guide to setting goals how to set goals

How to Set Goals: A step-by-step guide

Jan 17, 2018Britt Buntain

How to Set Goals: A step-by-step guide

Let’s be honest: new year's goals don't always hit the ground running on January 1st, 2nd, or even 4th. It’s worthwhile to take a little time to settle in and get clear on exactly what you are wanting to build ahead of you. I have a notebook simply dedicated to goal setting, amongst other notebooks for simple, daily life. As you may be able to tell, I'm big on the written word. It’s easier to connect to when it comes to goals and I find it has more stick-to-it-ness than typing. Writing down goals has proven to be very fruitful for me. I’m hesitant to call it manifesting, but I’ve heard that’s what they call it these days. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve created a guide to help you along the way.

    A practical guide to goal setting

    This is a tool for you to use and revisit as much as you want. You can do this as a birthday ritual, a September ritual, New Years, or around any big moment of your life like a career change, moving cities, etc.  

    Are you ready!? 

    Before you begin:

    • Give yourself enough time to complete it all in one go, 30-45 minutes should be plenty. Do it all the way through; no stopping and picking it up again later. This practice is all about being in the flow and riding the creative, intuitive waves that arise with your time here.
    • Create a space that is inspiring to you and free of clutter. Light a candle, make a cup of tea. Get your favourite pen and notebook out. Turn your phone off or to do not disturb. I’m serious.
    • Optional: Set a timer for 5 minutes and meditate to ground your body and notice your thoughts. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Notice where your thoughts go. If/when you notice physical or mental tension, take another deep breath to invite some space through an exhale.


      Now we begin.

      And we begin backwards. I want you to think abstractly about the next 10 years. Woah, starting big, but it will make sense soon. We are getting our hearts to reach wide and then narrow things down to get focused, clear and practical

      Far- Reaching Goals

      1- Write down 10 things that you’d like to accomplish in the next ten years. These can be as outrageous or specific as you want them to be. Just write something down. We’ll revisit long-term goals again later, this first time is more of an exercise to just get the juices flowing *tip: start each point with “ In ten years I will …” so that each point prompts a completion of the sentence. Don’t overthink or feel the need to commit to this, just write down whatever comes to mind. These can be big or small and reach any facet of your life.

      1-in 10 years I will...

      2-in 10 years I will...









      What 5 things would you like to accomplish in the next 5 years?

      1- in 5 years I will...

      2-in 5 years I will...






      Let's get more specific now. 

      1 Year Goals

      Number the next 5 pages of your notebook 1-5 at the top of each page, and then make 5 more bullet points equal distance apart down each page.  Start each page with a new goal by writing “This year I will…...”. Then use the following 4 questions to fill in the spaces between each bullet point. Do this one goal at a time until all 5 are done.

      1- Ask yourself why you want this.

      • Be honest here; what’s the bigger purpose, cause, belief, or desire that would keep you motivated? Please don't judge yourself on the answer. The more honest you are with yourself here the more likely you’ll reach and maintain your goals, and remember why you want this when you are making daily decisions that affect small steps to reaching these goals.


      2- What supports you reaching this goal?

      •  Tell a friend, writing it on a post it note by your coffee maker, creating a reminder in your phone, replacing an old habit with this new one… whatever it is, think about what will help you reach your goals. Again, another time to be honest with yourself.


      3- When can you start and when will you reach this?

      • Pick a specific day and reasonable time to begin. Write it down or tap it into iCal. Make starting this as important as showing up for an MRI.
      • When do you want to reach this? Write “ I will _____ by____:”


      4- What will it feel like to accomplish this goal?


      3- Short-term goals

      Write down three goals/habits that you can implement daily or weekly that may support any or all of the 1-year goals. Hint- you may have already written these down, or there may be one thing that can help tie a few things together.

      EXAMPLE: If your 5-year goal is to write a book, you could start with writing every morning or joining a creative writing group. I have a friend who wanted to travel more last year, so she talked to her bank about automatically taking a specific amount off each paycheck and depositing it into a TFSA for her. She doesn’t ever see it in her chequing account and when she wants to book a trip she’s ready and so are the funds. Do you see what I’m getting at here? Your daily and weekly habits can really add up.

      Apply the same questions as above:

      1- write down your goal 

      2- Why are you doing this/ what bigger goal does this support? 

      3- how are you going to do this? 

      4-when do you want to reach this by? 

      5- how will it feel to accomplish this? 


      -If you need to recalibrate to make things more realistic for yourself, then do that anytime. If exercising 4 times a week really doesn’t work for you like 2 or 3 times would, then commit to 2-3 times. Or change the exercise so you look forward to it. Or get a friend to join you and help keep you accountable.  Make your goals adaptable, honest and realistic for yourself.  


      Getting bigger again...audacious even

      The steps to getting through this next part are the same as if you would eat an elephant: one bite at a time.

      • When I first wrote like this 3 years ago, my big hairy audacious goal was opening a store. Six months later, I did. Two years after that, my goal was to close the store and continue to grow my business in another way. My point is: don’t think about this as permanent, view this as stepping stones to the matters of your heart. Trust yourself here, even if, especially if, you don't have all the steps figured out yet.
      “The more important the work is to your soul’s evolution, the more resistance and fear you will feel towards pursuing it”
      - Steven Pressfield, Author of The War of Art

         Make a list of 1-10 going down your page. Then start each line with "If I wasn't afraid, I would...." and keep going. Try not to stop writing until you have reached the end of the 10th response.

        1- If i wasn't afraid, I would...
        2- If I wasn't afraid, I would...


        Write your initial gut response is to these questions:

        • What’s the whisper in your heart that wants to get out?
        • What if time and money didn’t matter, what would you want for yourself right now?
        • What is fear holding you back from?
        • How are you feeling right now?
        • Is there anything else you need to get out and on the page?


        - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
          When you are done, take a breath. A sip of tea. Go back to the beginning and read your responses. Let it marinate. Circle what stands out to you- where you repeated yourself, where you broke open a little more, what surprised you, and where you really want to focus. 
          • Set a reminder in your calendar to come back to this and re-read it 2 weeks from now, 1 month from now, 3 months from now, and so on...


          Trust yourself.  Make a practice to check in and remember what you want to create. Know that you are capable. Don't be afraid of fear; use it as a guide. 

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