How to Set Personal Goals: What, Why, and 7 "How To" Tips

Are you frustrated with working hard but it doesn’t seem as if you are getting anywhere? That is, nowhere that you want to be. If fact, do you even know where you are trying to get to?


Wouldn’t it be great to have a clear picture of where you are trying to get to in each of the major areas of your life? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, this article is for you.


In this article, I will give you a working definition for personal goals with an explanation of SMART and DUMB goals. I will share my top 3 reasons for recommending that you develop some personal goals. And then I will give you my 7 tips for “How to Set Personal Goals.” Let’s get to it.


What are personal goals?

A personal goal is a statement of what you want in the future. I strongly recommend that you develop some SMART goals, after you have considered some DUMB goals.


SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time bound. I have seen the letters also used to represent Significant, Meaningful, Action-oriented, Rewarding, and Trackable.


DUMB is an acronym for Dream driven, Uplifting, Method-friendly, and Behavior driven according to Michael D. Pollock who does a great job of explaining the difference between the two types of goals in his linked article (click here for the article).


My best advice is that you develop some DUMB goals that excite you, and then make them SMART, so you can track and accomplish them.

Why should you have them?

My three greatest reasons for recommending that you have personal goals are - 1. They help you see what is most important to you. 2. They help you see if you are on course or not. And 3. They can give you a reason to go through seasons of adversity.


How to Set Personal Goals

Knowing what to do and why you should do it, without knowing how to do it, will not help you. So here are my top 7 tips for how to develop your personal goals. 


1. Make a list of the top domains of your life. Examples of domains are your spiritual (i.e., life governing values and beliefs), physical health, finances and life style, family and friends, career, church and community service, recreation and fun, etc. This is a starter list. Make a list that feels comfortable to you.


2. Develop some life goals for each of your top domains. When you die, what are the top one to three things you would like to have accomplished in each of your top domains? Write down your responses, under each domain.


3. Develop 5 year, 1 year, 30 day, and today goals for three to five of your top domains. So you may have six to ten top domains. However, I asking you to choose the top three to five of them for this exercise. For each of your chosen domains, where do you desire to be in 5 years, 1 year, 30 days, and today?


4. Develop a plan for your top 3-5 top domain goals. Now, it is time to make a plan (i.e., a “how-to” statement) for accomplishing the goals listed in #3 above.


5. Go for it. The best goals and plans still require action. Make a commitment to do the work of #4 above for at least 7 days.


6. Celebrate and learn from it. No matter what happens, give yourself credit for trying. Make a note of lessons learned. What worked out for you? What didn’t work out for you?


7. Keep going. You can eat an entire elephant, if you take it one bite at a time. It will be almost impossible to reach life goals in 7 days. However, if you keep putting 7 days with some 30 days and some years, you will be pleasantly surprised by how far you can go over the next few years. Don’t forget to go back and work on some of the other life goals in the other domains.


Well, there is my what, why, and how regarding “How to Set Personal Goals.” However, reading this article is not enough. Make sure you apply this material to your life as soon as possible.


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