5 Goal Setting Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Dreams

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Title Card - The title takes over the center of the image and says "5 Goal Setting Tips That Will Help You Achieve Your Dreams." In the background is this image: An open notebook with the word "Goals" written at the top sits on a pink Bristol board. There's a pen sitting beside it. The Bristol board is on top of a white table, decorated with pink flowers. There's a keyboard on the top right and post its on the top left.

Hiya Lovelies:

Goal setting can be kind of a stressful endeavour.

There’s this pressure to renew yourself, to better yourself and to achieve (or at least set out to achieve) some pretty ginormous things.

And you know what all that pressure adds up to? Anxiety baby!

But there are better ways ways to chase your dreams! Goals don’t have to feel like stressful undertakings. And perfectionism can suck it!

You can rework your approach to goals and make it a much less stressful, far more enjoyable experience! Let’s talk about it…

When Goals Hurt

A woman stares at the camera, her hands at her temples and her face scrunches as if she has a headache. In the background is a chalkboard with lightning boards drawn in yellow, all pointed at her head.

It’s good to dream big! Big dreams are wonderful. Unrealistic, monumental goals aren’t so much. Vowing to make huge, unrealistic changes can not only set you up for failure, but cause a ton of stress. Oof, no thanks! When you set the stakes too high you may set yourself up for a ton of pain.

So Are Big Goals a Bad Idea?

Heck no! Dreaming and working to achieve the things that excite you are wonderful. But there are a few key factors that can make all the difference, set you up for success and reduce the stress.

Here are 5 tips that can help:

5 Goal Setting Tips

A notebook with a quote that says "Let Your Dreams Set Sail" in blue on the cover. There are little waves on the bottom. It sits on a black table, there is an orange pen right beside it as well as a plant and a cell phone. Journals are great for goal setting.

1. Know The Difference Between Inner And Outer Goals

The distinction between these two babies is pretty freaking important. So what are they?

Outer Goals

Achievements that appear successful to the outside world. They might fit into a cultural ideal, please your family or simply be perceived as good by those around you.

Inner Goals

Focus on how you want to feel and what you want to achieve, regardless of outer perceptions.

Sometimes outer and inner goals align, and that’s fantastic.

But inner goals should be your main focus. This is your life after all, you should be building something you’re excited about.

A woman stares at the came and smiles, all while making a heart share with her hands. Behind her is a grey brick wall.

If you aren’t sure where your goals stand on the inner/outer goal spectrum, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you hoping to achieve this for you or those around you?
  2. Does this goal align with the life that you want to create for yourself?
  3. Do you feel pressured to achieve this goal?
  4. When you close your eyes and imagine achieving this goal, do you feel fulfilled?

Related: The Self-Care Check In Questions You Need To Ask

2. Embrace A ‘Less Is More’ Mentality

A woman stands outside, with a notebook open in her hands, taking notes. She has her headphones in. Behind here are trees and green grass.

You might be tempted to have a list of goals ten pages long and start achieving the big things stat! But a long, strenuous, life changing to-do list will only lead to panic and potentially inaction. Because it’s just too dang much!

When you set out like this you may be biting off way more than you can chew, and that only leads to a burn out. So narrow it down and focus on a couple of things that are essential and/or excite you.

You can even take big goals and break them down into achievable steps, building up towards the major accomplishment.

3. Go With The Flow

A woman sits in an office chair. She's looking to her right, smiling and pointing her pointer finger up, as if she has an idea. There is a drawing of a light bulb going off in the left hand corner of the image.

You know that feeling when you’re completely in the zone? Fully immersed in your work, creating pure genius and feeling super excited about it? That’s the flow state! And that kind of goodness can’t be planned, it’s often caused by improvisation and focus. 

When you’re in a state of flow, uninhibited by your own inner critic, you become more creative and expressive. And some pretty darn cool accomplishments can come out of that. 

Sound too good to be true?

According to a study by John Hopkins Researchers, the spontaneity and creativity of the flow state allows observing jazz musicians to improvise amazing music! (source)

So set a few inner goals, but don’t over goal yourself and lose the opportunity to create a flow that allows you to create something authentic, unexpected and completely yours.

