Notes and Tips for Good Goal-Setting

(...which can be used to facilitate discussion and planning with students)

The start of a New Year – or the turning of a New Leaf – is a great time to focus extra energy on GOALS. As each year passes, what we need and what we want changes and evolves. This could include, for example, needing/wanting changes, improvements, and learning within: our education, careers, work & projects, health, and relationships.

Goals help us define our aspirations, ambitions and purpose. They help us clarify and outline what we want to accomplish or improve or create or make better, in ourselves and our lives.


A. We set goals to help us turn abstract ideas and desires into more concrete, strategic realities and steps. Goals give us specific targets to work toward, as we aim for growth, health, and success. Goals help us measure progress and stay motivated.

B. We can have goals of different “sizes” – like small goals (for example: completing basic chores or weekend projects); medium goals (for example: consistently getting more quality sleep, practicing stress management techniques or reading/studying); or big goals (for example: getting a new/better job, completing a Higher Education course or degree, or obtaining Citizenship).

C. We can also have goals for different time periods and with varied deadlines – like short-term goals (for just a specific day, weekend, week, event); long-term goals (that may take weeks, months or even years); or ongoing goals (that reoccur or repeat over weeks, months, years; i.e. for establishing/altering routines and habits).

D. When developing goals, some key factors to explore and evaluate are: honest Wants and Needs; realistic Time Management; positive Self-Esteem, healthy Stress Management, potential Resources and Support Systems/Structures, and effective Intrinsic / Extrinsic Rewards. Also, larger or long-term goals can/should be broken down into smaller, more manageable steps or stages. There are some great sample goal-setting outlines and suggestions to be found online.

Good Goal-Setting is the process of making smart, solid, achievable goals & goal steps. Good Goal-Setting increases our chances for accomplishment and helps us make positive, healthy changes and improvements.

Some general tips for developing & outlining goals: Keep them simple; Write them down; Commit to reviewing your goals on a regular basis; Allow your goals to reflect your values; Visualize achieving your goals; Use positive, Motivating language; Make your goals emotional & impactful & energizing; Share with others close to you/ask for support; Reward yourself along the way, with healthy & appropriate reinforcement; Create goals for different increments of time (ex. By day, week, season, year, etc.); Make sure your goals are based on your own positive expectations; Be sure to track your progress along the way; Remember that having good goals can, itself, be very motivating!

Here are some more great tips for good goal-setting, adapted from the article Golden Rules of Goal-Setting by The Mind Tools Content Team.

The team says, “If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal-setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding... To accomplish your goals, however, you need to know how to set them. You can’t simply say I want and expect it to magically happen. Goal-setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work and practice to actually do it. In between there are some very well-defined steps, and knowing these steps will allow you to formulate goals that you can accomplish.”

The Five Golden Rules of Goal-setting.

1. Set Goals that Motivate You. When you set goals for yourself, it is important that they motivate you: this means making sure that they are important to you, and that there is value in achieving them. If you have little interest in the outcome, or they are irrelevant given the larger picture, then the chances of you putting in the work to make them happen are slim. Motivation is key to achieving goals. Set goals that relate to the high priorities in your life. Without this type of focus, you can end up with far too many goals, leaving you too little time to devote to each one. Goal achievement requires commitment, so to maximize the likelihood of success, you need to feel a sense of urgency and have an “I must do this” attitude.

2. Set SMART Goals. For goals to be powerful, they should be designed to be SMART. Specific (clear and well-defined); Measurable (include precise amounts, dates, and so on in your goals so you can measure your degree of success); Attainable (goals that are possible to achieve); Relevant (relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take); Time-Bound (must have a deadline).

3. Set Goals in Writing. The physical act of writing down a goal makes it clearer, more real and tangible, and more coherent.

4. Make an Action Plan. By strategizing and writing out individual steps for bigger/more demanding goals, you will realize that you are making progress towards your ultimate goal.

5. Stick with it! Build in reminders and encouragement to keep yourself on track, and make regular times to review/evaluate your goals and progress. Be patient for goals that take time – and celebrate & reward successes, appropriately.