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Self Help: How To Set And Achieve Goals

” Plan for the future, because that’s where you’re going to spend the rest of your life.” – Mark Twain

Brin and Cora were two very brave little elves who lived in a land before time. They had heard about a land far beyond the waters where there were magical animals, crystal flowers and all forms of treasures to sparkle your eyes and warm your heart. They had an urge, a driving burning tickling urge that niggled inside them to find and see this wondrous land across the seas for themselves. No-one in their land had ever ventured further than the outer reefs surrounding much of the coastline and their friends and family constantly cautioned them against doing so.

There were no boats in their land designed for long distance water travel, so Brin and Cora set about designing, planning and building one for themselves. As no-one had ever walked the path they were walking before, there was no-one to give them counsel. And as no-one wished to encourage their venture for fear of the dangers they would come across, there was no-one prepared to help them build their boat. Months later after overcoming many obstacles and not a few moments of despair, Brin and Cora stood on the deck of their boat stocked with supplies and waved to their friends and family as they gradually shrank and faded from view. They were on their way!

It was 8 months later after surviving harrowing storms, wild seas, dangerous sea creatures and blistering heat that they spied the outline of land on the horizon. As they edged closer they could see the glitter of gem like leaves in the forests and birds with bold fluorescent plumage began to circle their boat. “Wow”, they exclaimed together, “We did it.” And without ever setting foot on land, they turned around and began the journey home.

Humans are achieving machines. We are happiest when we have challenging goals we are striving to achieve. We feel good about ourselves when we have attacked and overcome obstacles.Without a goal, we have no direction, without direction, we have no fulfillment. Having a really big dream or goal keeps us going through hardship.

This is illustrated by the story of Victor Frankl who was a psychologist imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp in WWII. Instead of giving in to the overwhelming despair of his situation, he decided to learn from it. He studied what was different about the 1 in 28 people who survived. He found that they weren’t necessarily the fittest, the healthiest or the most intelligent people in the camp. He found that those who survived were the ones who had a purpose to live for, a dream of a large enough scope that it gave them a burning desire to overcome any obstacle.

Setting Goals

Setting and achieving goals is a valuable part of discovering who you are and what you are capable of. This knowledge builds your confidence, self-esteem and belief in what you can achieve. It also helps you to overcome a fear of stepping forward in the future. There are some guidelines that are helpful to follow if you wish to achieve success when setting and achieving goals.

Guideline 1: Set Appropriate Goals

A goal is something you strive towards, rather than something you can have right now by adopting a different mindset or choosing to feel a different emotion.

For example, it is possible to be happy right now by thinking about times in the past when you were happy, so ‘to be happy’ is not an appropriate goal to set yourself.

When you set yourself a goal make sure:

  • It is something it will take time to achieve.
  • You can tell whether or not you have achieved it.
  • There are steps you need to take to achieve it.

If not, then it isn’t an appropriate thing to have as a goal.

Guideline 2: The CREATE Formula For Goals

There are a number of different formulae you can use to set goals, but I like to use the CREATE formula:

C Clear and concise

R Realistic

E Ecological

A Affirmative

T Timed

E End Step

Clear and concise: You should be able to state your goal as clearly and concisely as possible. Rather than having ‘To make more money’ as a goal, the goal should be for example, ‘To earn $300 more per week’.

Realistic: It is wise to set goals you believe you can realistically achieve. Doing so strengthens your belief in your abilities to achieve your goals, boosts your self-esteem and makes it easier for you to implement steps to achieve the goal.

Ecological: You seldom operate in a vacuum independent from other people and things, so always consider the ecology of any goals you set yourself. You do this by considering the impact the goal is likely to have upon yourself, the people closest to you and the planet.

Affirmative: Goals are more easily achieved when they are phrased in the affirmative, i.e. towards what you want rather than away from what you don’t want.

Timed: Set the date by which you wish to achieve the goal.

End Step: An end step is the final step that lets you know you have achieved your goal. For example, the end step for obtaining a University degree may be attending the ceremony where the degree is awarded. The end step for an overseas trip may be collecting the ticket from the travel agent or stepping off the plane in the other country. The end step is the part of the goal you visualize when using creative visualization techniques.

Guideline 3: There Is Magic In The Written Word

A number of researchers have concluded that people who write their goals down are more successful than people who don’t. To keep with the CREATE formula, it is recommended that you write your goals using the following format.