4. Realize It’s About Progress, Not Perfection

Jenga blocks are sent up like a staircase. Someone holds their fingers out on the blocks, as if their fingers are walking up the stairs.

Oh perfection. That mean little word holds so many of us back. And I get it. It affects everyone from time to time. Goodness, the perfection bug bites me sometimes too in my work here. It an really hold you back! But perfection isn’t only impossible, it’s unauthentic and down right harmful.

Perfection undermines you in so many ways.

  1. Sometimes it stops you from even getting started in the first place, because the idea of perfecting something is so daunting and panic inducing that you feel like you shouldn’t even bother trying.
  2. The pressures of perfection might burn you out while you try to reach it’s impossible heights.
  3. It may cause you toss in the cards and give up.

A woman at a desk, with a notebook and laptop in front of her, her side to the camera. She smiles and raises her arms in the air as if she is celebrating something.

And while it’s definitely ok to give up sometimes (we’ll talk more about that in a sec), I bet we wouldn’t do it as often if the pressure of being perfect weren’t there.

So let’s take a deep breath together and let the idea of perfection go. Let’s focus on progress instead, shall we?

When your goal setting is all about progress and not about perfection, you add a ton of joy and discovery to your ventures. Progress cheers you on. It stems from an open minded place and sometimes even leads you in directions you never could have discovered under the pressures of perfection.

5. Give Yourself Ample Time

A woman lays on her bed, her arms propped up by pillows. She holds her journal open with her left hand, and has a pen in her right, ready to write. You can see ample goal setting notes written in her notebook.

You know what else can cause a ton of pressure and anxiety? Time constraints.

If you’re anything like me, the crushing feeling of too much to do and too little time to do it is outright painful. And you know how we often deal with that kind of blunder? We steal time from other areas, like sleep or self-care. That’s never good for our well-being.

It’s important to be realistic in your goal setting and give yourself the time and space you need to feel safe and secure enough to achieve them. And it really doesn’t hurt to add extra time to the plan too, just in case.

Life is full of surprises and sometimes things take longer to build than you anticipated. A little leeway can do a long way.

Related: The Wonderful Benefits and Importance of Rest

6. It’s Ok To Change Your Mind

Someone stands at the top of a hill, far away from the camera. They have their arms in the air, as if celebrating. Behind them is a body of water and other hills in the distance.

You may find yourself halfway through your goal and feeling unfulfilled. Don’t panic.

Pause for a moment, reflect on what you’ve accomplished and what you had set out to do in the first place. If the goal no longer aligns with your path, don’t be afraid to let it go. (If you need a little help reflecting, meditation is a huge help).

You are not bound to these dreams. Sometimes you’ll outgrow things and that’s ok. Don’t be afraid to walk away from something that no longer serves you, even if it’s your own dreams. You are allowed to outgrow goals before they are achieved.

I promise you, there are new adventures waiting just around the corner.

Final Thoughts

A black letter board that says "You Got This." The background is yellow, orange and blue.

Be gentle with yourself as you achieve those dreams. You’re doing great! And it’s ok if things take time. Little by little we go so far. Even the baby steps matter.

Now it’s your turn – what goal setting tips would you add to the list? How do you pursue your goals in a healthy way? Share with us in the comments below.

Health and love,

sara-signature

Thought of the day: I will pursue my dreams in a way that is loving and respectful towards myself. 

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Sara | Ms. Health-Esteem

Sara Flanagan is a wellness writer and the creator of www.mshealthesteem.com, where she shares her story of being diagnosed with Graves Disease, a chronic autoimmune disease, and empowering herself to do everything she can to thrive in spite of her diagnosis. She writes articles on self-love, acceptance, wellness and nutrition. Join the Health-Esteem Family today and share in the journey.

