Setting compelling goals

You’ve thought about and written down what you want 2016 to be like, so now it’s time to take another step and get really clear about your goals. 

The dreams in your mind deserve to see the light of day and to have the best possible chance of becoming real. The best way to do that is to create goals.

And the best place to start is to write your dreams down, even the ones that seem outrageously crazy.

If you’re thinking that having your dreams in your mind is enough and don’t see the point of writing them down, try it. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day, that’s a lot of traffic moving through your mind so it’s easy for things to get lost or swamped.

What is a goal?

A goal is something future-oriented and you need to take steps to achieve it.

There’s much said about goal setting. Perhaps, like me, you’ve set goals and not achieved them. But other times you've been successful. We’re going to step through creating compelling ones.

How often have you had a goal but it’s not really important to you. You might be working towards it because someone else told you to or you think that is what’s expected of you. These goals aren’t likely to be achieved, because deep down you’re not motivated by them. A compelling goal is something that’s important to you and you’re committed to achieving it.

Two key things to avoid doing when setting a goal…

  • Don’t set a goal that you don’t feel is ‘right’ for you (we’ll cover that off some more as we go through the steps).
  • Don’t make goals about how you want to feel, e.g. “I want to be happy” or “I want to be confident”. These are emotions or states; they’re a way of being not something you take action to achieve. 

The model we’re using to create compelling goals comes from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). I know, it’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it! This model has been used across the world and helped so many people set and achieve their goals.  

8 steps to setting compelling goals

1.     Positively stated

Remember in module 2 we talked about attracting more of what you want and less of what you don’t want? Well the same ‘rules’ apply here. When you set a goal, make it positive, e.g. “I want to run my first half marathon in a good time.”

Don’t think of a pink elephant! What did you just do? I bet you thought about a pink elephant. So if you set a goal that says “I don’t want to fail my exams”, what will you focus on? Subconsciously you’ll be focused on failing your exams.

Always state your goals positively.

2.     Success indicators

Success indicators let you know whether you’re on track or not to achieve your goal. It’s always about what it’ll be like to ultimately achieve the goal. Knowing how to recognise success will help you stay focussed and engaged with the goal.

  • How will you know if you’re on track to achieve your goal?
  • How will you know you’ve achieved the goal?
  • What will you see, hear and feel that will let you know you’ve achieved the goal?
  • What are you saying to yourself as you achieve the goal?
  • Can you taste or smell anything when you achieve the goal?

Here’s an example of the success indicators for my goal of running a ½ marathon in a good time.

  • I’ll know I’m on track to achieve my goal if I’m sticking to my training programme and the runs are going as well as planned.
  • I’ll know I’ve achieved the goal when I cross the finish line.
  • I’ll see people at the finish line and hear them clapping, there’s a time clock, and I’ll feel hot and sticky, and excited to have run the ½ marathon.
  • As I cross the finish line I’ll be saying “Yahoo I did it, I’ve got stick-ability and I’m more capable than I give myself credit for. I can do anything I put my mind too.”
  • I can smell stinky sweat!

3.     Resources

Often people don’t achieve their goals because they’ve not worked out what they need to be successful. You might need all or some of these – personal qualities (like stick-ability), equipment, money or people.

In the case of the ½ marathon, I needed new running shoes, to get the registration and course information, and talk with a trainer about a programme.

4.     First steps

To get the ball rolling (so to speak) you only need to know the first few steps. It’s easy to become disheartened with a goal right at the start because it seems too big or impossible, or you don’t know how you’ll achieve it.

Let me assure that when you set a goal you won’t know every single step needed to achieve it. Trust that the steps will become clear as you go. The key is to get started. Think of a snow ball. It gets bigger and faster as it goes. Just like the snow ball, the challenging bit is getting started, after that you’re on your way.

5.     Right for you

Have you ever noticed that some of the goals you try to achieve aren’t important to you? Maybe someone else has told you to complete a particular course or lose weight or whatever it is. It’s important that the goal is right for you. After all it’s your life.

How do you know if a goal is right for you? Listen to your heart, your intuition or your gut feel. These questions may also help:

  • What will I get from achieving the goal?
  • Does achieving the goal give me more choices in my life?
  • What are the consequences of not achieving the goal?
  • How does achieving the goal fit with other goals I’ve set for myself?
  • How does this goal fit with the life I dream of living?

6.     Control

Choose goals you can control. When you have no control over your goals, someone or something else will determine whether or not you’re successful. 

So my goal of running a ½ marathon was absolutely within my control. But a goal like “I will travel to South America for a holiday when my best friend says she’s ready to go” is out of my control. I don’t know when she’ll say she’s ready and I’ll just wait (and wait). I’ll set myself up for disappointment because I can’t control the goal.

7.     Realistic

If you don’t believe you can achieve the goal, is it because of the beliefs you have or is the goal unrealistic for you? 

Say I had a goal of swimming Cook Strait in New Zealand. For me, that’s unrealistic. I’m an occasional swimmer in a pool and I sometimes splash around in the surf. I’m not interested in serious swimming nor do I want to invest time, effort or money into it. Running my first ½ marathon was realistic BUT I had some beliefs around whether I could run the distance that I needed to re-set.

8.     Date and time

Set two dates for your goal – when you’ll start and when you’ll have achieved it by.  Be specific, saying “sometime during the year” or in “December” isn’t enough.  Include a month and year, also a day and time if appropriate. 


Now it’s your turn to set a compelling goal. Use the goal worksheet to do this.

Dreams rattling around in your head will most likely never be achieved.  Set yourself compelling goals, put them onto paper, and you’re on the path to success!

*** Download a printable PDF version of the information and exercise here ***

*** Download a copy of the goal template here ***

If you have any questions or comments, please contact me by email.

Live your life as only you can. Your life, your way. – Tracey x