How To Decide What Goals to Set

Welcome to the third installment in my Goal Setting Series! If you haven’t read them already, you can start with The One Thing to do Before Setting Goals and my Three Tips for Achieving Any Goal.

Goal setting can sometimes feel overwhelming or simply seems like a waste of time, which is why it’s so easy to just avoid it all together.

The problem with that is, without an idea of where you want to go, you may not end up going anywhere!



Setting goals is like typing an address in to your GPS. It tells you and the Universe where you want to go. You can’t just sit in your driveway and expect to end up somewhere if you don’t know where you want to go!

Don’t let uncertainty or doubt or the “busy-ness” of life hold you back from setting some goals for yourself this year. Use them as a catalyst towards bigger and better things!

I think there are two main things that hold most of us back from actually verbalizing and giving life to our goals and desires:

  1. We don’t truly know what we want
  2. We don’t really believe we can have what we want

Goal setting is extremely powerful and can truly create a future and life we love, but we have to first know what we want and then believe we can achieve it.

That can be really, really hard.

I use three different goal setting techniques that help me focus, get past the hurdles holding me back and put visions, desires and goals down on paper.

The White Space exercise

I learned this from Marie Forleo and it has been extremely helpful for me and my crowded brain. We tend to have a million things at once floating around our head space, and thinking of one specific goal can lead us down the road of a hundred things we need to do to get there.

We have to clear out the clutter in order to focus on what we actually want.

Get out some paper or pull up a document on your computer and start writing down everything you are thinking about doing. Whether you want to do it today, tomorrow, next month, next year or in ten years – write it down. Don’t censor yourself and don’t think too much about it.

Just write until it feels your brain is empty of all the ideas that have been floating around.

setting goals

It feels so cleansing and freeing to finally write all those thoughts down! Marie suggests then putting a priority level next to each – such as to be done in one month, three months and then one year. I didn’t go that far because my paper literally has about a hundred things on it, but I have used it to help prioritize my goals (which you’ll see in exercise number 3 below). I also continue to add to the list as things come up. For example, there is a yoga retreat I would love to attend. I keep hearing about it and seeing ads, but realistically I can’t put the effort into it right now. Instead of stressing, I just wrote it in my white space notebook. I will remember it’s something I want to do and I can make it a priority when I can focus on it.

Just an FYI, this isn’t the place for your daily “to-do’s”, such as “call Henry’s teacher about homework assignment”. I keep a pad of paper on my desk for those kinds of items. I write down calls and emails I have to make that day, or bills I need to pay. So my top urgent priorities are on that list, and once those things are crossed off, I can move on to my other goals.

The Painted Picture Exercise

The idea for this exercise comes from Cameron Herold and his book Double Double. While the book focuses primarily on using this exercise for your business, I carried it over into all aspects of my life.

You are going to write down a picture of what your life looks like in three years. You need to write it as if it is you, three years from now, writing it. You can do it as a journal entry or a letter to yourself – whatever works for you. The key is it needs to be in present tense. For example: “I live in my dream home” and NOT “I AM GOING to live in my dream home”.

Again, don’t censor yourself and don’t worry whether something feels realistic to you now. The key is to find out what you REALLY want and to start creating it as reality. You really do have the power to create your own future, and it starts with you stating what you want and believing it really will happen. You don’t have to know HOW, you just have to KNOW.

For this exercise, you’ll probably want about an hour of uninterrupted time. No biggie if you don’t have that! I did mine in a few smaller chunks of time and it worked out wonderfully.

I avoided doing this for a few days because it seemed overwhelming, but once I started, I couldn’t stop! I wrote over five pages and I was surprised at some of the things that flowed out of me. Once you open the door and allow yourself to want things, it will become easier to pinpoint your desires. I LOVED this exercise and it’s been extremely powerful for me. Please don’t skip it. Take the time for this one and just do your best.

Three month goals

After clearing the clutter in your head with the White Space exercise, and then writing down your perfect life picture, you can now focus on what goals are important to you in the next three months!

In the past I had either written goals and never had a clear vision of what I wanted, or I had a vision and never wrote goals to get there. Either way tends to fail. Now, I have a beautiful vision and my “why” for the future, and I have some clear steps I can use right now to help me get there.

workout schedule

After three months, I’ll look at my goals, see what I achieved, and write another set.

If you need help making priorities, go back to your White Space list. Next to each item, write “today”, “1 month”, “3 months” or “1 year”. Then make the “today” items your to-do list, and incorporate the 1 month and 3 month items into your goals. The 1 year items can be used in your next 3 month goal list.

Congrats! You now have a very clear and very focused set of goals to help you reach your vision and dream for your life! If this seems overwhelming, just start by writing down one thing you want to accomplish in the next six months.

One thing.

Don’t worry if it seems unrealistic or too big or trivial. If it’s what you want, write it down.

Be specific and measurable with it. Don’t just write down “I want to run more”. Write “I want to run a 10 minute mile by October 1, 2018”.

Then pick one thing you can do TODAY to get there.

You can create the life you want! You just have to decide what you want first, and then believe it will happen.



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