How to Set Goals, Achieve Them – Set Yourself Up for Success

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(Last Updated On: April 24, 2019)

At the beginning of every year, we start out with a set of “resolutions” but after just a few weeks or so, those well-meaning aspirations take a one-way trip to Neverland. Maybe, we don’t understand the difference between goals and resolutions. So, let’s look first at what resolutions are, then, we will focus on how to set goals and achieve them.

After a quick search on Google, here is what I found: “resolution.” 

  1. a firm decision to do or not to do something
  2. the action of solving a problem, dispute, or contentious matter

A good look at those words tells us that making resolutions is about making a serious commitment to change. They also require a one-time action

Resolutions vs Goals

  1. This is an example of a resolution: “I will drink juice instead of coffee.” This is a simple decision which can be made without any planning.
  2. This is an example of a goal: “I will improve on my relationship with my spouse, and I will also save some money. This is a decision but only detailed planning will make this a reality. It also has to be measured over a period of time.

Since most often confuse the two, I will focus on setting goals. Goals require going much deeper than just simply making a one-time decision. Usually, this is why most don’t follow through with “resolutions.” They set goals thinking that they are making resolutions, without understanding that goals require a well-structured plan, commitment, and action.

Same Old, Same Old – Ringing in the New with Old

So why aren’t we following through with our intentions? Some say, “life happens!” (Some may use other words here).

Here is a list of possible reasons. Do any of these apply to you?
The reason we have to reset and make “new” resolutions/goals (sometimes, the same ones) is that;

  1. We fail to properly manage ourselves
  2. We fail to take consistent action
  3. We fall prey to the same excuses
  4. We allow circumstances to dictate our lives rather than proactively take charge
  5. We may be bringing the same negative attitudes to deal with the same problems we are having today
  6. We keep the wrong company

We all react differently to circumstances, based on our value-system, discipline, and background. Some of us learn quickly, make adjustments, and some border on madness by making the same mistakes repeatedly.



A model that ensures we reach our goals is called SMART, made popular by Professor Robert S. Rubin.

Set goals

The Importance of Setting Goals  – SMART Goals

What is that acronym S.M.A.R.T about anyway? This model is used in almost every major training module by professionals, educators, life coaches and more.

SMART is a core training device which helps people to set goals effectively. It works as long as one stays with the plan! Yet even with a plan, there is an important component needed for the plan to work, it’s called commitment, which manifests as taking action. Without commitment and action, all our lofty “resolutions” and goals die an unfruitful death.

  • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).
  • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
  • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
  • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
  • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).

Looking at the SMART model, we see that it can work. 

The model is used for measuring the progress of businesses and individuals alike. Both groups can profit from the objectives of the SMART model. It’s a win-win.

Progressive companies know the personal development of their employees is tied to the company’s overall success. Get people to focus on achieving goals and it can greatly boost the morale, productivity, and value of the company. This is why companies collectively spend millions every year on training.

Setting SMART Goals – Using SMART is how we manage and ensure we attain our goals

Let’s look at an example below.

A Smart Goals Example – Task & Objectives

Setting goals effectively

Task: Improve my relationship, and save money 

S – Specific/Significant

 I will spend (X) number of meaningful hours per day with my loved ones at any cost. During this time, we will exercise, play, chat and discuss our financial goals with the intention of saving an amount of money monthly going forward.

M – Measurable/Motivating

At the end of 3, 6, 12 months we will be healthier, happier, understand each other better and have more money at our disposal.

A – Achievable/Agreed

We have agreed to readjust our lives to make this happen. We have the time, we are physically able and we have income.

R – Relevant/Realistic

In order to have a happy marriage and achieve our goals, we will be united,  live peaceably, have the right attitude when dealing with challenges and the unexpected. 

T – Time Bound

By the end of the year, we will be in a confident and better position overall, in all aspects of our relationship

The above can be further refined but you get the gist. You can see that a framework makes this goal quite possible once we manage it and are accountable to its success. 

Successful Goal-Setting Requires Taking Action, Sticking to the Plan

Let’s see what happens if we don’t follow the plan:

2 years from now, an unexpected crisis occurs. Where are we now in our plan? Have we kept our focus by taking consistent action, or has “life happened?”

“Life happened” is not an excuse. Being properly prepared for this situation would cause us to respond accordingly. Ideally, we should have been consistently following the plan and already prepared for this adversity.

Somewhere along the way, our SMART goals became STUPID. A goal with no (committment) support system or accountability. We allowed the thorns and weeds of life to stunt our plan without taking proper care.

Here is where we miss an opportunity to succeed and why some fail to achieve goals. Each goal needs a support system (accountability), incorporating (a) right attitude/mindset and (b) action.

