How to set goals and achieve them: 7 things successful people do

We’re in the third quarter of 2023, how many of your New Year goals have you accomplished so far?

Personally, better than I first thought but very far from 100%. Let’s say around 4 of the 10 big ones. To be honest, though, I bit more than I can chew on this. 

Waaay more than I can handle, definitely. 

I started the year with a vision board—a manifestation of sorts—and while it kept me motivated, it also overwhelmed me very, very much. 

And so even with a few months left in 2023, here I am writing what I have learned thus far hoping that you won’t make the same mistakes. And even if you did, we’re aiming for progress and not perfection, right? 

Hopefully, you will learn something from and with me. Shall we?

Let’s talk about the 7 things to remember in setting goals and achieving them:

1) Find your why

Before even listing the goals themselves, find your “why” first. 

You might think this to be silly and unnecessary but hear me out here. Don’t skip this, okay?

What’s your reason to do anything? Your driving force? Your motivation?

The reason you get up in the morning, what’s that? When you fail, why do you try again? Do you even try again? 

Why not? What’s stopping you?

Why do you live the way you live? Why do you dream? Why do you set goals?

That’s your why.

Why “finding your why” matters: 

  • It’s easier to stay motivated if you know why you do what you do.
  • Fewer distractions! When your eyes are on the prize, the way forward will be easier to find.
  • You become more intentional about your actions.
  • You will know what WON’T motivate you, it’ll be easier to stay away from those.

And see, this is where I got it wrong, I had big and lofty goals for the year but not enough “why”. Like, I see the destination but not the purpose of it. 

And I didn’t know what I needed to bring to make the journey bearable. 

I’m making it more poetic than it is but it boils down to this: When I said that a vision board was both motivating and overwhelming, the overwhelm won.

I didn’t know my “why”. I had both “learn Korean” and “paint a very big painting” on the same board. I had travel goals and income goals, things I wanted, and concerts I wanted to go to.

But no “why”. Sure, “making myself happy” is a valid reason, but it wasn’t a valid enough reason for me. 

And this is where we will all differ. We are all motivated by different things and different pursuits. We follow different shiny things.

Get demotivated by different things, too.

Our “whys” are different. And that is okay.

Finding your “why”:

  • Define what “success” means to you/ define what “success” looks like to you

Success is more than just wealth or fame. For some, success isn’t about that at all.

Maybe success is a flexible work schedule with ample time to do other things you love. Maybe your definition of success is a quiet life filled with small joys. 

Why this matters: Knowing the peak of your pursuit is kinda important, you guys. How do you know you’ve reached the end of this one journey if you don’t define it?

Otherwise, the finish line will keep on moving and that’s super exhausting. It’ll be a life of continuously chasing and never being content.

  • Define what you value

There’s a bit of honest and personal work involved to answer the question: What do you value? 

It’s quite a broad question so here’s something that can help you: 

Check out this free checklist that can help you narrow down your most important values.

Dude, I did this checklist as well and let me tell you how easy I thought it was going to be. Honesty is so important when answering this checklist that it gave me a pause.

A good pause. It forced me to look into what I hold dear. 

These are the six values I ended up with: achievement, challenge, connection, creativity, flexibility, and growth. It was tricky narrowing down the initial 12 to half of that!

Now I’m seeing these 6 in black and white, it makes so much sense! And I’m seeing how misaligned some of my goals are, and frankly, how I can approach them differently now. 

Here’s that free checklist again, bestie. 

(If you did the exercise, let me know what you’ll get! I’m very nosy!) 

2) Set the right goals

signs you have such magnetic charisma that people instantly like you How to set goals and achieve them: 7 things successful people do

Hopefully, now you know your “why” so it’s time to set the right goals. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to not arbitrarily set goals.

And this might be an overused idea but hear me out: SMART goals. There’s a reason people go back to this idea over and over.

It makes sense! 

Goals will be easier to accomplish or attain if the objectives are clear; if goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound (or Time-based).

Each one is pretty self-explanatory but I’m giving emphasis on relevant here since we’ve talked about our “why” and the values that can help form that.

And yeah, sure, lofty dreams are cool to have in theory, but it’s more prone to demotivation if the road towards that dream is unclear. Divide and conquer, friends.

For example, I had “explore art” as a 2023 goal. Okay, what about it? There’s so much ground to cover!

If I sat and thought about it for longer, I would do this differently. I would say, 

Specific & relevant: My goal is to explore 4 different art forms I haven’t done or tried yet.

Measurable & attainable: I would consider it accomplished once I finish 2 pieces of work for each art form. 

Time-bound: 1 art form to explore per quarter is a good and realistic time frame for me.

For sure this could still be finessed, I could even include the nitty-gritty of it, but it’s so much more focused than “explore art”, right?

Try it with a goal you previously set but failed to accomplish. Maybe you just lacked direction, bestie, but onwards we go!

3) Stay consistent

Leadership expert and bestselling author John C. Maxwell said this, “motivation gets you going, but discipline keeps you growing.”

Ever heard of “consistency is key”? That applies to a lot of things but most especially to reaching our goals.

While big moves make big waves, never underestimate the power of small and constant ripples. 

So many people start energetically towards a goal but fizzle out not long after. Consistency is key.