It is now ___________________________ (Future date on which the goal will be achieved) and I am/I have ______________________________________________ (state the end step of the goal succinctly).

For example, assume your goal is to get a new job. You would write the goal as follows:

“It is now March 2014 and I am standing in front of the desk at my new position filled with a feeling of gratitude. I can see my name plaque on the desk.”

Making It Happen

“If you can dream it, you can do it.” – Walt Disney

Now that you have worked out what you want to achieve, all that is left is making it happen. The five step process to achieve your goals is outlined below. The five steps won’t, however, help you achieve your goals unless you can honestly say:

  • I truly desire this goal from my heart.
  • I believe I can achieve this goal.
  • I understand and accept what I must do and what I must give up to achieve this goal. (You already have a full life. If you wish to include something new, then you must let go or give up something you already have or do.

For example:

  • If you wish to obtain further qualifications, the time you spend studying will replace time you previously spent doing other things.
  • If you wish to lose weight and get fit, you will have to give up some of the foods you love.
  • If you want to write a book, you may have to forgo watching television.
  • If you want to become fit and healthy, you may have to spend less time sitting down.
  • If you wish to overcome alcoholism, you may not be able to meet with your friends at the local hotel on a Friday night.

The five step process to achieve your goals is:

  1. Write it
  2. Plan it
  3. See it
  4. Do it
  5. Reward or revise

Let’s examine each of these steps in detail.

1. Write It

I cannot stress enough the importance of writing down your goals. You could even go all the way and get yourself a goal journal.

If you cannot find the time to complete a goal journal you can put a visual reminder of your goal somewhere special so that you will frequently see it and be reminded of it. For example, a picture of the house you are hoping to buy on the fridge, a picture of the job you want above your computer, a picture of the wedding dress you want on your wardrobe.

2. Plan It

Planning for your goals helps you determine the steps you will need to take, the order in which to take those steps, the timeline for implementing the steps and the resources you already have and the resources you will need to obtain to help you achieve the goal.

Sometimes the planning process can be done quickly in your head. At other times, it will be best to write a detailed list. In rare circumstances it is simply not possible to plan for your goal. When this happens bypass this step and be prepared to take action when opportunities associated with the goal present themselves.

3. See It

Creative visualization is a technique for harnessing the power of your unconscious to help you achieve your goals. The process does not require you to believe in any metaphysical or spiritual ideas and is used by a wide range of people from athletes to business leaders. It is as simple as using your imagination to create pictures, sounds, feelings and thoughts relating to achieving your goal. When you visualize your goal and experience the feelings of having achieve it, your unconscious mind is motivated to help you achieve the goal.

Professor Smith from the University of Manchester conducted research to show that the use of creative visualization techniques could even result in increased strength. He conducted an experiment with 3 groups of people:

  • Group 1 practiced a particular exercise twice a week for a month;
  • Group 2 imagined doing the exercise twice a week for a month; and
  • Group 3 (the control group) neither did the exercise nor imagined doing it.

At the end of the month, Professor Smith tested for increased strength (in relation to the particular exercise) and found that:

  • Group 1 had increased in strength by 33%;
  • Group 2 had increased in strength by 16%; and
  • Group 3 showed no increase in strength.

His research showed that merely imagining what we wish to achieve, can assist us to achieve it.

When you use creative visualization techniques, you don’t need to visualize the process you will go through to achieve the goal, just the end result. Sometimes the goal will be achieved from following the steps you planned and at other times, the goal will be achieved in ways you cannot begin to imagine.

An example from my own life…

I had just purchased a home and to save money I had done my own legal searches. Unfortunately, I had missed a problem with the council sewerage lines. As with most new home owners, funds in the bank were very limited when the local council rang to tell me that I would shortly have to pay $8,000 to fix the problem. I did not have $8,000 and I had no idea how I was going to get it. I visualized having it in time anyhow. Amazingly, within the week the University where I was working offered me some additional consulting work worth $2,000. I was part way there. A few days after that a Government Department rang me to offer me another $6,000 worth of work with some strange conditions attached. They would have to pay me in advance because it was getting close to the end of their financial year and if they didn’t spend the money they had been allocated in their budget, they wouldn’t be allocated that amount next year. In the space of 2 weeks and with a few days to spare, the money that I needed had arrived in ways I could not have begun to imagine.

