Many adults find it difficult to reach their goals because as children they were not
taught how to identify what they want, how to ask for it, how to figure out the steps for
reaching goals, or how to follow through on the steps. We need to start on this early
with our children by helping them to see that it is important to set goals, to clearly and
specifically ask for what they want, and how to figure out what steps they need to
complete to reach their goal. How you address these will depend on where your child is
We are our children’s greatest teachers and so it is important that through our own
actions we show the importance of goal setting and how we make it a part of our daily
lives. By our children being aware that we set goals, that we make time to review our
progress on our goals, and involving them in celebrating the milestones toward our
goals they learn the importance and fundamentals of goal setting.
The fundamentals we have to keep in mind when setting goals are that we have to:
• Write down exactly what you want to achieve in as clear and simple a manner as
• Set a deadline for achieving the goal.
• Develop a plan for reaching goal.
• Break down each goal into manageable steps in your plan.
• Regularly review your progress toward your goal.
• Own the goal by having it aligned with your values and priorities.
When teaching our children to set goals there are some keys for ensuring that our
children are successful. The first is to simply ask our children what they want. This
opens the door for them to let their creativity flow and to think about the things that
appeal to them. The next is to really listen to them talk about their desires and dreams.
With this we need to make sure that we don’t interfere or distract them with our own
biases and fears. This is truly all about them. It is also important that we don’t inject
our own goals and desires into their list. Most children will shut down if you tell them
Many adults find it difficult to reach their goals because as children they were not
One of the fundamental lessons our children are not taught in school, is how to set
goals, or as I think it should be taught, ‘How to get there from here’. I think back to my
best friend and myself in grade 12 talking about our dreams and goals. We both grew
up in well educated upper-middle class homes, but neither of us were taught the basic
skills to accomplish our goals. We were ahead of many of our peers, as we knew what
we wanted to achieve, but we just didn’t go there.
I just watched a video done by this same friend (26 years after the above conversation)
and he is a brilliant comedian. He is funnier than 99% of the people making obscene
amounts of money to be funny, yet he is still working in the job that he has for much of
his adult life. He has talent, skill and the drive to do whatever is needed to reach his
goal, but the piece that I have seen missing through our conversations is that while he
knows the destination he wants to reach, it is filling in all of the steps between here and
I look at the goals I had expressed that afternoon 26 years ago with him, and while I
have hit some of them, I didn’t get to a lot of them or I reached variations on them.
The biggest blocker for me was figuring out how to get to them and what to do when
reaching them wasn’t working. I spent most of my time in university flopping around
without much direction, taking courses that sounded interesting rather than those that
would help me reach my goals. I never even put that as a priority when I was there. I
was in university because that is what people who wanted to achieve the goals I had
do. What I didn’t do is to figure out what was the best way to be there and how to most
effectively reach my goals.
My next series of blog posts will be about how to help our children learn to get from
here to there and to figure out where there is for them.
One of the major impediments to achieving your goals is to not figure out all of the
steps needed to get to them. The key to this is to create sub-goals. This means that
you need to take a goal and break it up into bite size pieces.
Start with your your top goals and create sub-goals which can be reached in shorter
periods of time. You can then do the same process with your sub-goals. Below each
level you need to determine the detailed steps for reaching the sub-goal.
As you break up the goal into smaller bits, you need to figure out how long it will take
you to complete each step and what resources you will need to achieve it. These
resources will also drive out other goals that you need to accomplish.
This is where you need to start fitting all of the puzzle pieces of your goal plan together.
You will use the timeline and resources to figure out which step needs to come before
which other ones and how they all interrelate. As you link the steps together in your
plan, you can also figure out which steps can be done concurrently. All of this will piece
together into your hierarchical goal plan. The lowest level of the plan becomes your to
do list for daily action.
One final thing to remember is that the plan can change. You need to spend time each
week looking at your plan, figuring out what is working, what isn’t, and what changes
you need to make. By breaking your goals up into little bites and regularly reviewing
and adapting your plan, you will find your way to success.
Many of us see setting goals as being about getting somewhere, rather than about how
we get there. Goal setting is one of the great avenues for personal growth. When you
set goals that are challenging and make you get out of your comfort zone, you will have
to become a better person in order to accomplish them.
If you are not willing to grow and change, you will find it very hard to reach your goals.
You need to be regularly reviewing and thinking about your plan and your progress
along it. I find that journaling on a regular basis helps greatly with doing this. By
getting my thoughts to paper I make the experience more concrete (which is also why
it is essential that we write our goals down), but also provides the opportunity to
ruminate on them and to see where they’re taking you.
It is the times that I have hit the wall and been thrown completely off course on my
goal plan that I have had to figure out what aspects of me have kept me from getting
there. Sometimes it has been a very difficult and painful lesson, but I am so glad to
have had them, as they have been essential for me in succeeding. Learning these
lessons and making the changes that they have required me to make, have made it
easier to achieve similar goals. By being more accepting that I will need to be flexible
and grow has also made it much easier to accept the bumps in the road when I hit
So while your goal may be to make a million dollars, don’t do it just for the money, but
for the person that the journey will help make you into.
One of the problems we run into with pursuing our goals these days is being wrapped in
busyness. Our mind becomes occupied with Facebook updates, tweets and the general
noise of modern life. These distractions keep us from thinking about our goals and how
we are going to achieve them. The key to breaking out of this is to calm our minds to
break through the digital mayhem.