45 Comments

  1. Reply

    ltebrinke

    January 3, 2018

    I like how you are helping us to remember that it’s all a progressive thing, and goals don’t happen over night. Great post!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 3, 2018

      I’m so happy you like it Lisa! Every step counts ♡. Wishing you well as you pursue your goals and dreams 😊

  2. Reply

    Mishael Witty

    January 3, 2018

    I love tips #s 3 and 5! I am a perfectionist at heart, and I tend to think that if I change my mind at some point after I’ve set my goals, then I’ve failed somehow. But you just helped me see that in a different way. I haven’t failed; I’m just on a different path!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 3, 2018

      That’s so wonderful to heal Mishael! Sometimes discovering that you’re on a new path is the most exciting adventure of all. You never know what new, wonderful possibilities you’ll find there. <3

  3. Reply

    Jamie

    January 3, 2018

    I love the idea of fluidity in goal setting. I tend to be a perfectionist so things need to go A, B, C. I find myself highly frustrated because often life goes A, K, E. I had resolved not to resolve anything this year but I think maybe I’ll rethink it with a more self reflective not rigid one. Happy New Year Sara!! Hope yours is fab! ❤️

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 3, 2018

      Oh goodness I feel you Jamie! I’ve been a victim of life’s AKE curveballs too. It takes time, but learning to embrace more fluidity is a huge help. And often times things turn out far more amazing than I think they ever would have if things went in the ABC direction I envisioned. I hope you have fun discovering a new way to set and achieve your goals hun! <3 Wishing you a wonderful New Year too! I hope it's magical :).

  4. Reply

    katiemayor

    January 4, 2018

    It’s great to think of goals as ‘inner’ and ‘outer’. I’ve never thought of it like that before, but will now. Nice post!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 4, 2018

      I’m so glad you like the idea of looking at goals this way Katie! That’s awesome. Thank you so much ♡. Happy dream building 😊

  5. Reply

    Nadine

    January 4, 2018

    Love your positivism and specifying inner and outer goals! Great read!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 4, 2018

      I’m so glad to hear that Nadine! Thank you ♡. Wishing you well as you pursue your dreams!

  6. Reply

    Mom

    January 4, 2018

    Hi Baby – this is awesome – makes me think – when you were all babies, I could have used this advice! Love you
    Mom

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 4, 2018

      Thank you mama! I’m so glad you liked it ♡. You did an amazing job with the 4 of us. I wouldn’t be writing things like this if it weren’t for your amazing and inspiring influences. I love you ♡

  7. Reply

    Jonathan

    January 6, 2018

    Changing my mind will not be a problem. Thanks for the tips to starting an on task new year. I like to shoot big but this is a good reminder to start small first.

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 8, 2018

      I’m so happy you like the tips Jonathan! That’s wonderful :). And I’m glad you’re comfortable with changing your mind if your goals no longer fit. Sometimes that can be one of the hardest things to do – it’s admirable and wonderful that you’re at peace with change! Wishing you a wonderful year ^^.

  8. Reply

    lookforlittlehelpers

    January 7, 2018

    I completely agree with this list! The one that resonated most with me was that “it’s about progress, not perfection.” I think it is easy to set a goal at the beginning of the year and then to get discouraged immediately when you didn’t complete it in your vision of the “ideal.” Ideal and reality are often very different. You are still successful even if you haven’t met that ideal version. Anything we do to improve ourselves is beneficial.

    Love the content…keep it coming!

    Ashley @ Look for LIttle Helpers

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 8, 2018

      Yes! I love your thoughts Ashley! Such a wonderful way to put it. Reality and our ideals definitely don’t always match, but that doesn’t mean that the reality we create isn’t a wonderful success. You said it so wonderfully. Thank you so much for sharing :). Wishing you a wonderful year and a beautiful reality ^^.

  9. Reply

    brighteyes77au

    January 7, 2018

    I love the idea of reassessing those goals if they don’t seem to be working for you!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 8, 2018

      Absolutely! I’m so happy you agree. I think it’s important to give ourselves permission to reassess and change routes if needed. It’s our world we’re building after all <3. Wishing you a wonderful year full of dream building 🙂

  10. Reply

    Stephanie

    January 9, 2018

    Great post! I like to focus on value — what do I give the most value and what actions can I take that will lead me to a life that is aligned with those values.

