Setting & Achieving Your Goals

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


Imagine a life without goals!


As human beings, we set goals and targets even before we are aware of them, how soon will we take our first hesitant steps? When are we going to say mum or dad? At what age will we start reading? All little steps on our path to growing up. Our lives are full of goals, set by ourselves, the society, as well as the “teams” we are in at home and at work and the organizations we work for. There are even worldwide goals that we can contribute to, the UN set 8 Millennium Development Goals focussing on areas such as child poverty, education and gender equality, to be achieved by 2015 and which have recently been reviewed and renewed in a post 2015 program. The goals in our life provide us with three very important things, a direction to head in, a path to move along and a sense of fulfilment when we achieve it. Whether you are the kind of person who is in it for the journey or the result, goals provide us with structure and meaning throughout our lives.


Zig Ziglar, an American author, salesman, and motivational speaker said, a goal set properly is a goal halfway reached, which is why as a learning and development consultant I have spent a large part of any performance management training we run focusing on just that. We stress the importance of setting SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound) as we know that poorly defined goals can lead to lack of understanding, incorrect focus and an inability to measure and feedback on progress. However, is setting a SMART goal really the key to success particularly when it comes to personal goals? I am sure I am not the only person who has a diaries and notebooks full of smartly set goals going back decades. Every new year, millions of people decide what they would like to achieve in the next 12 months, goals and resolutions to make their lives better and yet how often are those goals actually achieved and if they aren’t what is getting in the way?


As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, you just might get it! The first and most important thing we need to learn is how to define the right goal for ourselves. If you are working in a Sales role and have very specific monetary targets, the process is comparatively easy. But imagine that you want to get a new job, do you define it in terms of getting an acceptance letter from a specific company or do you focus on the new role itself, defining what it will be like and the kind of company you will be working in? The first approach may appear more specific, but will it blinker you to the opportunities that may be out there for you?


It is so important to make your goal right for you, ensuring that the measures you put in place reflect what you really want to achieve. Do you want a position in a specific company or do you want a job in any company that matches your key requirements (values, responsibility, challenge etc). Do you want to lose 2 stone, or would you like to eat healthily and exercise 30 minutes a day for life? Is your goal to set up your own company, or to find a way to bring the new product that you have created to the widest market possible? In addition, we need to ensure that any goal we set fits in with the other goals, targets and values of both ourselves and the important people in our lives. In NLP, we call this an ecology check, making sure that there are no obvious conflicts of interest, which will lead to hurdles, blocks or self-sabotage at some point in the future.


Even when our overall goal is correctly defined, we need to do more work to put us in the best position to achieve. Our goal needs to be as captivating and motivating as possible, to help us get up early in the cold and dark for a meeting 200 miles away, persevere when we have had our first rejection, or hit our first hurdle. We can do this by making our goal a living thing that we carry with us all the time. Let others know what you are aiming for, talk about it as if it is a foregone conclusion. You might want to adopt Muhammed Ali’s approach to goal setting; he believed he was The Greatest long before he proved it to the rest of the world. He believed it and he behaved as if it were true every day, setting his mind and his focus in the right direction from the start.


There are many other ways of harnessing the power of your amazing and creative mind to make your goal real and true to you. People use all sorts of mind tools to keep their goal alive and motivational, Dream boards full of inspiring pictures, Mantras of powerful words & phrases and Visualizations enabling ourselves to step into our aspirational future whenever we wish.  One of my favorite ways to reinforce motivation and belief in the success you are going to have is based on a behavioral psychology tool called the Miracle Question:


Imagine you went to bed tonight and a miracle happened, that overnight what you wanted to achieve actually happened and from the moment you woke up in your bed in the morning you knew that it had happened and you lived your life in this new way.

How would you know that this miracle had occurred, what would be different about the way you go about your day?

Take a moment to think about what you would do, how you would be, how amazing it would feel in this new life.


Undertake exercises like this daily and you will never want for motivation or drive to achieve your goals.


We must not forget that we also need a plan of how we are going to get there. Its fine to set these wonderful and motivating goals but

  • How are you going to achieve it?
  • Who might you need to help you?
  • What specific actions do you need to take?
  • Where will this happen?
  • When will you check in along the way to review your progress?


Excellent goal setting requires the ability to see the detail of what needs to be done as well as the big picture. The detail defines the journey you will take which is sometimes as if not more important than achieving the goal itself. Clearly defined checkpoints allow you to appreciate what you have achieved, ensure that you are still on the right path and give you the opportunity to make corrections if required.


So perhaps goal setting is not as simple as it might first seem, but with care and consideration, following these steps you are certainly in a great position to make it work:


  1. Define what you want, want you really really want. The more motivational, the better.
  2. Write it down; communicate it to others, live as if it is happening now. Let everyone know this is important to you.
  3. Create a plan of actions to direct you on the path to achieving what you want.
  4. Celebrate your progress – we find it all too easy to focus on what hasn’t happened, make sure you regularly check in to see what you have already achieved

And most importantly:

  1. Persevere –  Whilst I don’t agree with the idea that nothing worth having comes easy, I do agree that the harder I work, the luckier I get. It’s time to get started!


“What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”- Henry David Thoreau


About Alison Burgess

Alison Burgess is the founder of Limitless Consulting. Limitless is an international training and development consultancy delivering highly effective Management, Leadership and Personal Excellence training, with a particular focus on Women’s development and encouraging Gender diversity.


Alison can be contacted at:


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