How I Set and Achieve Personal Goals

Everyone wants to take control their life. Everyone wants to be successful, and every person has a unique definition of what that success is. We cannot control every circumstance, or every other person in the world, but we can control ourselves. In fact, that is the only thing that we do have control over.

There is no magic formula that will enable you to get rich quick, master a skill, or make people notice you. You will always have to do the work. You will always have to build the foundation and build layers on top of it. Luck is a factor, but you have to be prepared beforehand when that opportunity present itself.

I have found it is more important to be happy with how you live day-to-day than anything else. The journey is the part that determines who you are, because the journey never stops.

Below is a system I have been using for about five years now. It’s one that I put together from many books I’e read and my own personal philosophy. I’ve honed it down to these bullet points, which I will explain afterwards.

  1. Words are powerful
  2. Think about what you want and why
  3. Write it down
  4. Be specific as possible
  5. Believe it
  6. Surround yourself with people who also believe
  7. Do the work
  8. Reassess regularly

Words Are Powerful

Whatever you think, you will speak. Whatever you speak, you are asking the Universe to do to you. Have you ever wondered why every creation story involves the deity speaking the world into existence? It’s because our words have power. Use your words to create your future, and not destroy it. By this I mean, do not be negative about your circumstances or your plans. Speak of your plans as something that can, and will eventually exist. Stay grounded in reality, but safeguard your own thoughts and words so that you do not sabotage yourself with negativity.

Think About What You Want, and Why?

If your goal is to earn a million dollars, there has to be a reason for it. The better the reason, the more complete your image of this goal will be, and the more likely it is that Fate will listen to reason. Think of all the people who amassed fortune and blew it all (MC Hammer, Kenneth Lay, etc.). Their reason for achieving the dream was not well-defined, or built on shaky ground, and when they fulfilled their goal, there was no reason behind it. Avarice and greed are not a good enough reason for achieving your goal. Personal pride or revenge are not much better. Spending more time with your family, being able to give back to the community or charity, or even living a lifestyle that you want to are reasons that the Universe seems to listen to. Choosing a strong reason is important, because the path to your goal will not always be easy, and you need something worth fighting for.

Write It Down

Remember when I said words are powerful? Writing your goals down makes everything concrete. It shows you’re serious, and that you’re going to keep track of what happens. Make sure to include a time-frame of when these goals are supposed to happen. I recommend a 1 year plan, and you may include longer and shorter timeframes as well (6 months, 3 years, 5 years are good milestones to include). I like a one year plan, because it gives a time limit, and it gives you enough time to act on your goals, and for outside factors to come into play.

Be Specific As Possible

I can’t stress this enough: the more specific you get, the more likely you are to reach your goal. Numbers are good, specific circumstances are good. It gives you something well-defined to aim at. If we are the creators of our own destiny, then the better we can define it, the more likely it is to come about. Your mind likes a detailed story better than it does a very vague one.

Believe It

You have to believe your goals are going to happen. No one else can do this part for you. If you don’t have faith that you’re moving closer to your goals every single day, you are going to become disheartened and give up.

If you do believe in yourself and your goals, eventually other people will too. This is key, because we all need other people on our side.

Surround Yourself With Other People Who Believe

Successful people talk about this one a lot. Just like it’s important to keep your own negativity at bay, you also need to surround yourself with people who believe in and support your efforts. Words are powerful; other people’s negativity can affect you, and doubt can seep in. You need people who believe in the path you are building in your corner, for those times when you feel low and close to defeat. They will help you stay focused, and be your biggest allies on this difficult road.

Do The Work

This one is easy. Most of the time, this is the part we are most passionate about. You have to put in the work at perfecting your craft, science, or endeavor to reach the goal. Show up every day and give it your all. Learn as much as you can, and put it into practice. There is no shortcut to this step. Some people have a natural aptitude for your path, but they had to do the work too. Don’t long for someone else’s path; embrace the path you have for yourself and make the absolute most out of it.

