How To Set A Life Goal

by | Nov 3, 2021

Life Goal
Goals 3d render concept with blue and white arrows flying in a blue sky with clouds

Setting a life goal is like setting up for a game of chess. It’s important to think about what pieces you want on the board, how each piece can be used, and where each piece needs to go in order to win.

A life goal is a big picture idea that you have for your life. It’s something that you want to accomplish and it can be anything from being able to run a marathon, owning your own business, or even just waking up feeling happy every day. Whatever the case maybe it’s important to set goals because they help keep us motivated and on track in achieving our dreams. No matter how old we are, setting goals can make all of the difference in how we view our lives and what direction we take them in.

What are Life Goals?

Our goals should be more than just “what we need to survive.” Unlike daily habits or short-term goals, long-term objectives guide our actions over time. There are no simple psychological labels for them, and they aren’t strictly a clinical category, but they aid in the identification of our values.

Because they are individual aspirations, they may take on many forms. But they provide us with a sense of purpose and make us accountable in our pursuit of happiness and well-being—for our best possible lives.

Why Set Goals?

Set goals for yourself. Athletes, successful businesspeople, and achievers in a variety of fields all do so. Setting objectives is useful for developing a long-term vision and short-term motivation. The goal of this book is to help you find the tools you need, teach them your new knowledge, and start developing a more organized existence.

Setting goals that are clear and precisely defined allows you to track and be proud of your success, and it also shows forward movement in areas where prior progress may have appeared to be a long needless grind. You’ll also enhance your self-esteem as you recognize your own capacity and competence in reaching the objectives you’ve set.

Life Goal Ideas

Inherently, life aspirations must be meaningful, and meaning is subjective. In that light, it’s probably more beneficial to consider categories or types of life goals before listing potential bucket list aims.

According to Kasser and Ryan (2001), therefore, there are two types of life goals, and these relate to our well-being in different ways:

Intrinsic goals

Intrinsic goals relate to emotional intimacy, personal growth, and helping others. They are believed to be aligned with our needs as humans, reflecting our inherent desire for self-knowledge and more fulfilling relationships (Maslow, 1943).

These satisfy the needs that stem from being human—including our psychological and self-fulfillment needs, as shown below in Maslow’s Hierarchy (1943).

Life Goal

Life goals based on the former might include:

  • Having a loving marriage or a trusting relationship with your significant other;
  • Finding and keeping a healthy work-life balance, with time for friends and family;
  • Living with integrity, being honest and open with others;
  • Inspiring others through your beliefs and actions;
  • Being a great listener so that others can turn to you; or
  • Becoming an expert in your field and helping others.

Self-fulfillment needs-based goals could entail:

  • Coming up with a new invention that reflects your creative abilities;
  • Being a successful entrepreneur and running your own business;
  • Creating your own personal brand for your work;
  • Graduating with a Master’s or Ph.D. in something;
  • Learning a new language; or
  • Picking up a ‘hard skill’ and mastering it.

Extrinsic goals

Extrinsic goals are more culturally defined and less about our nature as human beings, encompassing things like our physical appearance, social standing, status symbols, and wealth.

Extrinsic goals aren’t necessarily material, but because they are generally ‘wants’ rather than human needs, they are easier to come up with. They require less self-reflection, for example:

  • Owning the very latest Tesla;
  • Becoming a millionaire;
  • Getting a big promotion or being in a senior position at work;
  • Starring in a movie;
  • Having your own workshop/studio or
  • Visiting every country in Europe.

But at the end of the day, evidence also shows that the content of our goals may be less important to our well-being than our reasons for pursuing them. Having the ‘right’ reason for goal pursuit—irrespective of the aspiration itself, that is—has been found to contribute to our well-being, and the opposite applies (Carver & Baird, 1998).

How to set goals

Whatever technique you use, keep in mind that you won’t be able to achieve anything if you don’t write it down. Also, remember to set goals that will inspire you. If your objectives aren’t encouraging you to take action, they aren’t doing much good.

