Goal Setting: How to Set Goals and Why It’s Important

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Virtually everyone desires to live a fulfilling and happy life, but achieving those goals seems more difficult than ever. However, one key skill fulfilled and happy people possess is the ability to set and actively pursue goals.

One would think that goal setting is a given if you want to succeed. However, recent surveys show that 84% of the general population doesn’t set goals

Maybe you’re reading this because you haven’t set goals yet. This article provides a clear roadmap to craft meaningful goals. Keep reading if you’re ready to take charge of your journey and unlock your fullest potential.

Goal Setting: A Full Dive

Goal setting is a powerful tool for personal and professional growth. But to effectively set goals, we need to understand what goals are and how we can hack them. 

People always talk about goals, but it’s unfortunate how many misunderstand them and how to set them effectively. To do this, you must understand the science behind goals and goal setting. 

Let’s look at how goals operate within us and how we can optimize our tactics when pursuing them.

Goal Setting and the Human Mind

The science of goal setting is something many have looked into over the years. At its core, goal setting is a psychological and cognitive process deeply rooted in human behavior.

Researchers have delved into the intricacies of goal setting, uncovering how our brains respond to clear objectives. Studies show that setting goals rewires the mind to think of strategies to attain those desired outcomes.

So many of our goals start with our values- the things we find truly worthwhile and meaningful. Knowing our values makes it easier to determine which goals are worth our limited time, effort, and resources. 

What truly prevents us from setting goals is the endless noise of other people’s goals. Social media and pop culture cause such a blur in our judgment. Nowadays, marketing messages and ads dictate what we should see as valuable.

If we want goals that bring genuine fulfillment, we must dive deep into our minds and self-evaluate. We don’t need other people’s validation to decide what’s important. That’s something you must discover on your own.

Dopamine: The Goal Chemical

The secret ingredient to effective goal setting is a chemical called Dopamine. This remarkable molecule is behind the exhilaration you feel when you conquer a challenge or achieve a long-sought-after goal. 

Dopamine is pivotal in goal setting, a powerful motivator that propels us toward our aspirations. At its core, it’s a messenger- a chemical communicator that transmits signals between brain cells. 

Dopamine drives you to keep moving forward as you learn to set goals, act on them, and achieve your desired outcome. Its impact reaches far beyond, becoming the force behind our desires, perseverance, and, ultimately, our success. 

What Kind of Goals Should You Set?

One question that people ask a lot is what particular goal or goals they should set for themselves. This depends on what you want most in your own life, but there are general categories that most goals fall under. 

Here are the kinds of goals you should set and some common examples:

Career Goals

Career or professional goals align with what you want out of your profession. They encompass the kind of work you want to do and what level of authority or credibility you want in your industry. 

If you’re a business owner or manager, this can also include team goals in your organization.

Some Examples:

  • Obtain a promotion to a leadership position within the next two years.
  • Complete a professional certification relevant to my industry within six months.
  • Increase my client base by 20% within the next fiscal year.
  • Launch a successful side business in my chosen field within one year.

Financial Goals

These outcome goals outline the financial outcomes you want for yourself and your family.

Some Examples:

  • Save $10,000 in an emergency fund within the next 12 months.
  • Pay off all credit card debt within the next six months.
  • Invest a certain percentage of my income into a diversified portfolio for retirement.
  • Increase my monthly savings rate by 15% over the next year.

Personal Goals

A personal goal is something you want to achieve to impact both you and your key relationships. Setting personal goals covers aspects contributing to our well-being and health.

Some Examples:

  • Read 25 books within the next year to expand my knowledge and perspective.
  • Start exercising three times a week to lose weight and gain more energy
  • Practice mindfulness meditation for at least 15 minutes every day for six months.
  • Strengthen my relationships by hosting a monthly gathering with friends and family.

Self-development Goals

These performance goals help drive continuous growth and development regarding your skills, intelligence, and proficiency. They help ensure that you’re always making progress in your life.

Some Examples:

  • Enroll in a public speaking course to improve my communication skills within four months.
  • Attend a leadership workshop or seminar to enhance my management abilities.
  • Develop a habit of journaling or reflection to increase self-awareness and personal growth.
  • Enhance my negotiation skills by participating in a negotiation skills training program.

Impact Goals

Achieving goals like these ensures you continue to leave a legacy that will outlive you. They’re 

Some Examples:

  • Volunteer at a local charity or nonprofit organization for several hours each month.
  • Launch an eco-friendly initiative in my community to promote sustainable living.
  • Organize a fundraising event for an important cause to me, aiming to raise a certain amount.
  • Establish a scholarship fund to support underprivileged students in pursuing higher education.

Are Your Goals S.M.A.R.T.?

One proven system that helps with goal setting is to set SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. 

  • Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific, leaving no room for ambiguity. According to Locke’s goal-setting theory, 90% of specific, challenging goals lead to higher performance.
  • Measurable: Measurable goals should be quantifiable to track your progress and determine when you’ve achieved it. You’re more likely to achieve goals when you have metrics in place.
  • Achievable: Achievable goals are realistic based on your resources, skills, and circumstances. Why is it important to set realistic goals? While it’s good to be ambitious, attainable goals let you operate in the realm of possibility.

    You want to avoid setting unrealistic goals, as this can lead to frustration and demotivation.
  • Relevant: Your goal should align with your objectives, values, and aspirations. It needs to make sense within the context of your broader plans.

    Ask yourself: Does this goal contribute to my larger vision? Is it relevant to my current priorities?
  • Time-bound: Setting a timeframe or deadline gives your goal a sense of urgency. It helps you stay focused and prevents procrastination. Specify when you aim to achieve the goal.

    This could be a specific date or a time frame, such as “within six months” or “by the end of the year.”

