Raise your hand if you’ve ever set goals and then didn’t follow through on them?
Yeah, I know all about that. I’ve always been a dreamer type. Coming up with ideas and brainstorming plans is one of my favorite things, ever.
But, following through hasn’t always been my strong suit.
For many years, it seemed like “life would happen” and my best-laid plans would go out the window faster than the tears start flowing while watching This Is Us.
I’ve seen this happen with my clients, too.
So, over the years, I’ve taken an honest look at my process to set goals and have gotten really clear about where things go off the rails.
And this year, I’m distilling that wisdom down into a straightforward process, with some “get real” prompts to help you set goals that you’ll actually follow through on.
How To Set Goals You’ll Actually Follow Through On
Whether it’s the new year or a random Tuesday in May, you can use this process to set goals that you’ll actually follow through on. I encourage you to be RADICALLY honest with yourself through this process because, at the end of the day, that is where the whole “follow through” part fails for most people.
Decide the General Category of the Goal You Want to Set
Ask ten different people what the categories of life are and you’ll get ten different answers. Here are the categories I currently work with:
- Physical Health
- Emotional and Mental Wellbeing
- Spiritual Connection
- Home and Environment
- Finances and Money
No matter how you slice life, I find it easier to set goals one category at a time. And then, once I feel complete on my goals in one category, I move onto the next.
For example, I’ll go through this whole process with all of my physical health goals before creating goals for my emotional and mental wellbeing.
This helps me to really stay focused and get really clear about what I really want in any given category. It also helps me to create a bigger picture of how all of these things tie together.
Figure Out What Is Important to You In That Category
When you Create Your Vision, getting clear on what is actually important to you is mission critical. One of the things I see happen, over and over again, is people choosing goals based on what they think they “should” want instead of what they actually want.
If you set goals based on what other people value, not only will you be less likely to follow through, but you’ll wander around life wondering what the point is.
To live an intentional life of meaning and satisfaction, you’ve got to start by defining your personal core values. You need to like the reasons you are pursing the goal in the first place!
Choose a “Starting Point” Goal
Once you are clear on what is important to you, come up with a few goals you could pursue to honor that value within the category you are working on.
For example, if you value commitment, in the emotional and mental wellbeing category, you could set a goal to journal every day for a whole year.
Once you have a list of goals you could pursue, decide which one you most want to pursue.
Fair warning: this part might feel hard. There are SO MANY goals you could pursue. But you’ve just got to decide which one you’re going to pick.
Despite what you may think, the actual goal isn’t what REALLY matters here. What really matters is the person you become in the pursuit of your dreams and intentions.
So, just go with your gut.
Of the goals you could pursue in this category, which one just feels right? (Hint: the right goal will usually bring up instant self-doubt!)
Make it Measurable
One of the common mistakes I see with the folks I work with (highly sensitive empathic dreamer types!), is they have a lot of resistance to making a goal measurable.
For some, it even feels “gross” to get really specific. My clients often tell me that when they put numbers with their goals, they start to feel an unhealthy sort of attachment that they don’t want to have.
And I get it. I don’t like to feel that attachment either.
But, at its energetic core, attachment is what happens when you make your worthiness and value as a human being dependant on a goal or outcome.
And, so, making your goals measurable can feel like an assault to a fragile sense of self-worth.
As I like to remind folks, though, worthiness and “enoughness” aren’t actually real things. They are just thoughts and you get to choose your thoughts, always and 100% of the time. You get to choose worthiness no matter what happens with your goals.
So, with that in mind, you can start to tap into the benefits of your goals being measurable. When your goal has specific measures, you’ll be able to easily discern where you are in relationship to them. AND, you can make INFORMED decisions about whether or not your mindset and/or actions are aligned with your goal.
I mean, for real, if you are holding an energetic stance or taking misaligned action, that is really good information to have!
And, also, those measurable parameters can give you a tangible way to celebrate progress and to blow your own damn mind with what is possible.
So, let’s look at a money goal as example.
You might start with a goal to “make more money.”
Which is actually quite easy. You can find a penny in the parking lot at Target and, techinically, you’ve achieved your goal.
But that isn’t what you actually MEAN when you say you want to make more money, is it?
