setting-goalsHave you determined what is important to you? This is an important step in goal setting. Without this, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to set goals that actually matter. From a mental health perspective, not being able to define goals leaves people either worrying about the future with no action plan or constantly ruminating about their past actions. Neither of these are situations that promote good mental health.

Lou Holtz, of college football fame, discusses his belief in setting goals. In several talks, Mr. Holtz described how he set a list of 107 goals and has nearly achieved them all. At the time, he was jobless. A few of his goals have included having dinner at the White House, being the coach at Notre Dame, meeting the Pope, getting a hole in one, and many others. Setting goals is an important part of getting from where you are to where you want to be.

If you have difficulty determining what is important to you, go back to our previous blog post on preparing for goal setting. Once you have prepared yourself to think about goals you may want, you can begin to put things into motion. Here are 4 steps to set meaningful goals:

1. Determine your preferred future

 This sounds philosophical, but it’s not. Take a look at the categories you defined in preparing yourself to set goals. Your preferred future may be making more money, giving more, playing more golf, taking extra vacations, losing weight, getting out of debt, or any host of things. Don’t make this too philosophical or it will never get into action.

2. Be specific

We tend to be vague when we talk about our goals. They’re sort of like New Year’s resolutions. “Lose weight” is not specific. How much weight? Losing a pound is losing weight. So is losing 50. By when? Losing weight at some point in our lives gives us too many opportunities to procrastinate. Lose 20 pounds by March 31 is specific. Here are some more examples just to get you started:

  • Make $10,000 more this year than I did last year
  • Take 3 extra weekend trips with my wife between May and August
  • Have dinner with at least 3 other couples in the next month

Specific goals give us a clear direction. It motivates us to do something. Again, from the perspective of mental health, specific goals help us become un-stuck.

Setting goals is an important part of getting from where you are to where you want to be. 

3. Write them down

Don’t sell this short. Writing goals down is very beneficial. Writing goals down is the start of intention. It gets your thoughts moving in the direction of achieving them. As I have stated in a previous post, Dr. Gail Matthews’ research has shown that writing down our goals helps us to achieve them. There is also a great book by Henriette Anne Klauser call Write It Down, Make It Happen that does a great job discussing this.

4. Share them – selectively

Share your goals with someone you trust who will also hold you accountable. Telling your goals to a bunch of people can actually keep you from achieving them. Talking about goals, especially to someone who isn’t invested enough to help you achieve them, can give a sense of satisfaction. Stating what we want to accomplish becomes a substitute for actually getting to work and going after it. Share your goals, but only with the people that will hold you accountable and help you move toward them.


What goals do you have in mind? How can you be more specific about them and start to take action? Feel free to comment below. We would love to hear from you!