Reassess Regularly

Come back periodically and chart how you are progressing on your goal timelines. I just recently checked my 2013 goal sheet–I am definitely surprised at how many of these goals I’ve reached. This means I can be more ambitious for my 2014 goal sheet and feel pretty confident that I can reach those new goals. Believing you can reach the goals you write down is pretty important. You have to buy in all the way.

Another thing I am noticing is that my goals at the beginning of last year were coming from a different mentality than I am at now. Last year, I was more concerned with broad career goals. I didn’t understand where I wanted to fit in as well as I do now. This year, I can write more specific goals, focused on this better understanding of how I fit in currently, and what I want my role to be in the future. Some of my goals from last year won’t be as high of a priority this coming year. This is also something I can adjust, as my life continues to evolve.


I hope this articles offers some new ideas for you on how to set your personal goals and achieve them.

Lost In Translation

I grew up in an era when LPs and cassettes were the predominant forms of buying, listening to, and sharing music. I never saw CDs in the record store until I entered high school. It took about four or five years for anyone to start making the shift to CDs. Everyone had a tape deck in their car or at home, and most everyone had a turntable on their home stereo. I used to buy 45s at Music Hut and Hayes Music, before they both went under. I actually listened to those on an ancient turntable I’d had since I was a little kid. When I was in eighth grade or so, I started making mix tapes of albums by spinning the LP and standing ready at the pause button of left cassette deck father’s dual cassette stereo. You could make echo effects by recording the same snippet several times in a row, and dialing down the master volume a little each time.

Wednesday was the day that new albums would be released. For a few years, it was a regular routine to watch the Upcoming Releases calendar at the local record store and make the tough decisions about which albums we would buy. The only way to discover new music was to see it on MTV, read about it in Rolling Stone or Rip, be curious and buy it our selves, or hear it at a friend’s house or in their car.

When I first started collecting music, I would buy a mixture of LPs and cassettes. It seemed that some LPs had some cool stuff that the cassette versions did not. The Rolling Stones&#8217′ Sticky Fingers had a close up of Mick Jagger’s crotch, but on the record cover, there was a real working zipper. Led Zeppelin III had a spinning wheel that manipulated the background of the album cover. The covers of the cassette versions of Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy and Presence only seemed to tell half of a story, but when I saw the LP versions of these albums, there seemed to be a sinister second half to these stories. The Who’s Quadropenia seemed intent on telling a complete story, not only with the songs, but with the extensive album art. They wanted to immerse you into the world of the protagonist. Even as late as 1986, the Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill had a cover art punchline that didn’t translate on the cassette version. That album also had hand inscribed messages near the record label (only on the record version) that I think helped add to their mystique.

As the record industry made the transition to cassettes and CDs, they were still trying to find ways to delight us with surprises. Everyone from the early 1990s remembers hidden songs, which were unlisted tracks inserted after a long gap of silence after the perceived end of the album.

These music artists were using everything at their disposal to tell a story. The songs on the album, the live performances, the cover art, concert posters, their personas, the videos, the liner notes, their magazine and TV interviews. The easter eggs from one era faded out in subsequent eras because the medium of transport and consumption changed, and there was no way to translate the exact same experience, but they had to decide what aspects were lost and which were kept.

“ The change it had to come,
We knew it all along”
Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

The Web is barely in its adolescence. Our medium is only twenty years old. To put that in perspective, the film industry was in the middle of the silent film era at the same point. Our golden age is just beginning.

However, our medium is the least permanent by its nature. How many working hyperlinks remain from twenty years ago? Even at the ten year mark, there is noticeable link rot. The sites from that age of the 1990s and early 2000s were built for desktop only. many in Flash, nearly all fixed width. They are living snapshots of experiences designed for a very specific point in time.

Today, we are more self-aware that we are designing not only for different devices that have different inherent experiences, but for platforms that do not even exist yet. All our efforts today will be tommorrow’s nostalgia. Our challenge as creators is to craft core messages and experiences that are strong enough to live throughout the ages, even if small nuances of today are sadly lost in translation.