s much more to it than picking something we want and getting super motivated. We have to go a little deeper.

If you find that you are regularly setting targets that sooner or later get forgotten about, chances are you’re missing out on a crucial ingredient. 

For goals to truly encapsulate what we really want, while also setting us up for success, they should be all of the following:

1. Inspiring

There are so many things we think we ‘should’ achieve. In my experience, striving based on ‘should’ is a recipe for disaster. External validation as a sole motivator isn’t long-lasting, or if it is, the result never really feels as we had hoped for. If we want to stay motivated AND feel great once we achieve a goal, it must be inspiring.

Consider the following:

  • When do I feel at my best?

  • What feels missing from my current life and experiences?

  • What really matters to me in life?

  • What is my heart, body or soul calling for?

  • How do I want to be remembered?

  • What excites me enough to get out of bed early?

  • What would I do without even getting paid? 

  • Why do I really want it? (Reassess goals where needed)

2. Specific & Measurable

This may seem obvious, but knowing when we have achieved something is an important factor when setting goals. However, often it’s overlooked when targets we set are more abstract than specific. 

‘I want to be successful’ doesn’t really mean anything without context. ‘To be happy’ is a great goal, but unless you know what you’re working towards it’s can be a tricky thing to hold onto.

Consider the following:

  • What specific desire is at the core of my goal?

  • How will I know when I’ve achieved it?

  • Is there some deeper desire or intention I am avoiding?

  • Is there resistance against being specific? Why might this be?

  • (On reflection: Do I really want this? No? Go back to the previous step)


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3. Process-driven

As I discussed in my blog post How to truly enjoy the journey towards reaching your goals, the majority of our life exists in the time between significant achievements or change. Reaching a goal is a wonderful but short-lived experience, especially compared to the effort that goes into the journey to get there. It’s for this reason that the process, aka the way we move towards our goals is arguably more important than what we want to achieve. This is where true happiness and fulfilment is created.

Consider the following:

  • How do I want to feel in my everyday life?

  • What ways of working or creating feel amazing to me?

  • Which lifestyles make me feel flat or drained?

  • When do I feel like my best self?

  • When do I feel happiest and most connected?

  • What am I not willing to compromise in order to achieve my goals?

4. Realistic & Resource-focused 

The motto ‘you can achieve whatever you want’ can be seductively inspiring, but it can also set us up for complacency or disappointment. While goals must be deeply inspiring, they must also be achievable. One way to ground our goals in reality is to take a resource-focussed approach. This means looking at our current lifestyles, environments and networks and seeing what is possible right now, or where we can gain support. 

Consider the following:

  • What needs to happen in order for me to reach my goals?

  • Are there any physical things I need? How can I obtain these?

  • What time do I currently have? How can I get more?

  • Do I have space for rest, self-care and play?

  • How can I ensure I look after myself while striving towards my goals?

  • What are the first steps I can take?

5. Time-bound

The final ingredient for a 5-star goal is ensuring you have a time frame for when you want to achieve it. Having this container is an excellent way to stay motivated and focused while also pacing ourselves so we don’t burn out or get stressed and frustrated about things not happening ‘fast enough’.

Consider the following:

  • What is a realistic (but inspiring) time frame?

  • Is this flexible? Is there anything/anyone relying on me? (Re-consider the previous step and what resources or support you might need)

  • Does this leave space for fun and down time?

  • Is there anything that needs to happen before I begin?

While reaching desired targets will always require passion, patience and steady motivation, if your goals include these 5 elements you will have a strong foundation in which you can move towards your dreams.

Do you have a goal that you’ve run through the above checklist? Drop it in the comments box below or send me a private note here. I’d love to know what you’re working towards!

Heidi HauerComment