How to Set Life Goals

By now, I imagine you’ve realized that the truth is staring you in the fact: It’s a new year.

(Cue: So, what are you going to do about it?)

For me, a new year is about new goals. Whether you got a chance to do goal-setting over the holidays before 2013 actually struck — or you’re just thinking about it 3 weeks in — you’re fine. And now’s the time.

Goals, as we’ve all heard before, should be actionable, and they should have a timeline. A goal is not “I want to make a billion dollars in 2013!” (unless you made 75% of that in in 2012, of course, and a billion is actually a specific, reasonable number). A goal is something that you really can potentially achieve with a little sweat, grit, and (yes) luck thrown in.

A SMART goal, as defined by the productivity tome in Paul Meyer’s Attitude is Everything, fits the following criteria:

Specific: A specific goal is not pie-in-the-sky, it’s, well — specific. For me, I want to read 150 books in 2013 again (as I did in 2012). My goal is not “I want to read” or “I want to read dozens of books”. No. I want to read 150.

Measurable: It’s not hard to measure a measurable goal — so find a goal that you can count your progress on. I can count to 150 pretty easily. I can also count to ten, and to one. (Of the 150 books I want to read in 2013, I want to read 10 in Spanish, and 1 in Italian.) Numbers are measurable. So are other things, but you get the point.

Actionable: With an actionable goal, you know what to do next. If I want to finish my current book manuscript in 2013 (I do), then I have a nifty Word processing program called Microsoft Word I can go ahead and open up to get going. In fact, I can keep doing that every day after work for 60 minutes.

Relevant: Goals should be relevant to you and the year before you. For me, health is a current concern that sits top of mind, so setting goals about trying the 30-day Paleo Challenge (I’m on day 8), going gluten-free (up next), and how many times I exercise each week (5), are all more than relevant.

Timely: Goals must be timely.  I like writing ebooks, so my goal to publish two more in 2013 makes sense. But now I need to put a timeline on that. 2 books by when in 2013? By December? No (for me). The first one by June, the second by November.

So, go do it. (Set your goals.) And when you’re done, come back and tell me about it. 

Did you set goals for 2013? Have you ever set annual goals for yourself? Why or why not?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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22 thoughts on “How to Set Life Goals

  1. The Amazon link to the book you reference, Attitude is Everything, is a book by Jeff Keller, not Paul Meyer.

    Is this a publication difference?

    • Thanks for the heads up Ken! I already updated it with the amazon link to Paul Meyer’s Attitude is Everything. It’s a great book — hope you can check it out.

  2. Great article Claire! I couldn’t agree more with your advice for goal setting and leading a balanced life! I’ve actually created an entire system that helps you set goals and achieve them, that is based on principles that are very similar to what you’ve described in this article (and more).

    I’d love for you to check out my articles on goal achievement and let me know what you think! There’s some articles as well as some resources available at my blog ( for goal setting. One is even free!

    Keep up the great work!

  3. It is appropriate time to make some plans for the longer term and it is time to be happy.
    I’ve learn this put up and if I may just I wish to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Maybe you can write next articles regarding this article. I wish to read more issues approximately it!

  4. This is the first year I’ve chosen a word for the year. It’s “conquer.” I’m non-aggressive and non-confrontational, but this one word has driven me to go after many long-dormant dreams. In every area of my life I’m experiencing good changes. Yay! Victories! Goal setting is so powerful. Great post! Thx.

  5. Excellent post Claire and it’s so true that goals need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Bound) 🙂

    There is also a little technique you can use, if you have the courage that will almost guarantee the achievement of big goals and dreams. It is based on the idea of “social pressure”.

    Think about this; let’s say you have a goal to lose a certain amount of weight or achieve some desired level of fitness. You can set the goal privately and tell yourself, “I am going to achieve this goal by August 1.” On the other hand, you can make the goal public by telling all of your friends and family what you intend to do and even give a date for your desired completion.

    As soon as you take that goal public, you move into a different state of mind. No longer are you at the mercy of your own self-discipline (which has been tarnished by years of bad habits). Now you have a much more powerful force dictating your day to day actions and decisions.

    • Dear Shanna, you’re right on the “social pressure” part 🙂 It really pushes us to the next level of commitment that we give to our goals and dreams. When we take the goal public, as what you say, we move into a different state of mind. And feel our hearts beat faster because of the public declaration that we have made, and oh no, it’s gonna take place now or never! 😉 lol

  6. True, being specific about our goals is like lighting up a lamp that shines our path, so we can see our destination clearly. Being measurable is akin to taking one measured step at a time, and that will get our momentum going till we reach our end goals. Have a great 2013 ahead!

  7. Hi Claire

    I set myself a reading goal for each year. Last year I read 75, 2011 65. This year I’m going for 100. A bit behind to date but I’m determined to crack the ton this year.

    I’m glad to say that one of my already read is “Lead by Morning”… Very good. I posted a review on Amazon. Loved how you brought Sylvia Plath’s magnificent writing back into my consciousness. I got hooked on her whilst at uni 25 years ago, but haven’t read much recently. So thank you.

    Blessings to you, Claire..Ian

    • Hi Claire,

      I just started to read your blog 2 days ago and felt motivated with one of your 2013 goals which is reading 150 books for this year. January this year, I have made my resolution to read at least 12 books per year (and wow now I know many people read even more) and so far this March, I have completed 4 books. It’s very motivating for me to be able to measure how far more I am about to accomplish my goal. However, while trying to complete reading each book, I have the tendency picking up new book and read it. As for now, I have 2 books which I am still reading and I am sure I will pick up more before being able to complete these two. I am not sure this is a good idea by by having many materials to read at once or shall I focus in completing each book/topic at a time? I definitely have no trouble understanding, or grasping the concepts though I know I am a slow reader, but I think I am a person who is unable to focus too long into a same topic at a time. Do you face the same situation when you read 100 books per year?


  8. This year is the first time I didn’t make small goals but only huge ones that I’m working all year to reach. So I guess this time next year I’ll know if I succeeded in the goals I set :).