Setting and Achieving Meaningful Goals

Serving both as an overview to goal setting, this article takes you through a process from reviewing your vision statements to formalizing and locking down goals that are meaningful and actionable.

The difference between a Vision, a Goal, and a Plan

Visions, Goals, and Plans are important tools which are used together. However, each serve a different purpose to help you get from where you are to where you want to be efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, most people skip the vision step completely, rush the goals step, and as a result are setting themselves up for failure in the planning stage. A good analogy is taking a trip.

  • A Vision captures the main decision you make on where you want to go on the trip. It frames, but does not answer, the details of the trip.
  • A Goal captures the key decisions related to that trip. When will you leave and return? Will you fly or drive? What activities do you want to do while there?
  • A Plan captures the details which will allow you to complete the trip, meeting the goal you set for the trip. What is your flight itinerary? What is your budget? What hotel (s) will you stay at? When will you do your chosen activities while on the trip?

It is important to note that once set, you should stay fixed on your vision, be slow to change your goals to get there, and yet stay flexible on your plans to achieve the goals. This is called staying fixed on the "What" but flexible on the "How".

Start by reviewing your vision statements

Do you have a vision for your life? If not then you should take some time to do so. If you already have a set of visions statements, then before you start setting specific goals, now is the time to look at the overall vision statement for your life, and the related vision statements for each area of ​​your life, and ask yourself the following questions, making changes if necessary:

  • Is it inspiring and can you emotionally commit to achieving it?
  • Is it truly important to you?
  • Is it stretching, but can you still see yourself achieving it?
  • Is it truly your own vision and not someone else's (parent, boss, etc.) for you?
  • Is it positive and sustainable over time?

Remember there are four parts to a great goal

Since you've already set some compelling and clear vision statements for your life, the next step is to create great goals. A goal statement is made up of four components:

  • An Objective statement stating the goal in a specific and positive way (often very similar to the Vision statement; "I will be independently wealthy.").
  • A Measure statement stating how you will know when you have achieved it ("I will have achieved this when I have a net worth of $ 5 million.").
  • An Importance statement stating why it is important that you achieve this goal ("This is important because I want to focus on working with non-profits to help them achieve their missions while enjoying travel around the world.").
  • A Timing statement stating by when you would like to achieve it. ("Given where I am I will achieve this in ten years time.").

Note, the objectives for your goals do not have to match 1: 1 with the vision statements you have created. The reason is that sometimes a vision requires multiple goals to achieve it, and other times a single goal when accomplished can move you toward multiple visions.

Choose one or more Vision statements to write three objective statements for

Someone once asked what the difference between a dream and a goal was. The answer: A dream dies at dawn. As you've heard, it isn't enough to have a clear picture of what you want (a vision), you need the detailed goals and plans to make it a reality. Following the step-by-step process described below, and available in our My Goals tool available on Percess, spending just a few minutes each day, you'll build step-by-step detailed, compelling and achievable goals like you may never have before in your life. If you are already an old pro at setting goals, then this is a great opportunity to update and upgrade your goals to set you up for success in your plans.

So, after you have reflected on your Vision statements, select up to three visions or desires to make Objectives statements (and ultimately Goals) for. Why only three? Why not more?

  • First, we have limited time and resources. Even though we can do things to free up time, as the quantity of goals we are actively working on at any given time increases, our chances of success drop. The reason is that as the number of goals increase it becomes easier to be distracted, overwhelmed or discouraged. To be clear, each goal you work toward may have multiple smaller parts to it. However, try to stick to just three at any given time.
  • Second, in any given situation only a few things really matter, and some potential goals are better done after others are accomplished (new career after completing the needed training).
  • Third, it forces us to focus on truly big goals and not get distracted by little goals.
  • Fourth, by focusing on fewer goals we are more likely to make what we feel is significant progress sooner. This helps to maintain our momentum as well.

Create your Objective Statements

After you have selected the Vision statement (s) you want to use, create three nearer-term Objective statements to use as the base for your goals. Read them again to yourself, reflecting on your individual life area and overall vision statements. Are you really excited about turning these three Objectives into a reality in your life? Once you have reflected and refined as desired, it is time to flush these Objective statements into full goals.

