Setting Goals: The Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Success


Those who don't know where they are going will be very surprised to find themselves in the wrong place.
Mark Twain

Research by a psychologist and career coach at Dominican University in California has shown a direct link between setting goals and achieving success. Properly defined goals help to shape new behaviours and focus on what really matters.

how to set goals

A goal is what you want to achieve. It is a desired outcome that you or a group of people plan and commit to achieve.

Goals can be short-term - for a day, a project, a week; or long-term - for a month, a year, several years. They are related to all areas of life - people's relationships and career goals, the long-term plans of a company or organisation.

Simply put, a goal is a dream with a deadline.

Why is setting goals and objectives important?

Setting goals the right way allows you to move and feel productive while bringing significant value to your organisation. When you set goals, you create a vision of what your life or your business could look like. You then begin to push yourself and your team to achieve the best possible results. Learning how to set goals, objectives is not easy.

How do the right goals and plans help us achieve great results?

  1. Setting a goal allows you to stay focused. Without a goal, efforts can become scattered and unfocused. A properly set goal will help you focus on the day-to-day tasks, weeding out wasted effort and futile movements.
  2. Setting yourself a goal allows you to measure your progress. When you measure your current performance by working towards a specific goal, you can see that although you may not yet have achieved what you would like to be, you have made movements in the right direction. This is important for any goal: personal, project, financial, big and small.
  3. A well-defined goal keeps you motivated. It is easy to put off work until tomorrow or the day after tomorrow if there is no thought-out end result. Having a goal will keep you intrinsically motivated to be more productive.
  4. A goal will help you beat procrastination. "The highest degree of procrastination is when you start doing non-urgent work while putting off urgent work" © Try setting a few small, short-term goals for a long project and reward yourself after each task is done.
  5. Goals help you achieve more. When you set a goal and achieve it, it gives you a sense of satisfaction and completion. You will want to try it again. Goal setting is a process of forming positive habits.
  6. Goals help you determine what you want out of life. Setting goals makes you think about what you really want out of life. What level of financial independence do you want to have? What do you need to achieve your dreams? Once you set these goals, you break down your desires into achievable and measurable goals.

Goals increase your motivation, help you avoid procrastination and make you focus on achieving your dreams. Thus, when you set a goal, achieving and exceeding it makes a better life possible.

SMART goal setting - how to set personal and career goals? 

There is a standard criterion for setting goals - the SMART rule. A goal must be specific, measurable, achievable, meaningful and time-bound. SMART is a guide on how to set a goal correctly.

smart targets

  • Specific. There is no point in setting vague goals that cannot be achieved. Research conducted by the creators of goal setting theory, Locke and Latham, showed that in 90% of cases, specific and complex goals led to higher performance than when people set either easy goals, or "best effort" goals, or no goals at all. It is important to have clear goals in order to avoid broad and unrealistic goals.

  • Measurable. Once you have set a goal, it is important to be able to measure its achievement - to understand when you have reached or are close to reaching your goal.

  • Achievable. The goal should be achievable: you don't have to get riled up by setting unbelievable or too vague goals.
  • Meaningful. Ask yourself the question: what happens if the goal is not achieved? Of course, achieving any goal is important, but it is only really useful if it will contribute to the success of a company or a life achievement.
  • Time-bound. Set a specific timetable for achieving your goal and break it down into short-term ones with your own time frame. Incorrect timings for tasks and plans can demotivate you: if you have little time for a big task or too much time for a small and quick task. Plan wisely.

How do you monitor the implementation and achievement of goals?

  • Analyse the implementation of your goals every day.

Take stock of your progress: did you meet your planned actions, were your goals realistic and achievable, did today's tasks bring you closer to your goal? Tracking your daily progress and making adjustments accordingly will help you focus and reinforce useful habits.

  • Write down the tasks in a diary.

You have a better chance of achieving your goal if you plan your day in advance. You can use an online diary, mind map, Google calendar, etc.

  • Set as many tasks, plans and goals for the day as possible.

More is not always better; beware of rapid burnout.

  • Reward your successes.

Feel free to reward yourself when you successfully achieve a goal. Don't berate yourself for failures: focus on positive progress.

One way to plan and carry out tasks productively is to use mind maps.

A mind map is a visual illustration of information that contains a central idea with several branches of points and sub-items. This representation of information is easily perceived and processed by the brain. Thus, a mind map for goal setting will be a handy tool to see the detailed steps to achieve your goals.

Step-by-step instructions on how to set goals in mind maps

how to set goals in mind maps

  1. Establish a central theme.
    Obviously, the central theme of the card should be the objective. Start several cards at once with different objectives, don't try to fit everything on one. This can be done on one canvas. Each objective is a separate centrepiece. Add an image or icon that reflects the essence of your goal. Something that will inspire you.
  2. Check targets with SMART.
    Remember that objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, meaningful and time-bound. Make branches with goal criteria for each SMART item.
  3. Break down the targets into smaller ones.
    From each goal, add branches reflecting what the main goal will be made up of. These will be your objectives for achieving it. Use different colours. Add visualisations - icons or pictures that reflect the meaning of the goal.
  4. Make a plan of action to achieve the goals.
    Break down each task into steps. Don't forget time management! Set target dates for each item.

There are many ways and services for setting goals and achieving results. Many people choose mind maps as one of the most visual and convenient goal-setting tools. Because the process of goal formation, goal setting and steps in mind maps is smooth and natural, ideas come as if by themselves during mindmapping. And then the whole picture is visible at a glance, so it's easy to track progress and see where the gaps in goal achievement are. 

That's why, especially if you haven't tried it yet, start planning and setting your goals with IOctopus mind maps!


See also

Come fare una mappa mentale

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