4. Do It

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Yoda

It would be extraordinary if:

  • Ms Right tapped on your shoulder while you were visualizing her;
  • Prince Charming magically appeared in your lounge room and asked you to spend your life with him;
  • You won the lottery without first buying a ticket;
  • A bag of money fell on your head while you were meditating; or
  • You were offered a job you had not applied for.

In addition to writing goals, preparing plans and visualizing, the achievement of your goals requires you to…


Try to scratch your nose. Interesting isn’t it? You either do scratch your nose or you do not. It is not possible to “try” to scratch it. It is helpful to remove the word “try”, from your vocabulary. You will no longer “try” to do something. Instead you will choose to either do it or not to do it.

If you do something every day towards achieving your goals and you find creative ways to make your actions count towards more than one goal, you will be amazed at how quickly your goals become reality.

5. Reward Or Review

Ensure you reward yourself when you achieve your goal. This will increase your motivation towards the achievement of future goals. If you do not achieve the goal it is time to review why the goal was not achieved and either implement new ways to achieve the goal or choose a goal that is more appropriate for you.

Tips For Achieving Your Goals

“I never run 1,000 miles. I could never have done that. I ran one mile 1,000 times.” – Stu Mittleman, World Record Holder for Ultra-Distance Running

One of the best tips I ever received in relation to achieving goals was to make my actions count towards more than one goal. When I became a University Lecturer I worked for a wonderful Head of Department who shared some precious wisdom with me on my first day. He said, “Petris, while you are here you are expected to research, study, teach, publish and present seminar papers. If you aren’t smart about how you do it, you will be here 90 hours a week to achieve all that is required of you. I don’t want you to work hard; I want you to work smart. The trick is to make everything you do count towards more than one goal!” So, if there was a new area of the law, I studied it, researched it, published an article, presented a paper and incorporated it into my classes. By faithfully following his advice I drastically reduced the number of hours I could otherwise have spent achieving my work goals.

It is also helpful to realize that you don’t always have to remain directly on target to ensure you ultimately achieve your goal. When you drive from one town to the next, you will make it to your ultimate destination even though your car is seldom pointing directly in the direction of the next town. You will follow the road as it seeks the easier path through valleys and around mountains. Sometimes you will even point in the opposite direction from where you are heading, but if you keep moving you will still make it there.

You will have a higher rate of success achieving goals you desire from the heart as opposed to those you desire on a more intellectual basis. You will know the goals I mean. They are the ones that make your heart sing and it is a joy to pursue. It will give your goals more fuel if you focus upon them from the heart area of your chest. You can do this by being still and allowing yourself to really ‘feel’ your goals in your heart as you think about them.


‘Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or paltry – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” – Sir Winston Churchill.

To achieve change in your life and to reach your goals requires commitment. People assure me in seminars that they are committed to making change and achieving goals. After you read the examples of committed people from history below ask yourself how committed you are to the achievement of your goals.

Examples of true commitment:

  • It took 23 submissions before James Joyce’s Dubliners was accepted by a publisher.
  • Walt Disney was turned down 302 times before he got financing for his dream of the “happiest place on earth.”
  • Thomas Edison tried 1,000 substances before he found one that conducted electricity.
  • Before it sold seven million copies in the USA, Richard Bach’s Jonathan Livingston Seagull was returned by 18 publishers.
  • Twenty-one publishers turned down MASH by Richard Hooker before it was finally published and became a massive bestseller.
  • Colonel Sanders received 1,009 refusals before he sold his first chicken recipe.
  • Richard Adams’ Watership Down was rejected 72 times before being accepted.

If you continually quit on your way to achieving goals, you are not practicing commitment. You are, however, practicing a habit of defeat that can be difficult to break as it is largely unconscious. If you know that you usually quit and don’t follow through, you are expecting to fail before you even start. Stop this pattern in its path and keep going until you achieve your next goal. It is far better to commence expecting the best from yourself and committing to completing the process no matter what. You are so worth it.

Other goal achieving tips:

  • Motivate yourself by only choosing goals that align with your values.
  • Build your confidence by working towards easier and shorter term goals first.
  • Break goals into smaller more achievable steps. The only way to eat an elephant is one mouthful at a time.
  • Make the most of opportunities.
  • Don’t take on too much at once.
  • Have the courage to ask others for help if you need it.

In Summary

I hope these tips help you to help yourself set and achieve goals and create a magnificent life for yourself.