How to Set Goals and Accomplish Them the Smarter Way

The best way to achieve success is to set goals. It’s difficult to know what you’re aiming for if you don’t have a target. Jim Harbaugh (Detroit Free Press, 2016), the football coach at the University of Michigan (and former coach of the San Francisco 49ers) has famously said: “Set your dreams so big that people laugh at them.” In other words, think as high and as big as you possibly can. The higher you aim, the higher you’ll climb. You need to set goals and then strive to accomplish these goals. Here are a few ways you can set and accomplish your goals.

Take Stock

To set goals, you need to understand what is going on right now and where you’ve come from. Before you’re able to create a final agenda and map out a path to achieve these goals, you need to take a keen eye and look over your current situation. One of the biggest problems people fall into is not performing this step. By looking at where you are, you can identify what may be useful for elevating yourself and pushing you to reach your lofty dreams.


Now that you’ve evaluated your current situation, you likely have a better understanding as to what your particular goals are. When setting a goal, it doesn’t matter if it is your ultimate career goal or an individual work project, you need specifics. The more specific and clear you are with your goals, the fewer diversions you’ll make along the way.

Let’s say you want to write a book this year. That’s an excellent goal to have, but what kind of book do you want it to be? What’s the subject? How long do you think it needs to be? Do you want to self-publish or try to find a publisher? Anyone can say “I want (insert goal here).” That doesn’t give you much to work with. Instead, the specifics help you identify how you’ll do it, when, where and what you need to prove successful. So, when formulating your goals, be as specific as possible.

Measure Your Success

Right now, you’re at point A. Your goal is point Z. As you make your way forward it can easily seem as if you’re not any closer to your goal. Instead, you need to measure your success. Take note of every small accomplishment. If you’re starting a business and you have your business cards printed, it may not seem like much, but it’s one more step you’ve climbed closer to the end goal. You can measure success in different ways (often depending on what your dream is). Perhaps you want a successful blog. Measure your success in the number of posts you’ve published. Every published article pushes you one step closer to success. By measuring you’ll see the different accomplishments while remaining motivated at the same time.

Set Deadlines

Everyone needs a bit of motivation from time to time to take the next, difficult step. One of the best ways to do this is to set deadlines. By creating a deadline, you hold yourself accountable. It also forces you to concentrate on a given task.

Jim Carrey famously wrote out a check to himself for one million dollars and post-dated it a few years in advance. He told himself he needed to make it in Hollywood and become an actor to cash the check. It just so happened that he went on to make the cult-classic movie Dumb and Dumber the year he post-dated the check. While the check, which he kept in his wallet, was little more than a piece of paper, it served as motivation. You can do the same with yourself.

Starting at point A you may not be able to guess when you’ll reach point Z. Instead, create deadlines for individual points along the way. This way, you’ll have a deadline the first week (such as create business cards), the second week (locate an office building to rent), the third week and so on. You likely can’t move onto the next step until you finish the current one. To make sure you stay on track, always create, set and follow your deadlines.

Continually Evaluate

To survive, everything needs to evolve. Your goal may not need to evolve, but you likely will need to adapt in order to reach your final goal. The best way to do this is to continually evaluate where you are, if what you’re doing is working and how far you’ve come.

When you reach this goal, you’ll discover the importance of setting guidelines and measuring your progress. Failure to measure your progress makes it challenging to evaluate how far you’ve come and if what you’re doing is working. While you evaluate, you’ll need to decide what has worked, what hasn’t, what may be holding you back and what you can do more efficiently. With these continual evaluations you’ll find it easier to improve how you’re going about reaching your eventual goal. It’s up to you to determine how frequently to carry out evaluations, but make sure there is enough data to illustrate and answer your evaluation questions.

Write Down Your Goals and Keep It Visible

As the Jim Carry illustration pointed out, writing down a goal can prove to be especially motivating. His plan worked not only because of his personal motivation, but he also set a deadline with the inscribed date on the check. Other times, it is about seeing your goals written out every single day. Your goals may seem lightyears away, which means it can easily turn to an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of situation. By writing down your dreams and visibly posting the dreams, it remains continually in your head. Write down your goals and place it in a location at home (such as by your bed or on the fridge) or the office (sticky note on the computer monitor) to serve as your reminder every day.


Setting goals, deadlines and evaluating your progress only goes so far. Without accountability none of the other steps matter. Your goals are likely your own, which means nobody else is going to hold you to them. It also means nobody can reach the goals for you. This is a one-person race. Should you stop holding yourself accountable, you’ll never reach the finish line.

The best way to hold yourself accountable is to reward yourself when you meet one of the smaller goals. You can always try to create consequences if you don’t meet one of your goals, but punishing yourself could easily backfire, pushing your goals even further away. Instead, set rewards for every goal you obtain andyou’ll find it becomes that much more of an incentive to stay on target and to keep yourself accountable as you work up to your eventual goal.

Develop a Habit

One of the best ways to train your body for success is developing a habit. If you’ve ever tried to wake up early to go to the gym, you know how much of a drag those first few days are. You look at your comfortable bed, which seems to be calling your name. If you stick to your goal of routinely waking up, over time, you will find that you adapt and begin looking forward to the gym. You develop a habit, so should you ever miss the gym it feels odd and out of place. The same holds true for nearly everything. The faster you create a beneficial habit for you to follow, the easier it becomes to reach different steps in your goals. Whether you want to write a blog post a day, upload a YouTube video once a week, or have another goal in mind, make sure to develop a habit.

Continually Set New Goals

When you reach your goal, congratulations! What should you do now? The most successful people in both business and life continually create new goals. This way, there is something to shoot for. If you’ve already reached your goal it means you probably can do even better. So why not shoot for something bigger, better and grander? Much like developing a habit, you’ll find continually setting new goals (and reaching these new goals) becomes easier and more attainable with each new success.

Your goals and your dreams are often intertwined. Whether your goal is to open your own restaurant or to become a writer in Hollywood, all goals are obtainable, no matter what anyone (or sometimes everyone) might tell you. It’s all about perseverance, determination and doing whatever you can to improve your chances of reaching the final peak of your dream. Follow these tips and you’ll soon discover not only HOW to set goals, but how to SMARTLY go about achieving and accomplishing them.

Tell Us

What do you do to set your goals to accomplish them? How is your strategy working for you?

Written by Mike Williams

I am a serial entrepreneur with more than 20 years of business experience. My goal with this blog is to pass on some of what I have learned in order to help you achieve success in business.

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