How to set goals

How to set goals when you have no idea what you want.

You’ve heard about the importance of goal setting; we all have. You know that people with written goals succeed, and you might have read all about achieving ambitious goals.

The problem is you don’t have any ambitious goals. You don’t have any goals at all. You’re not really sure what you want from life – maybe something a bit more than what you’ve currently got, but every time you try to write a list of goals, it seems like a futile exercise.

Here are four ways to identify the goals that you really want:

1. Relax Your Ideas on What “Goals” Means

We often think that a “goal” has to be something big. Maybe you’ve got the impression that goals need to be about money, or success in some way that society has defined.

Relax! A “goal” is simply something which you’d like to do or achieve. It could be buying a house or a car, yes, but it could also be something which might matter to no-one in the world except you – perhaps your goal is to learn to bake cakes as good as the ones your grandma used to make.

Goals aren’t things that you feel you “should” do, and any good life coach will steer you away from goals that have been imposed upon you by other people.

2. Start with What You Enjoy

We all have natural interests and passions – things that we get really excited about (even though our friends and family might be bemused). Perhaps you absolutely love everything to do with baseball. Maybe you really enjoy playing the trombone. It could be anything!

Write down a list of five or ten things that you really enjoy. Is there a goal buried in any of them? Perhaps you’ve always had a desire to coach Little League. Maybe you’d really like to play your trombone in front of an audience (even though the idea scares you a bit).

What goals arise from your interests? How could your hobbies become part of something bigger and more meaningful in your life?

If That Doesn’t Work ... Think About What You Don’t Want

You might have a really hard time figuring out what you want from life. Perhaps your interests and hobbies don’t seem to lend themselves to any actual goals. In this case, try writing a list of things you don’t want. That could be things like:

  • I don’t want to be overweight
  • I don’t want to live a life without meaning
  • I don’t want a bad relationship with my partner (family/kids/etc)
  • I don’t want to work in a job I hate

Write down whatever comes into your mind. Now turn these around to find your goals! For example, the above list would become:

  • I want to reach and maintain a healthy weight
  • I want to have a meaningful life
  • I want a good relationship with my partner (family/kids/etc)
  • I want to work in a job I love

3. Consider the Key Areas of Life

In the great book, The Success Principles available at, Jack Canfield suggests that there are 6 key areas where you should consider setting goals, and lists these categories as:

  • Financial
  • Job/career
  • Physical health
  • Relationships
  • Personal development
  • Community

4. If you’re still stuck in your goal-setting, go through these six key areas.

Do you have a gut feeling that any of them are lacking or out of balance in your life? Do any particular goals or ambitions come to mind?

You might find it a useful exercise to write down a score for how you feel you’re doing in each area (from 0-10, with 0 being “awful” and 10 being “perfect”). Look at the areas where you score low. What could you do to raise that score? What goals might you set?

Do you struggle with setting goals that are meaningful to you? What are your current goals (if any) and what made you decide to set them for yours

Success Planner worksheet

Posted in on Nov 21, 2016
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