Discipline is key.

Pace yourself but stay consistent. Easier said than done, but powerful when accomplished.

You already have your “why” and your goals written down. Now you need action.

4) Adapt

You might be wondering what you need to adapt for. Well, goals can change.

And so do the things we do to achieve them. 

All I’m saying is that our actions can take us to places we can only dream of. Sure, we might not reach the level of world-renowned accidental discoveries like penicillin or Coca-Cola, but adaptability can take us far.

For example, I can put the SMART version of “explore art” in my goals again, but one of those potential art forms can work out much better than I anticipated.

Would I abandon it and try a new one immediately? Not necessarily. I can just move the objectives around a bit to delve further.

In our journeys to goal-getting, one might work better than the other, and one can completely be a bust. Knowing how to adapt to each situation can help us from completely abandoning a goal.

5) Rinse, Revise, Redo

If someone uses these 12 phrases they have low emotional intelligence How to set goals and achieve them: 7 things successful people do

When the goals start going wrong, do you abandon them? Think back on previous years, how many goals have you let fizzle out?

I’m never one to set weight loss goals (and I’m not judging you if you do) but I do know that a lot of people do so. 

Usually, it starts with buying exercise equipment or a gym membership. New running shoes perhaps. Maybe even a new diet.

These people will start heartily during the first couple of weeks and then lose that momentum soon enough. 

There are so many factors why weight goals fail and it’s not always because of laziness. People are busy, you know? We can only have so many hours in a day, especially for people who work a lot.

Momentum is great, but when life happens, consistency lessens. 

So here’s what I’m pushing forward: Rinse, Revise, Redo.

You’re not starting from scratch, bestie, you’re starting from progress!

Rinse: Take the failure as a minor setback. Tomorrow is another chance.

Revise: You already know where the trouble lies, work around it. Example: Running is not an exercise you particularly enjoy. How about dance classes? Find another option.

Redo: Try again.

Is it guaranteed that you will succeed the second time around? No, but you’re closer to your goal. Even a third go-round won’t guarantee success, especially if you’re just doing the same thing.

You should be learning something that you can take for the next attempt. Like I said, you’re starting from progress and not from scratch.

Learn a lot from failing well.

6) Know when to quit

It might be a weird thing to see right after the point of telling you to try and try again, but the other end of that spectrum is knowing when to quit.

Pick your battles.  

Some instances where you can consider quitting:

  • Your goals have changed
  • Your values have changed
  • Your life path has changed
  • You’re exhausted from trying again and again
  • The goal has led you to an outcome much better than you first imagined and further action is no longer required.
  • The goal has led you to an outcome much worse than you first imagined and further action is disadvantageous.
  • This goal has led you to an entirely different line of possibility and further action towards the goal will eat up your resources.

These are all valid. You are on your own journey and you know your limits better than anyone else. 

Goals are important, sure, but so is healthily and soundly reaching them. 

If you’re only trying to reach your goals because of other people, think to yourself if it’s worth it.

You should continue keeping your values, dreams, happiness, and fulfillment in mind. 

And last on this list (maybe we can revisit this one next year though!)…

7) Celebrate

Hopefully, your SMART goal was set with a timeframe and broken down into manageable chunks. With this, be sure to celebrate milestones.

If only to keep yourself motivated. 

Celebrating your milestones can show you how far you’ve come. Surprise yourself with your progress.

Celebrate yourself but most importantly, celebrate your effort. The results might feel too far off, but each milestone and each show of consistent effort is bringing you closer and closer to it.

Reward yourself, too. And if a milestone is not hit on a set schedule, allow yourself to try again. 

Celebrate your willingness to try again. 

To end

I have simplified a lot of the concepts I included here, just finding out the “why” can take multiple articles in explaining. And maybe even a lot of individual reflection.

Just narrowing down our values (here’s that free checklist again, btw) takes a lot of nuance and even more explaining. 

Setting SMART Goals can be more complicated should you wish it to be. Each point, no matter how self-explanatory, can still be explored more. 

Each goal will fit into that SMART criteria differently.

Adaptability and the “Rinse, Revise, and Redo” method are deceptively simple concepts but some of us can take years to learn them. 

Even celebrating our wins can be further explored. The guilt we sometimes attach to it. The burden of it, the ego involved.

The point is, treat this article as a jumping-off point. A motivation. A show and tell segment of me telling you the possibilities and how it’s possible for you, too. 

If anything, I hope you take encouragement from this, that setting goals is not a rigid 1-2-3 manual. 

It’s a lot of trial and error, a lot of recalibration, a lot of failing and learning from it. 

Reaching goals is hard enough as it is, remember to treat yourself kindly in trying to reach them. 

If you failed in your goals before, that’s not the end of that story, you can start from progress.

I hope this list showed you that what separates those who succeed from those who don’t is not as straightforward as one failure. There are a lot of moving parts and more ways to proceed.

I hope you try again, friend. If not for Q4 2023, then for 2024, maybe? 

Well, I guess I’ll see you next year, then. All the best!

Michelle Marie Manese

Michelle Marie Manese

M Manese is a part-time creative writer, illustrator, and full-time fangirl hoping to find her way within the Content space. She makes art here: @michellemmanese

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