Big ”to do” lists are easy but a small list with big goals? That’s a challenge!

A wise woman once said, “you can’t achieve what you don’t write down.” I couldn’t agree more. As a chronic list-maker and someone who lives to cross items off my “to do” list – nothing gets done in my home or workplace unless it’s first written down. In fact, if I tell the truth – I’ll sometimes write something down that I forgot to write down – just so I can then cross it off my list! There, I’ve said it. My dirty little secret is out. I’m all about making lists for everyday tasks but as it turns out, not so good at writing down big goals. Why is it that some of us seem to struggle with the big stuff but the small stuff isn’t an issue? Psychoanalysts might say it’s because there’s a deep-seated sense of satisfaction in crossing items off our list and a big list of small things gives you plenty to cross off. A small list of bigger goals however? There’s a longer timeframe between the goal and the reward and that requires more commitment. It probably also requires a level of self-discipline that I just don’t have. That’s why today, we’re exploring tips on goal setting and how to achieve what you’ve written down.

The goal is personal – the process is what matters!

I’ll start by being very clear – this article isn’t about WHAT your goal is but rather, how to achieve it. I don’t care if you need to lose 10 pounds, want to learn how to hand-glide or want to learn what it takes to become a voice-over actress or get a “walk-on” role as an extra on a movie set. Hey, a girl can dream, right? Jut because I was never “discovered” in my teens doesn’t mean I couldn’t rock the “senior lady standing in line at the bank” role. I’m perfect at standing in line. I don’t fidget, I don’t strike up random conversations and if you’re in a rush, I might even let you in front of me. But I digress. No – today’s blog is about HOW to set a goal and take action toward achieving it.

Without goals, you lack direction…

We’ll start with some words of wisdom according to the website “mindtools:” “If you want to succeed, you need to set goals. Without goals you lack focus and direction. Goal setting not only allows you to take control of your life’s direction; it also provides you a benchmark for determining whether you are actually succeeding.” (1) Further, “goal setting is a process that starts with careful consideration of what you want to achieve, and ends with a lot of hard work to actually do it. “ (2) Reading this, it sounds like goal setting is hard work. However, what it also suggests to me is that by the simple act of setting a goal you’re now able to track the work you are doing towards achieving it and therefore also helps to ENSURE you will achieve it.

  • How do you go about setting a goal?

    • You’ll want to set goals that motivate you. To understand what motivates you, write down WHY the goal is important to you and why you VALUE it.
  • Define your goal

    • Further define that goal by setting SMART Goals – we all know this one: it’s about setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. When you are WRITING them down, think about your choice of language. Not “I hope to” but rather, “I will.”
  • Actionable Goals

    • Make an Action plan. This is for people like me who still like to cross things off the list. Bigger goals typically don’t happen all at once. You need to plan for them so create an action item list that you CAN cross off, outlining step by step what you are doing as you work towards fulfilling your goal.
  • Think long term

    • Stick with it. Longer term goals are harder….but so worth it. Whether you want to lose weight, just get more flexible or you’re getting in shape to do a 5k run – your goal will require some patience and won’t happen overnight. That’s the part about having realistic goals. It helps to ensure they are more attainable.


Goal setting gives you a sense of purpose and discourages procrastination. Setting up a goal partner – someone who will hold you accountable to your outcomes is also a great idea. If you have several goals, make sure they are clearly categorized and then ranked in terms of their overall importance. For example, you might need to get your financial house in order so that you can then concentrate on your fitness goals. Take the time for some self-examination to know what goals are going to work best for you and when. In other words, you’re not just goal-setting but goal PRIORITIZING. I want to write a book and get fit but if I don’t set one of them as my first priority, other things will continue to distract me. What matters most to you in 2023?

Goal setting, once we know how to do it properly is the easy part. It’s what we do next that counts. As another author wrote: “Goal setting is not only about choosing the rewards you want to enjoy, but also the costs you are willing to pay. (3) That article goes on to suggest many of us would love to have an Olympic gold medal for example but very few of us are willing to do what it takes to get one. That would be the part about making sure your goal is aligned with your lifestyle and that it’s attainable. Warren Buffet, Tony Robbins, rich, famous or both – it doesn’t matter who you research on the Internet – the principal ideas behind goal setting remain the same for all of us.

Develop good habits

Part of goal setting has also to do with developing habits. Good habits. If your goal is to get in better shape, you might get in to the habit of doing 25 sit ups before you get in the shower in the morning. You might set an overall goal of 50 sit ups but for the first two weeks you might only do 10. But creating the habit of doing sit ups BEFORE you get in the shower will ultimately help in successfully achieving your goal of getting in to better shape. Note in this example we have set a specific, measurable, attainable and realistic goal that can be measured. As Tony Robbins points out: “If your goal is to “lose weight,” how will you know when that goal is complete? When you’ve lost 1 pound? 5? 40? Without a clear target, you’ll never hit your mark. That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to set goals that are clear, measurable and actionable.” (4)

It’s early January. You’ve got plenty of time. What will your small list of big goals look like? Take 2023 by storm. Make it challenging but make a goal list first!