So, say what you actually mean in a real and measurable way.
I want to make $100k in 2019.
See the difference? It’s way more measurable. You either meet that goal or you don’t. (which, btw, is different than intentions.)
And you’ll also know where you are in relationship to that goal at any given time, which, as I said before is super useful.
So, let your attachments go and get specific!
Check In With How You Feel
Remember that little hint I gave you before where I said that a feeling doubt when you state your goal is usually a sign that you’re right on track?
To be clear, fear and doubt don’t ALWAYS mean move forward. Fear is an invitation to tune in and assess the risks of any given scenario. Whether that is figuring out if there is a tiger on the savannah or deciding if moving forward with your dreams are worth the risks involved.
But, when it comes to following your dreams, you are going to experience doubts. And that is the beauty of setting goals.
When you goals that are truly aligned for you, they will stretch you and you will have to grow into the person who achieved the goal. That is WHY you set goals in the first place!
That said, under that doubt, you also want to have a sense of it being the right goal, despite the fact that the doubt is there. You want to have an internal knowing of it being the right thing and a little fire of OH HELL YES in your belly about it.
A lot of time, the “right” goal for you will make you feel lit up inside AND some doubt, all at the same time.
That’s how you know.
Shed the Shoulds
You are now at a crossroads in your goal setting process. It’s time to circle back to what really matters to you and make sure your goal actually honors what’s important. And, more importantly, that it isn’t tainted with what you feel like you should do.
A good way to know this is to ask yourself how you think achieving the goal will make you feel. List those feelings and tell yourself the truth about their connection to how other people perceive you.
For example, let’s say that you’ve set a goal to lose some weight. When you ask yourself how you think achieving that goal will make you feel, you might notice that what you are really hoping for is for other people to find you attractive, or sexy, or desirable.
It’s not that wanting to feel attractive, sexy, or desirable is wrong. But, they can be a big clue that you are chasing something that you think you should want.
And, even more than that, when you go after goals based on what other people will think, you are fighting a losing a battle because you are not in control of that. People will think what they think.
So, do this final little check up to shed any shoulds around your goal. And, if necessary, you might need to do some soul searching about what you actually want and then revisit this process when you are more clear about what you really want.
Challenge Your Commitment
Here is where shit starts getting real. LOL.
If you’ve already determined that you really are going after goals that align with what you really want, the other reason you might struggle with following through is because you aren’t actually committed to them.
What a lot of folks don’t know about goal setting is that it activates the natural alchemical process of transformation, which means that all the “stuff” that is blocking you from the goal or intention is going to show up.
That “stuff” might be tangible things like not knowing how to do something or having to overcome physical challenges. But, it could also be things like bad habits, self-sabotage, limiting beliefs, and/or disempowering emotional patterns.
To set goals that you will actually follow through on and actually be able to achieve the goals you set, you’ve got to acknowledge that you’ll have to work through those things.
For example, I work with a lot of folks on their boundaries.
One of the things that ALWAYS happens when we start working together is that they get all pumped up about setting boundaries only to feel deflated when the people in their lives don’t respect their boundaries.
They think that means something has gone wrong.
But, actually, it’s EXPECTED.
If the people in their lives were thrilled about their new boundaries, they wouldn’t have to hire me to help them with their boundaries!
In order to have guilt-free healthy boundaries, they’ve got to be willing to face those challenges and work through them. (That’s where I come in!)
Otherwise, it will seem like giving up is just written in the stars.
So, when you set goals, you’ve got to ask yourself:
Are you confident in your ability to have your own back through the process of facing the challenges? Are you willing to overcome ANY obstacle? Are you truly ALL IN?
If your answer to those questions is no, then you’ve found the root of your follow-through problem and you need to work on that before actually solidifying your goals.
Frame It Up In the Present Tense
Once you know you’re ALL IN, it’s time to start taking your goal and turning it into plans. The first step in that process is to write it in the present tense with an “I” statement, as if you are stating a fact to someone.
For example, let’s go back to the money example.
A present tense I statement for that goal might be:
I make $100k per year.
Or, it might also look like this:
In 2019, I made $100k.
This might seem like a silly part but it’s an important part of the process to set goals that you’ll actually follow through on.