It is OK to have a brilliant and well-documented plan which

  • looks good on paper
  • is filled with all the goodies from our S.M.A.R.T training

But unless we have the right attitude (committed to success and take action), we end up back at square one. We all fail when we don’t stick to the plan and without this, our reaction to adversity will be unpredictable and chaotic.

Now we see that we can cheat ourselves out of success from the outset, by not having the right attitude. Success is the end result of setting SMART goals and making them happen.

This is my definition of success. 

Success is a process of documented steps that are followed with determination and action. They are based on principles and not personal values, or emotions.

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  1. First, we considered the difference between a resolution and goal
  2. We were reminded that we should use S.M.A.R.T in setting goals.
  3. We looked at its definition and application with the help of a scenario
  4. We learned why we can still fail despite setting SMART goals, i.e. by not taking consistent action and being accountable

Make sure your goals correspond with your life’s purpose. This will make them easier to achieve. Goals that fall outside of your skills, talents, and passion will result in unfulfillment and possibly, failure.

A flourishing life depends on whether you set and accomplish goals. The bigger your aspirations the more detailed planning will have to be undertaken, and the more likely your success will be. Imagine using this approach in our marriages,  professions, roles, and responsibilities. So, do you want to be a better leader, boss, husband, wife, pastor, human? Then why not set some goals and follow through with a plan to achieve them.

Please tell us what you think in the comments below. We want to hear from you!

Here is a brilliant and more in-depth article on this topic: It’s called “Unsuccessful People Focus On ‘The Gap.’ Here’s What Successful People Focus On.

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10 Replies to “How to Set Goals, Achieve Them – Set Yourself Up for Success”

  1. Oh dear, I don’t know how may times I have set a new year goal and let’s be honest, it is never achieved!! I think my biggest excuse is I fail to take action in a consistent manner, this is definitely something I could take on board. Wow!! S.M.A.R.T, what a helpful tool, I totally agree that commitment and action are the foundations of successful goals and resolutions. This article makes me want to be more proactive. Thanks for the helpful read!! 

    1. Hi Juvette!

      :-). Don’t worry. It has happened to us all. I hope you will apply this method going forward to achieve all of your goals. Once you build on that foundation, structure will come to your life – and with some perseverance, your finished product – success. Just remember to enjoy the journey one step at a time.

      Thanks for sharing, Juvette!

  2. This is an awesome article and many should pay attention.  Setting goals is what helped me to quit smoking so setting goals is very important.

    The biggest thing Im going to say about setting goals is you need to make yourself accountable.  The power instilled upon you with your goal setting is an incredible power. 

    Just never give up on your goals.  Also its okay to set small goals to get to your big goals.

    Once again thank you for this great information.


    1. Hi Dale!
      Congratulations on that great accomplishment. I am sure you have made a lot of people happy as well. You have worked the plan and benefited from your sacrifice. After sacrifice comes success.
      Accountability is critical to achieving goals, very true. It’s what keeps the plan in motion. Thanks for sharing. Great advice.


  3. I love the mnemonic SMART.  It is a really good one.

    I don’t like resolutions especially new year resolutions because they are really not taken seriously and don’t really have a goal in mind.

    Everything in the SMART mnemonic is perfect and what I strive to achieve in reaching my goals.  I think you have to be this way and just as you said ‘life got in the way’ is a cheap way out and nothing more.

    To set goals we have to be able to plan around things that may happen or else we will never ever meet any goals.  To achieve a goal is to set another on our way to success.

  4. Hi David,

    You have written a very detailed approach for making a list of goals and following with action! I never heard of this smart method before, but it definitely has some merit. I am the worlds worst at writing down a plan, and life happens!!

    I can see using the smart method, that commitment is still necessary, but i have some incentive to accomplish the goals.

    The smart method is going to be part of my plan moving forward. I can see that this will make a change in my life for the better! Now, I just have to commit myself and take action!

    Thanks David!


    1. Hi Chas!
      I am glad to hear your honesty here. I really do hope that you can use this to accomplish all of your goals moving forward.
      I am rooting for you. Go for it! Let me know how it goes. Thanks for sharing and taking the time to read.


  5. I like the idea of using the SMART model as a guide to achieving my goals.  I think the reason that most people fail to stick to a goal is because it’s too broad.  Especially when it comes to new year health goals.  I’ve fallen into that category as well until I set a goal that specifically stated:

    “I will take steps to be healthier this year by committing to working out at least 3 times a week”.

    And then I actually set an alarm to remind me to do just that.  I also share my plan with my kids so that I would be accountable.  Using that system, I was able to lose over 90 pounds and I have kept if off for over 3 years now.

    Thanks for sharing this great post about setting goals and explaining the difference between a goal and a resolution.

    1. Yes, Margarette! Little by little becomes a lot. That little alarm & being accountable is SMART :-). Great going with your commitment to your plan. Awesome!!! You are my role model (no pun intended). Thank you for sharing. Keep in touch!

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