The 3 Keys to Setting Effective Goals

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Whether you’re starting a new year, a new month, or a new day, making effective choices through goal setting and resolutions can be tricky.  You have great intentions.  You have willpower.  And you stick with something for a “little while” only to go off track and maybe never get back on the rails.


Want to fix that and set goals that will not only lead you to the outcomes you want but also leave you feeling great?  Here’s what people usually do and how you can rock a new formula for success instead.


What People Usually Do

Think about the last time you set a new year’s resolution or a new goal.  Chances are you had numbers in mind (lose x pounds, gain x followers) or envisioned what your life would look like once you accomplished your resolution.  You thought long and hard about what you wanted and then wrote down your shiny new goal along with a few others and made a plan.


Fast forward three months.  You’ve either fallen off the plan entirely, or partially completed it, but either way, you’re nowhere near meeting your goal.  And you’re frustrated!  You had such great intentions (pay attention to that word, we’ll come back to it in a bit) but then life got in the way, or you ran out of energy / time / money, etc. and you’re not going to achieve what you’ve hoped, or you’re not going to achieve it by the time you set for yourself.


Setting goals and intentions can only be effective if they are tied

to how you want to feel, along with what you want to accomplish.

When you tie a goal or resolution to a feeling, it forces you to tap into your bigger why, and that’s always driven by how you want to feel.


Want to lose 10 pounds?  Why?  Do you want more energy so you can spend time playing, hiking, or hanging out with your kids, your dog, or your friends?  Do you want to feel more confident, self-assured, and positive about how improving your health will allow you to possibly live longer to spend more time with those kids, dogs, or friends?


Tying goals and accomplishments to feelings takes you beyond achievement and into an emotion which can be a powerful motivator.  But even if you can tie your goals to a desired emotion, how do you set resolutions and goals that are doable, and how can you get yourself back on track when you hit a rough patch in the road?


The New Formula for Success

To stay on track with your goals and resolutions, use the following formula:


Emotion + Intention = Process


Key #1 – Emotion

If you want to gain x number of followers on your social media account, ask yourself why, and focus on your answer from the standpoint of emotional reward.  If you gain those followers, what will you feel and why is that feeling important?  Also, ask yourself if that emotion is something you want to feel one time (elation / excitement), or sustain over time (connection / gratitude).


What are you trying to build emotionally by setting your goal?


Key #2 – Intention

Next, set an intention.  Setting an intention is not the same as setting a goal, and many of us aren’t at all confident in our intention setting skills because society wants us to focus on achievements.  The article 3 Differences between Goals and Intentions found here describes three key differences between intentions and goals:

  1. Goals are focused on the future.  Intentions are focused on the present moment.
  2. Goals are a destination or specific achievement.  Intentions are lived each day, independent of reaching the goal or destination.
  3. Goals are external achievements.  Intentions are your inner-relationships with yourself and others.


Let’s take the example of growing your followers on social media.


  • Your goal may be to grow your followers by 1,000 by the end of the year.
  • Your intention could be to show up with an attitude of service and gratitude each time you post to your feed.


Setting and living an intention allows you to live in emotional integrity,

regardless of whether you achieve your goal.

The “regardless of whether you achieve your goal” part of that sentence is key because if you do not meet your goal, you will not be a victim.  You may be disappointed if you don’t reach 1,000 new followers (external achievement), but you will have lived with an attitude of service and gratitude each day (internal achievement) and in the process, provided high-quality posts in your feed.  And what happens if you exceed 1,000 new followers?  You’ve met your goal AND have shown up in a way that makes you feel good inside and out.


Key #3 – Process

Once you’ve set your goals and intentions, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to make your ideas happen in the real world.  An easy and fun three-step process to do this includes:

  1. Keeping it real.  What can you realistically accomplish during the time frame you’ve set for yourself (don’t be afraid to lay this out by quarter / month / week / day if that helps)
  2. Choosing small and manageable chunks over big and flashy whoppers.  Society likes to laud those who take big leaps and make radical changes.  If that’s you, great.  If that’s not you, choose the small and manageable.
  3. Never underestimating the power of compounding (this ties in with small and manageable).


Setting effective goals and resolutions is all about the best use of your time and energy so make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for failure by biting off more than you can chew.  Nothing kills motivation and enthusiasm faster than feeling overwhelmed or believing you’ll fail out of the gate.


Small and manageable allows you flexibility because let’s face it, life happens.  You get sick, you have to work extra hours, you have an at-home emergency, and your best-laid plans go by the wayside.  By holding your focus on the bigger picture AND the small steps you’re taking to get there, you can get back on track much faster (and feel much less guilty and icky about falling off track in the first place).


As with money, the power of compounding works with goals and resolutions.  Intentions and emotions build over time (both positively and negatively).  Once you’ve developed confidence in your process while still allowing for the unexpected, you can move toward your goal while living your intentions, all of which keep you in the moment and allow you to experience the emotions you want to feel.


Setting effective goals and resolutions can and should be fun.  Understanding that your choices are ultimately leading you to a place of positive emotion can be powerful.  By setting both goals and intentions, and then developing realistic, manageable steps to meet them, you can live richly in the moment, all while feeling satisfied with what you’re working to achieve for the future.