When you frame your goal in the present tense, as if it has already happened, it’s helps you to clarify how to move forward. It helps you to see where your energy and/or actions are out of alignment with that goal.
This might mean that the doubt we talked about earlier shows up. And, it might also be that it helps you see that you are investing your energy in places that just aren’t in service to your dreams and goals.
It helps you to empathize with your future self and choose your next steps accordingly.
Acknowledge The Obstacles
Remember before when I talked about commitment? Well, when the obstacles come up, it WILL test your commitment.
Your brain likes to do what it has always done so when those obstacles appear, your brain will come up with all sorts of reasons to give up or settle for something less.
That is why it is SO IMPORTANT to PLAN FOR the obstacles.
Acknowledge them. And decide, ahead of time, how you will face those challenges.
For example, when doubt comes, how will you restore your faith? How will you keep believing in yourself and your dreams?
When life gets in the way and you fall out of alignment, what will you do to bring yourself back to center? How will you stay focused on what matters?
When you get thrown a curveball, do you have your catcher’s mitt on?
If not, following through will be nearly impossible. To follow through when you set goals, you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches and get right back up when you fall down.
It’s literally the only way.
So, please, don’t skip this step.
Call In Your Allies
Now that you’ve looked at the obstacles, it’s time to call in your allies.
Your allies are anything and everything that can support you in your dreams and goals. They can be friends to help you when you get stuck in the metaphorical weeds, an energy healer to help you dissolve your blocks (wink, wink), certain meditations that help you stay focused, or anything else that will support you along the way.
Ask yourself what you really need to feel truly supported in your goals and lay the groundwork to put those things in place.
Thinking about those things, up front, will help you in the long run.
Start Making Plans
Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks and start making more concrete plans for achieving the goal you’ve set.
The type of goal you’ve set will really determine what kind of plans you need to make.
But, let’s start with a more simple goal, like, say, journaling every day for a year.
What needs to happen for you to begin journaling everyday?
Well, you need a journal, you need a pen, you need some sacred space, and you need a way to track your progress.
So, do you have a journal? No. Step one for meeting your goal is to buy a journal. Do you have a pen you love? No. Step two is to buy one.
And, I don’t say that sarcastically or to insult your intelligence.
When it comes to follow through, breaking your goals down into tangible “what do I actually need to do” steps is SO helpful. Otherwise, it’s really easy to start getting bogged down in the “how? how? how?” energy (which is a topic for another day!).
Let’s look at another example.
Let’s say that you want to build a model airplane but that you don’t know how to build a model airplane. Then, your first step might be to take a local class, get a book, or watch some videos on youtube.
And keep breaking it down.
If your goal is more of a long term goal, you may also want to break it down into measurable milestones. With the money example, that might mean that by the first quarter, you need to make $25k.
Decide A Check In Process + Schedule Your Check Ins
OK, so, I gotta tell you, for me, this was one of the KEY missing pieces in my own goal setting process. It took me a while to really “get” how important it is to check in with my goals and intentions to see where I’m at.
I think, for me, one of the problems was that I was attaching my worth to my goals and so, if I checked in an hadn’t made the progress I wanted to make, I would use those check ins as a way to beat myself up and shame myself.
I really shifted my energy around that and now, I totally understand the importance of checking in.
Checking in isn’t a tool to beat yourself up or prove your worthiness. It’s a way to catch up with where you are and make adjustments.
It’s also a way to see the places where you didn’t meet yourself where you are or where you had a little case of perfectionism when you make your plans.
And when you show up to those check ins, NO MATTER YOUR PROGRESS, it builds a deep sense of self trust that you can only get by showing up. And THAT is mission critical for following through.
The Essence of Following Through When You Set Goals
Ultimately, following through on your goals is really about getting claer about what you actually want and then putting a process into place to help you stay focused on those goals.
And yea, in the beginning, it will feel like a huge process.
But, I promise that if you are willing to go through it, you will shift your ability to follow through. It will change the game of goal setting and will eventually become second nature when you are thinking about your goals.
To me, the best part, though, is that sticking with it means you are ALL IN on your life. You will be doing what you actually want to be doing. And you’ll be building your confidence, trust, and faith all along the way.
It doesn’t get better than that.