If you’ve ever set yourself a goal, but struggled to achieve it, you’re not alone. You might have started out full of enthusiasm, but then found that staying motivated can be a challenge, especially if you don’t see quick results.

To make it easier to stick to your goals, try this six-step process.

Reflect on previous goals

Start by reflecting on previous goals you set yourself. What did you achieve and how did you achieve it? What actions did you take and what behaviours worked well for you? Take note of what went well and what didn’t go well so you can use this knowledge when setting new goals.

Set goals

Setting goals isn’t just about achievement. Goals give you purpose and direction. If you have put some thought into why you want to achieve a certain goal and have a plan in place to help you get there, you’re more likely to succeed.

Notice how your goal makes you feel. Does it make you feel excited, challenged, happy? Does it align with your values? If you feel ambivalent towards it, is it really something you want to do?

Goals should stretch you. If you stay in your comfort zone, nothing will ever change. Accept that making changes in your life can be difficult, even if it’s something you really want to do, but nothing will change if you don’t challenge yourself.

When you’ve decided on your goals, write them down and make sure they’re specific. If your goals are too vague, you’re less likely to achieve them. One of the reasons New Year’s resolutions often fail is that they can be vague with no plan in place for how you’re going to achieve them.

Make a plan

One of the mistakes people sometimes make when setting goals is that they don’t work out how they’re going to achieve them. When I look back at goals I have set myself, the ones I’ve achieved are the ones where I had a clear vision of how I was going to get there. The ones I didn’t achieve didn’t have a clear plan.

The majority of plans that fail do so because they are not executed properly. Make sure your plan covers everything you need to enable you to achieve your goal. If you need support from someone else, consider who might be able to help and how they can help you.

Include a timeline. You are far more likely to achieve your goal if you set a time limit. Look at how much time you can devote to achieving your goal. This will help you work out how long it is likely to take. If it’s a big goal that’s likely to take a long time, break it down into steps and put time limits on each step to help you stay on track.

As you’re working towards your goals, review your progress from time to time and change your plan if necessary. Sometimes your life can change in ways you didn’t expect, so this might mean having to make changes to your goals or plans.

Be aware of obstacles

When you’re reflecting on previous goals, don’t just look at what you’ve achieved. Look at what you didn’t achieve and work out what stopped you. Ensure your plan covers any potential barriers to you achieving your goals and work out what you can do about it. Look at how motivated you are to achieve this goal. What will you do if your motivation starts to dip? What behaviours are unhelpful and what can you do to change them?

Be accountable

Accountability is key. Sharing your goals with someone is a great way of keeping yourself accountable and a coach is an ideal partner to help you do this. A coach will help you set your goals and put together a plan to help you stay on track. A coach will also challenge you if you start to lose motivation.

Celebrate your wins

As you’re working towards your goals, don’t forget to celebrate your wins, no matter how small. If it’s taking longer than you expected, don’t be too hard on yourself. What might seem small to you could be a huge step forward for someone else.

Above all else, enjoy the journey. Achieving your goals can give you a huge sense of achievement, but make sure you enjoy the process and use it as an opportunity to learn about yourself.


This article was written by Aileen Carson, career and leadership coach. Aileen helps managers in the non-profit sector progress with their career without burning out. You can get in touch with Aileen via her profile page or at aileen@aileencarson.com.