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 9, 2018

      That’s a fantastic way of looking at things Stephanie! That really helps to make sure that you’re pursuing your inner goals and making sure you’re building a life you adore. I love it! Thanks for sharing your wonderful outlook 🙂

  11. Reply

    GirlVsCity

    January 10, 2018

    This is such a fantastic list! Thank you for putting this together. I’m working on inner goals this year, and I know eventually, they will cross over to outer goals. One step at a time! 😀

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 10, 2018

      I’m so happy you loved it Jessica! You’re more than welcome ♡. I hope you have a beautiful year focusing on wonderful inner goals 😊.

  12. Reply

    Imogen @ I'M HIRED

    January 11, 2018

    Never really thought about the inner/outer goal idea but love that thought.
    Also, the timeline is key to make your goals real!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 12, 2018

      I’m so glad you like the idea of inner and outer goals Imogen! And you couldn’t be more right – timeline really matters. It’s especially important to give yourself enough time so you have the space you need to achieve your goal :). I love it! Thanks for sharing your awesome tip <3

  13. Reply

    The Restless Wild

    January 12, 2018

    Great tips! I think it’s good to know which are inner and outer goals, and that way you can stay focused on your personal values and the goals that align with that. Very helpful post!

    • Reply

      Sara

      January 12, 2018

      Thank you so much Liz! I’m really happy you like the idea of inner and outer goals <3. It's so important that we build a life we love ^^. Wishing you a wonderful year focused on marvelous inner goals!

  14. Reply

    Taiwo

    November 15, 2018

    I struggle with the perfection thing a lot. Thanks for the tips.

  15. Reply

    Christine

    February 1, 2021

    YES! I am all for setting SMART goals. I think as you mentioned, it’s important to aim for progress, rather than perfection. When we see progress, it drives us to keep going forward in reaching this goal.

  16. Reply

    Marysa

    February 2, 2021

    I need to be more organized, and set goals and have a plan. This is a good way to have better focus.

  17. Reply

    Carrie Ann

    February 2, 2021

    I struggle with perfectionism, but I actually feel less stress when I set goals and have steps written down to achieve them. It takes the overwhelm away and lets me bite off small pieces to work on so I always feel like I’m on a positive path.

  18. Reply

    Mar Wahrer

    February 2, 2021

    These are excellent points! I love setting goals because I feel so accomplished when I crush them. The idea of creating both outer and inner goals is wonderful.

  19. Reply

    Ashley t

    February 2, 2021

    I love setting goals, it makes me feel like im being productive. I’ve never heard of inner goals and outer goals-I will start implementing these in my goal setting.

  20. Reply

    Claudia Blanton

    February 2, 2021

    Less is more – yes! I am one of those people who had to learn that the hard way because I used to make too many goals and then not achieve them. Very good tips! Blessings!

  21. Reply

    WritesandBlogs

    February 2, 2021

    I love the way you have defined outer and inner goals and explained the concepts so well. In fact without goals, achievements do not come in. Very nice article, inspiring one.

  22. Reply

    Cindy

    February 3, 2021

    Great suggestions. You are so right that perfection will make you feel defeated.

  23. Reply

    LifeMagHealth

    February 3, 2021

    Thank you so much for the tips and wisdom, these are all helpful and I gotta share this!

  24. Reply

    forkwardthinkingfoodinista

    February 3, 2021

    This was such a great read. Goal setting is so important and through this process helps tick those goals of the list for sure x

  25. Reply

    Ntensibe Edgar

    February 3, 2021

    “REALIZE IT’S ABOUT PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION”….how I wish we all got to know this, before we start on this journey. Many times, we want perfect and not those sluggishly moving baby steps! Good stuff! Thank you for sharing.

  26. Reply

    Monidipa Dutta

    February 4, 2021

    I’ve been a victim too. So I believe these points are really important.

  27. Reply

    Sue Done

    February 18, 2021

    Sara, you really are amazing. I’m working so hard at the moment setting up my organic skincare busines. Woke up this morning feeling exhausted from several bad nights’ sleeping …thinking stuff over. How refreshing to read your latest post about goal achieving; not biting off too much; doesn’t have to be perfect etc. Thank you! It is all too easy to get carried away on the path of huge dreams rather than sticking to bite-sized, manageable, affordable chunks! You were just the tonic that I needed xxxx

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