How to Set Goals

Whether we’re acutely aware, we all have goals we’re working toward. They might be related to our career, relationships, finances, or physical and mental well-being.

The biggest obstacle to success often lies in that we haven’t designed a roadmap to help us actually achieve it. Just as the rule of thumb for carpenters is to “measure twice, cut once”, the planning and preparation of how to achieve goals is a critical first step. 

The process of setting well-defined goals can be transformative. You can uncover your potential, see your progress, and thrive. Let’s explore the fundamentals of setting health goals and the strategies needed to pave your way to success.  

Types of Goals

Not all goals are created equally. When deciding what you’d like to change, consider which types of goals make the most sense. Perhaps there’s a larger goal you’re shooting for, but it would help to create smaller, short-term goals as mile markers. 

This way, you can celebrate your progress more frequently. For example, if your large goal is to run a half-marathon in the next year, make smaller goals first, like being able to run one mile without stopping by the end of the month. 

Creating a Goal-Setting Plan 

Consider your long-term health vision. Where do you want to be in one year or 10 years from now? How will achieving the goals on your mind today benefit your quality of life down the road? Clarifying these things helps solidify what you want to achieve. 

Creative practices can help you come up with more meaningful goals. Try doing a brain dump, writing down everything you want to improve and achieve in regard to your health and wellness. 

Another idea is to make a vision board. In this practice, you’ll use magazine clippings, images, and words to create a collage of what you want life to look like. Keep your health goals at the forefront to help you organize your priorities.  

Setting Realistic and Specific Goals  

One of the best approaches to setting yourself up for success is to use SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for:

  • S: Specific goals have a clear outcome, like “I want to improve my sleep quality, get at least 7 hours a night, and wake up rested.” 
  • M: Measurable goals have numbers attached to them so you can track progress, like “I want to lose 10 pounds by the end of March.” 
  • A: Achievable goals are realistic, and not so lofty that you’re setting yourself up for failure simply due to logistics. This might mean breaking down a larger goal into bite-sized pieces that are more manageable. For instance, rather than saying you want to overhaul your whole diet tomorrow, you could start by incorporating a daily multivitamin 
  • R: Relevant goals have a mission related to improving your life, rather than just adding something to your to-do list that doesn’t really matter to you in the long run. 
  • T: Time-bound goals have a deadline, which helps you stay accountable. If you were to just say “I want to run a 5K” but don’t put a deadline on it, you could extend this goal forever without making much progress.

Creating SMART goals helps ensure that you’re pursuing something realistic and can continuously track your progress to a clear end. Without these characteristics, goals can become more fluid and less of a priority with all of the distractions around us. 

Setting Goals For Success

Goal setting is an art that requires focus and clarity. By using SMART goals, you can set yourself up for success in improving your health and quality of life. Whether you’re focusing on your nutrition, exercise, body composition, mental health, or all of the above, it’s crucial to invest time in the planning and preparation aspect of goal setting.

  • by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD

Shared from

  1. Eckhoff DO, Weiss J. Goal setting: A concept analysis. Nurs Forum. 2020;55(2):275-281. doi:10.1111/nuf.12426