Meditation is an excellent way of calming your mind. During meditation we are able to
tap into the unlimited potential of the unconscious and then the answers will start to
become clear on how to solve any challenge you may be dealing with. Meditation
doesn’t require any fancy gear or training, it can be as simple as sitting down for 5 to
10 minutes and focusing on your breath.
The relaxation and clarity that are by-products of meditation will not only help you it
will also help you relax and improve your health (which are often goals in and of
themselves), but also achieve your goal plan faster. I personally enjoy moving
meditation, which is simply the act of being aware of your body or breathing while
you’re walking, working in the garden or even doing the dishes.
The slowing down and clarity that we find through meditation help us to focus our
energies on the things that really matter in our lives and takes less time and effort than
we tend to spend on so many of the distractions that we fill our days with. To improve
your success with achieving your goal plan I recommend that everyone adds daily
meditation of some form to their plan, because we can all use a little quiet personal
time and care
While I emphasize that the first step in being successful at achieving your goals, and
one that puts you ahead of more than 80% of the population, is to just write them
down, without a plan you’re not doing all that you can to achieve them. On top of that
it is not enough to plan, a plan must be thorough, complete, in depth and well
I like to use a hierarchical model when building my goal plan. I start from a general,
high level goal, which is the mission statement for my life (at that time), and I then
work down with goals getting more and more specific, the lower I go on the hierarchy.
The bottom level of the plan are the fine tasks needed to reach the goals, with each
level rolling up to the one above it. The plan includes, timelines, effort and resources.
Once the plan is in place it gets reviewed weekly to see what is working, what isn’t
working, what needs to be changed, and what lessons I have learned from it. It is
important to not view the plan as being fixed in stone, but that it is a living a changing
document, as we are subject to all sorts of influences and changes, and a good plan
allows you to work with that.
So, while you are goal setting it is essential to understand that your plan of action is
the map you will take on your journey to success. This means that to ensure success it
must also be the best one you can build. You need to thoroughly research and
investigate possibilities and options, and then build a path you can live and thrive upon
while creating a magnificent life.
It is common in our culture to focus strictly on the destination, and to lose track of the
journey. Think of how boring the Hobbit would have been, if it had all been about the
reclaiming of the Lonely Mountain, rather than the mostly about the adventures along
the way. It is all of the episodic encounters along the way that give richness and
vibrancy to story, and are why it is still a popular book 76 years later.
We start as children asking ‘are we there yet’ on each trip we set out on, and as
parents we tend to also focus on just getting where we are going. We really need to
create adventures and interest along the way with every trip, so that each one is
memorable and meaningful. This is also true in goal setting.
Too many people get caught in the trap of ‘are we there yet’ and completely miss out
on seeing just how far they have come. This is part of why we need to keep revisiting
our goal plan, and to have it built out in a hierarchy down to the individual tasks, so
that in reviewing it, you can see everything that you have done, what worked, what
didn’t, and what you learned along the way.
It is important to acknowledge that the progress you make, no matter how minor is an
achievement in it’s own right. Also, learning this is a key to building the momentum
required to haul in those larger, long term goals like I wrote about in yesterday’s blog
post. So rather than hurtling down the highway only focusing on how much further it is
until you get there, look around, breathe in the different smells along the way, and
remember that every dollar you earn or every ounce of weight you lose is a success
and will build to form a much larger accomplishment over time.
One of the many hotly debated areas of goal setting is whether to have some really big
goals. The thinking behind this is that they help you stretch and grow, as well as
helping to open you up creatively to find goals that may not be apparent in your
immediate life. The counter argument to this is that having really hard goals reduces
your odds of achieving them and can create levels of frustration that throw you off
completely from goal setting.
I tend to fall into the first camp. I believe that if the goal is well aligned with your
priorities and values, and you go through a thorough planning exercise, you can
determine what needs to happen to achieve the goal.
Part of why so many people live mundane lives is that they fall victim to setting the bar
of their goals too low. This can lower your expectation of yourself and creates false
limits. It is still essential to have realistic goals for self development, as they will both
help you grow and give you the confidence to pursue bigger goals. That said, you must
also have a big goal. One that will take a long time and much hard work to achieve.
These large long-term goals also provide bigger timelines to let you fit in other
elements of your plan and to build a rich and varied life.One of the most compelling
reasons though is that research has also shown that people who have set a large goal
and are working toward it have long-term productive satisfaction and higher levels of
happiness than those who don’t.
So, when the effects of having big difficult goals is to quite possibly achieve things that
the majority of the population don’t even dream of doing and being happier, there
really isn’t any question in my book as to whether or not to set them.
One of the keys to goal setting success is to set deadlines to accomplish your goals.
Without a deadline for a goal, you have not fully committed to it and a goal you will be
less likely to achieve it. By not setting a timeline and thinking that you will just work on
achieving a goal whenever, you won’t. As humans we need the pressure of a deadline
to push us into action. When our ancestors were living in caves; the shorter, cooler
days were the sign that they’d better make sure that they had food put away for the
Deadlines will also shape your plan of action. Depending on when you need to reach
your goal, your plan can look very different. Let’s take weight loss for example. It
makes a lot of difference whether your goal is to lose twenty pounds in four months or
in ten. To lose the weight in four months you will have to be much more aggressive
with your plan than if you want to lose the weight over a longer period.
Using the deadline with your plan will also help you to determine whether or not your
goal is achievable. If you start to plan it out and a reasonable and realistic course of
action cannot be put together, this means that either your deadline or your goal need
to be adjusted. Without these two components it could be much harder to determine
These three things show the importance of deadlines in goal setting and building the life
you want to live.