Tips for Setting Goals

  • senior woman running in parkStart from the positive. Many self-improvement programs start by identifying weaknesses or deficiencies. In this program, we want you to begin by recognizing the positive qualities and achievements identified in your self-assessment. Acknowledging your strengths stops you from focusing on failure. When you know that you are already making positive steps, you find energy and enthusiasm for further change. So start with the evidence that you can make changes for the better.

  • Establish "working goals." You set this type of goal knowing that it will change. Then, if you don't achieve the goal exactly as it is stated, you don't see it as a failure, but a need to modify the goal. Each goal provides an opportunity to learn how to move forward. With working goals, you learn how to practice self-compassion, so you don't blame yourself for "failures," get discouraged, or stop moving forward.

  • Make sure your goals are harmonious. If you are setting multiple goals, you have a higher chance of success if they are integrated with one another to serve a broader purpose. For example, you're more likely to achieve your goal of traveling internationally if you also aim to save money. Goals that conflict with one another will frustrate you and cause stress.

  • Create approach-oriented goals. Science says that when we work toward something (like creating better relationships with others), we have a much better chance of sticking with it than when we work against it (like avoiding conflict with others). Say your goals out loud or write them down—are you using approach-oriented wording, such as creating, enhancing, improving, or achieving?

  • Center goals around an activity. Achieving activity-related goals, such as learning a specific task, meeting a deadline, or creating something tangible, can help produce feelings of accomplishment and progress, which will encourage you to keep going in the direction you're headed.

And don't forget—the first and most powerful goal is deciding to improve. Simply making the decision to improve or enhance your life is a breakthrough.