Turn your Objective Statements into Goals

Now, for each, write below the Objective statement your Measures, Importance, and Timing statements associated with the goals. An example is shown below (look at structure, not content which may or may not be relevant or resonate with you):

Vision : I want the physical health to be able to enjoy the activities I love.


Objective : Dramatically increase my endurance and energy level.

Measure (s):

  • Conditioning to complete a 10K without stopping.
  • Energy to stay up until 11pm without being tired.
  • Strength to work in the garden as often I want to.

Importance: This is important because my not exercising the way I need to is keeping me from fully enjoying my children, caused me to pass on fun outdoor activities with friends, and causes me to feel tired a lot of the time. I don't want to be one of those lonely people, barely able to move themselves around when I am older, having missed out on being part of great memories when I was younger.


  • I will start an exercise routine on xx / xx / xxxx
  • I will run a 10K on yy / yy / yyyy
  • I will have the energy I want by zz / zz / zzzz

Evaluate and Refine Your Goals

Once you have done this for each goal, review them to see if they are SMART (Stretching, Measurable, Achievable, Related, and Timed).

  • S tretching is important since it is hard to have an inspiring goal if it isn't stretching you in some way relative to what you have achieved in the past.
  • M easurable is important as this will not only give you a benchmark to measure yourself against but also help provide some insight into what may be necessary as part of the plan you will build to achieve this.
  • A chievable is clearly important but by achievable we mean merely that it is potentially achievable. How you achieve it won't be set until the planning stage. Use this for a quick reality check here.
  • R elated is a check to make sure this goal is related to your visions and priority.
  • T imed is to give you a sense of urgency and a date by which you want to enjoy the benefits of hitting the goal. Note, timing may change a bit as you go through the planning phase and identify the steps needed to achieve the goal.

Once you've reviewed the goals, made any changes you wish you should set them aside for a few days and then come back and refine them if / as desired. This is to make sure they are really yours and what you want to focus on. Make sure you spend sufficient time on the Importance statement as this will help ensure you have the clear motivation to work toward the goals, and help provide perspective on if you really have captured the objective in the way you want to.

Expand Goal Detail

In this step we are going to add additional detail to your goal which will help guide your plan development.

For each goal, ask yourself: In order to achieve this goal I will need to:

  • Overcome these challenges
  • Leverage these strengths
  • Acquire these knowledge / skills
  • Work with these people / organizations

It is important to note that you will very likely not have all the answers to the above questions. The point is to start thinking about what will be involved in achieving the goal so you can think better about how to break it down into manageable pieces. Think of this as a first pass. You'll have additional opportunities to refine it further as you go forward and develop your plans. Once you've made a first pass, set this aside for today and then review it again tomorrow if / as helpful.

With regard to overcoming challenges, these could be a perceived lack of resources, time, connections, etc. These are items which you would like to address as you move forward.

With regard to leveraging certain strengths, these are what you bring with you. They can be tangible in the sense of financial resources, etc., emotional in terms of desire, dedication, energy, etc. or functional in terms of skills, habits or connections, etc.

With regard to acquiring knowledge or skills, we are always in a process of growing and learning. As you set goals you will likely want to add to or enhance a part of your skill set. Goal setting is a great opportunity to get the reason and energy to do so.

With regard to working with other organizations, nothing really great has been done alone. Even Edison had Watson, and today working with other people and groups is even more important. Who should you get to know or leverage in order to create a win-win relationship?

Repeat for each Goal and check quality

For each goal ask yourself if you can say yes to each of the following statements:

  • These goals reflect my fundamental values ​​and the vision I have for my life.
  • These goals are inspiring to me, and I have completely committed to them.
  • I accept full responsibility for achieving each goal
  • I will make the necessary tradeoffs which will let me achieve the goals.
  • I will review each night how my day went overall relative to my goals.
  • I will plan each night the next day's activities which support my goals.

If you can't truly commit to each of the above statements, then you should take a step back and further refine your goals or the vision for your life. You've spent decades getting to where you are today; spending another day, or even a week, making sure you are headed in the right direction going forward is more than worth the effort.


You have now likely done a better job of creating meaningful goals than 90% of the people who attempt to do so. Now it is time to think about your plans …

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