Inside: Learn how to set realistic goals that you’ll actually achieve by using the tips in this post. Create meaningful goals that matter to you and get clear on how and when you will accomplish them.

Setting goals is relatively easy. Achieving them, however, is a different story.

If you’re like the majority of people, you’ve probably found yourself excitedly writing down a list of goals you want to achieve for the year, only to realize you got just a few (if any) of them accomplished once December comes along.

This is because we often approach goal-setting in an emotional way. We simply decide we want something without sitting down to think of the factors that affect if the goal gets achieved (or even remembered) later on.

If this sounds a bit too familiar, it may be time to start setting more realistic goals that you will actually get done. These tips will help you ensure you’re able, and more importantly, actually willing to work towards them.

how to set realistic goals

Tips on How to Set Realistic Goals

Use these seven tips to set more realistic goals that you’ll be more likely to achieve!

1. Brainstorm your goals. Then, get specific.

The first and most important step in setting any goal is deciding what you really want. Yep, it may sound obvious, but having a general sense of what you want (and I mean really want) is not enough when it comes to setting realistic goals.

Sure, you may desire happiness, better relationships, or a healthier lifestyle, but that’s all too broad.

If you want to be happier, think about what you need in life to get there. What does a happy life look like to you? What help you to feel more content? Would it mean making more friends? Socializing more? Moving?

Answering those questions will give you a clearer picture of the “smaller goals” you need to achieve in order to make a general thought a reality. 

Knowing what you want, why you want it, and the steps that will take you to get there is key in setting more realistic goals.

2. Make SMART goals

For goals to be realistic, they need to be designed to be SMART. SMART is an acronym that acts as a helpful guide to set goals that you can actually achieve. Each letter stands for the following:

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relevant/Realistic

T – Time-Bound

SMART goals

For instance, instead of your goal being something vague like “I want to go on vacation”, it can be something SMART instead, like: “I want to go to Durango, Colorado from July 15th, 2022 until August 1st, 2022. In order to do that, I will need to save “X” amount of money to pay for an airbnb, food, travel, and activities. To save that money, I will do ____, ____, and ____.”

See what a difference it makes? When you set a SMART goal, you’re not shooting blindly at the stars. Instead, you’re being specific, setting a deadline, and listing the steps you need to take in order to get there. 

Setting SMART goals means your ideas are clear. Moreover, you need to be realistic when it comes to being able to focus your efforts on the goal, how much time you really have, and how you can best use your current resources.

In essence, being specific, realistic, and having a clear deadline will greatly increase your chances of achieving your goal.

3. Organize your goals

You’ll probably wind up with several goals once you’re done brainstorming and setting SMART goals. That’s ok.

The good thing is that, through the process of brainstorming, you’ll have goals that truly matter to you rather than momentary “wants” that aren’t as important to you. You can then focus your energy on the goals that are most closely aligned with your values and desires.

The next step is to organize your goals into long-term, mid-term, and short-term ones. What can you achieve over the next few weeks? Months? Years? Create a list and write down each and every one of them.

Make sure you’re realistic with your timeline and be sure to consider how your short-term and mid-term goals can impact on the long-term ones.

Want help breaking down your goals? Check out the Simply Focused Workbook to help you think through and plan your goals.

how to set realistic goals

4. Write them down

You’re significantly more likely to achieve your goals and dreams if you write them down. This is because the action of writing down using pen and paper helps you clarify what you want for the future and ensures you are emotionally engaged with achieving your goal.

The process of writing helps your goals to feel more real and also serves as a visual reminder so that you don’t forget them. Reviewing your goals regularly is an important part of helping you to achieve them.

5. Do your research

Instead of going at it blindly, make sure you do proper research, especially when it comes to the more challenging goals. The more you know about the steps you’ll need to take in order to achieve them, the more prepared you’ll be.

For instance, you may want to answer questions like:

  • Do I need to learn any new skills? If so, what are they? Where and how can I learn them?
  • Will my lifestyle need to change? What areas do I need to change? 
  • How much time do I need to set aside to work toward this goal? Is there anything in my schedule I’ll need to change?
  • Considering the time, money, and skills I’ll need in order to reach this goal: What is a realistic timeline?

All of these questions will make it easier to see whether a goal is a long-term, mid-term, or short-term one. You can break down a bigger goal into smaller chunks, which will make the entire process feel a lot less overwhelming and more doable.

mom writing on a laptop

6. Make sure you’re able and willing to make lifestyle changes

One important thing to consider is that our time is limited. How realistic is it that you’ll either be able to use your free time into your goal or make time in the day/week for it?

More often than not, working towards a goal may require some serious lifestyle changes, so make sure you’re willing and able to do just that. You need to create space in your life to achieve your goals.

As a rule, don’t neglect important things in order to work towards your goal. This includes aspects like health, relationships, and self-care.

While reaching your goals is definitely important, those three aspects of your life are essential to even be able to fully enjoy the prize at the end, so make sure they are on your priorities list before anything else.

7. Simplify & focus

Want to give yourself a better shot at setting realistic goals that you will actually achieve? Don’t overcommit.

It’s tempting to set lots of big goals that you’re excited about. However, this can set you up for failure. When you try to take on too much, you’re not likely to succeed at any of them.

Simplify your goals either in number or scope (or both). Look at what season of your life you are in and be realistic about what your bandwidth is.

Setting smaller more manageable goals makes them more realistic and more likely to be achieved. If you happen to accomplish it faster than you anticipated, that’s great. You can always set another goal after.

However, most people tend to have the opposite problem and bite off more than they can chew, which leaves them feeling overwhelmed and eventually defeated. Scaling back and focusing on one small goal at a time will help you to get it accomplished, which will motivate you to continue setting additional goals.

how to set realistic goals

How will you set realistic goals? Let us know in the comments section!

Now that you know how to set realistic goals, it’s time to start working towards them! Make sure your goal-setting aligns with your long-term vision and values.

Don’t set goals just because you (or someone else) think you should or simply because they sound good. Look at your life and the direction you want it to take and set goals that align with just that.

What are your current goals? I’d love to know all about the goals you came up with using these tips, so don’t forget to write them down in the comments section down below!

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  1. Great post Julianna! I actually live very close to Durango!
    Anyway, I have lots of goals for the next year. I’m doing project 333, having no alchohol for awhile, working on writing more, and trying to be more encouraging to my friends. I have noticed that another thing that helps me stay motivated is rewarding myself with small treats along the way. If I reach a benchmark in the process of my goals I reward myself with a little something I’ve been wanting or a little me-time experience. It helps me stay motivated because I can’t get the treat unless I work towards my goal consistently:) yeah, I’m pretty much a puppy lol. But it works!

  2. My main goal is to move from my apartment where I moved to 6 years ago from my house. My lease ends at the end of July. MOTIVATION!! I have selected an active Retirement Village. Possess; Get rid of clothes, PAPERS, and not needed 😑 stuff!

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