We’ll go over 4 different frameworks here. It’s been demonstrated that you should frame the goal positively rather than negatively with all of these frameworks. “I will do…” is far more effective than “I will not do…,” as we’ve seen.

One goal per category technique

This is a straightforward approach to accomplishing anything. You go through the categories in chapter 2 until you can come up with one objective for each one. It’s a shotgun approach. Despite its apparent popularity on the internet, there are numerous issues with this concept.

The most obvious shortcoming is that you will have an excessive number of objectives. You won’t have a clear order of priority, either. Having so many objectives guarantees that you will forget them all soon and that none of them will be at the top of your mind.

There are also no strong sentiments during goal-setting. It is more of a burden than a self-discovery voyage.

Values first technique

The first approach is superior, but it has requirements. To begin, you must first establish your values, which isn’t always simple.

Once you’ve made a list of your goals (which will be far fewer than the goals categories), you have a lens with which to view your life. What does someone who places great importance on x do? How do they connect with others?

If “saving the environment” is one of your values, you may wish to change your profession into something that is more aligned with this primary belief.

Purpose first technique

The purpose first technique, unlike the values first technique, requires prerequisites. However, if you already know what your life’s goal is, it should be quite simple to create strong objectives by looking at aspects of your life through that lens.

If you have a good goal in life, such as Elon Musk’s ambition to make humanity a multi-planetary species. As his objectives go from long to short term, they begin to write themselves for him. And because he already has his “why,” he already has the passion and motivation built-in.

Why, what, how the technique

If you haven’t seen it, Simon Sinek’s TED talk on the subject is highly recommended. He suggests his approach as a marketing communication tool, but it may also be used to set potent personal objectives.

In that talk, think of the “what” as your goals. And every time he says “People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it”, think of yourself as the “buyer of your own goals”. If you cannot convince yourself to “buy” your own goals, you have not come up with the right framing to motivate yourself to act.

SMART goals

I am sure that you have heard of SMART goals. SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

SMART goals describe the anatomy of a well-formed goal.

The goal, according to this definition, is “to produce a clean readable document in the shortest period of time feasible by identifying each of the five components.” It was originally conceived for business purposes, but it may also help you achieve a variety of personal objectives.

Obviously, some personal objectives are tough to assess. Relationship and spiritual goals, for example, are particularly difficult to quantify. But, regardless of the difficulty of doing so, it’s worth striving to record all five components for all of your own objectives if you can.

Step offsetting life goals

Make a List of Your Goal Destinations

Goals should be things you desire and desire to achieve. They may also be referred to as objectives, but objectives imply something out of your reach, whereas goal destinations are clearly doable if you put in the effort.

So, what do you truly want to accomplish with your life? What are the most essential things you want to achieve in your life? What would you wish you had done if you realized that you only had a short time left on Earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

Write Down Your Goals Clearly

Write each objective destination at the top of a fresh piece of paper.

Create a list of everything you want and don’t have right now, so that you may achieve your objectives. This might be anything from further education to a career change to money or new talent.

Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will be included in this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process for these as well so that you have clear action items to work with.

Schedule Your To-Dos

Take a look at all of your goal destinations and develop a timetable of what you’ll need to accomplish this week, this month, and throughout the year in order to travel toward them.

Make a to-do list for these things on a regular basis, and you’ll have set deadlines for when you need to accomplish them.

Review Your Progress

At the end of the year, assess your accomplishments and checklists for each objective destination, and make a schedule with the action items you’ll need for next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you want because you must first acquire an MBA before getting a job with more money to enable you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in reaching your goal destination because you have planned not only what you want but also how to get it and have.


Once you have a goal in mind, it’s important to think about what pieces you want on the board. What are your strengths? Who can help you with this goal? Where do these people need to be placed so they can best support your goals? How will each piece work together to get any one of those goals accomplished?

Sometimes the game may seem impossible at first, but once all your pieces are in place and working as hard as possible for their queen or king (AKA YOU), victory is yours! No matter how difficult things may seem now, don’t give up; instead try setting some smaller goals that lead towards achieving your final objective.


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