In 1961, President John F. Kennedy publicly set a goal to place a man on the moon by the end of the decade. The statement was met with incredulity and derision, but then in 1969 Neil Armstrong achieved that goal set eight years previously.

Do you think this happened just because JFK said it? No, he put a step-by-step plan in place to get there.

This is proof that the power of goal setting should not be underestimated, and while this example is on a grand scale, the principle can have a significant positive impact on achievements in many aspects of your everyday life.

Setting goals costs nothing except a bit of your time, but can provide successful results at work and in life generally. However, goal setting is a skill that needs to be learnt in the right way, so that you can set yourself clear, well-defined and realistic goals. The simple steps of goal setting can be broken down to the following five stages.

1. Dream a dream

Goal setting is initially about realising what you really want to achieve in the future, in essence, what your dreams are. Pick out a handful of them and start from there. Too many and you may feel overwhelmed, so choose a few broader goals if you’re struggling to whittle them down.

2. Make them measurable

This is where you need to ask yourself if the dreams you set out in the first stage can be made into realistic goals and achievements. If one or more of them seem unachievable then it may be useful to set a goal that is a step towards this end dream, but is something that can be achieved in the near future. This step is also to make sure that your goal is a quantifiable objective, or as close to. For example, it’s the difference between ‘wanting to get fitter’ and ‘being able to run 10 miles without stopping’.

3. Tie down a time-frame

There is a division in opinion between whether short or long-term goals are more motivating. A good compromise is to have a mixture of both. Three months for a short-term goal is a good place to start, and anywhere from one year to 10 years can be beneficial as a long-term goal. The time-frame (especially in the long-term) will be a matter of personal suitability. It’s important to have a completion date written down – many ‘New Year’s resolutions‘ are open-ended, and as a result, 92% of them fail by 15th January.

4. Create checkpoints

The art of self-regulation is a critical skill in goal setting, so you want to give yourself the best chance to recognise if you’re on the right trajectory towards your goal, or if you’re faltering in any way. Having checkpoints and benchmarks within the time period that you’ve set can keep up positive momentum.

5. Succeed and celebrate

After you’ve achieved a goal, make sure that you take the time to celebrate the achievement and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. This isn’t you resting on your laurels, it’s a recognition of your hard work.

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These basic steps are a great start to setting and achieving realistic goals, but there are other aspects not taken into consideration here. For example, your goals can involve other people and be collaborative, or be solely based on combinations of ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions and answers.

To explore how far you can go to make positive changes through goal setting, why not try our Wheel of Life. It’s a free tool which gives you an insight into certain aspects of your life. It will show you how you are performing in these areas in line with your personal perspective, and give you guidance as to how you can improve in the future to get to your ideal. Click here to find out more.