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

(Last Updated On: December 11, 2018)

Uh oh. You made resolutions again and the things you said you would have achieved this year are still pending.

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 trip to Neverland. The reason for this may lie in whether we 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, I came across the following definition for “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, do, or stop doing something. 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” – 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 – a decision, but detailed planning has to go into this to make this a reality. It also has to be measured over a period of time.

Since most people 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.

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

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

Here is a list of possible reasons. Do any of these apply to you?

  1. The reason we have to reset and make “new” resolutions/goals (sometimes, the same ones) is that we fail to properly manage ourselves
  2. We fail to take action in a consistent manner
  3. We continue to 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

Could it also be that we are not as mature as we should be? How do we measure maturity by the way? Is it proportionate to our age and the life experiences we were exposed to? Now it gets complicated because 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, peaceful 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 can see that it works. 

The model is used for measuring the progress of businesses and individuals alike as 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) amount of meaningful hours per day with my loved ones at any cost. During this time, we will do these things: 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 should be visibly 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 (or two), we will be in a confident and better position overall, in all aspects of our relationship

Hour glass- Setting Smart goals -

The above can be further broken down 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 – Taking Action, Sticking to the Plan

OK, let’s see what happens when we don’t follow the plan – Stepping into the future.

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 following the plan and hence already prepared for this adversity.

Somewhere along the way, our SMART goals became STUPID. A goal with no 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. 

dart board

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.


  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. That will make your goals easier to achieve. Goals that fall outside of your gifts, talents and natural “calling,” will most likely result in 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.

Finally, be proactive. This can produce a stronger result as we plan our goals. Being proactive will prepare us for any resistance to our list of goals. It’s acting in anticipation of future problems, requirements or changes. It’s planning for the worse and being a step ahead.

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David Eversley

David is a musician and IT professional with a passion for writing. When he is not doing any of the above, he can be found watching funny videos and eating chocolates. Laughter (and chocolates) is the best medicine!

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