A SMART goal will often lead to higher chances of success. That’s because the clarity and structure will provide a clear roadmap for your efforts.

The Benefits of Setting Goals

Setting goals brings numerous benefits across various aspects of your life. Here are seven benefits of setting goals:


Goals provide you with a clear sense of direction and purpose. They help you prioritize your actions and decisions and guide you toward what’s most important to you. 

When you have clarity, you reduce distractions and remain focused on the opportunities and tasks that align with your objectives.

Motivation and Persistence

Goals can motivate you to be persistent by giving you something to work towards. You’re more likely to stay committed and persistent when you have a specific target, even when you hit challenges or setbacks.

Measurable Progress

Setting goals with measurable outcomes helps you track your progress over time. This tracking provides a sense of achievement as you witness your advancement toward your goal. 

Measurable progress also allows you to celebrate milestones along the way, so you can boost your confidence and keep you motivated.

Time Management

Goals require you to allocate time and resources efficiently. By setting deadlines and planning the steps necessary to achieve your goals, you develop better time management skills and learn to manage your time efficiently.

Personal Growth and Development

You’ll likely need to acquire new skills, knowledge, and experiences when pursuing large-scale goals. As you progress, expand your capabilities and enhance your self-confidence. 

Growth and development can bring a greater sense of fulfillment on its own. So, you’re likely to be happier as you progress, even before you complete goals. 

Boosted Self-Confidence

When you have manageable goals and achieve them, it boosts your self-esteem and self-confidence. 

Reaching the finish line helps strengthen your belief in your abilities and encourages you to take on more challenging objectives in the future.

Overcoming Procrastination

Specific objectives create a sense of urgency and purpose that helps you overcome procrastination. Having a clear goal motivates you to take action, reducing the tendency to delay or avoid tasks.

How to Effectively Set Goals You Can Hit

Now that you know why goals are important, you’ll need to learn how to set goals the right way. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you set goals effectively.

1. Determine What Drives You.

The first step in the goal-setting process is to determine what values and motivations drive you. Everyone has their own values; clarifying them is the first step in the right direction. 

There will always be a temptation to look at other people’s progress and base our values and motivations on their success. But pursuing other people’s goals without determining whether they align with our values is dangerous business. 

Take time to self-reflect and determine what values matter most to you. Challenge your motivations and evaluate whether they’re yours or simply influenced by other people’s wins. 

2. Envision Your Desired Outcome. 

Try to paint a picture of what you want your desired outcome to be. Envision your future self and outline what you want him or her to look, feel, and be like. Be specific, and use visual aids like a vision board.

Do the same thing if you’re setting goals for your company or organization, only with the collective. Get stakeholders together and dream about what you want your organization to achieve in the short to long term.

3. Describe What It Takes to Have That Outcome. 

Once you have a picture of your ideal future, reverse engineer your journey by determining what milestones you’ll need to attain that vision. 

It’s okay to admit that you don’t have all the pieces figured out. Seek mentors and coaches who can help you refine your game plan. This will lessen the chances of costly mistakes and speed up your progress.

4. Write Your Goals and Make a Plan.

This is a step that many people overlook, costing them massive upside. You need to document your goals. People who wrote down goals, created a plan, and built accountability succeeded nearly 75% of the time.

You can keep your goals somewhere visible so that you don’t lose sight when pursuing long-term projects. If you’re setting goals for your organization, put them somewhere everyone can see. 

Break down your action steps into projects and create clear milestones for each. That way, you’ll better understand what you must do to achieve your desired goals. 

Let’s say your goal is to become a life coach. Some projects involved in this process would include the following:

  • Take a certification course. 
  • Create a website. 
  • Build your speaking and coaching portfolio. 
  • Start a podcast. 
  • Write a book.

Write down as much detail as you can when creating a project plan. You can include your KPIs (key performance indicators), the exact date you want to achieve the goal, and why you want to achieve those goals.

5. Create Accountability Structures.

You can’t achieve your goals if you don’t have accountability. This element helps motivate you to keep going because you or someone else must take account one day. Get an accountability partner and set regular check-ins. 

Make room for honest self-assessments. The key to long-term progress is to make room for regular evaluations. When your assessments are honest, you can adjust your strategies to achieve the next milestone faster.

6. Start Acting.

A plan is only a plan if we don’t act. As Bo Bennett once said, “A dream becomes a goal when action is taken toward its achievement.” Dreams are only wishful thinking. Change and progress happen when those goals become a reality. 

So start acting on your goals. Have clear action steps and continue to track them. A task management tool or goal tracker can keep you on course. 

7. Continuously Evaluate Your Goals.

Sometimes, you might look at your goals and see that they have changed or evolved. While we want to be as certain about our desired outcomes as possible, there’s no denying we might see them change a little over time. 

You can review your goals every year or twice a year. See how far you’ve come and evaluate whether it brings joy and fulfillment to your life. If you’re a business, determine if these goals are helping you achieve your overall vision.

When there’s a misalignment, revise your goals and recommunicate them to those involved, including teams, stakeholders, investors, or accountability partners.

Final Thoughts

Goals are the threads that weave purpose, direction, and growth. With the insights shared in this article, you now have the tools to set meaningful goals that will be the stepping stones to personal and professional fulfillment. 

Your goals are the compass guiding you to a future you design—one achievement at a time. So, set your sights high and embark on a remarkable journey of self-discovery and accomplishment.

Lastly, there are tools like Leantime that make it even easier to track your goals alongside the things you need to do to accomplish them.

Gloria Folaron is the CEO and founder of Leantime. A Nurse first, she describes herself as an original non-project manager. Being diagnosed with ADHD later in life, she has hands on experience in navigating the world of project and product management and staying organized with ADHD.

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