Learn How to Set Goals for Long Term Success

Written by Tom Marino

September 15, 2021

set goals for long term success

Learning how to set goals is critical to activating change.

The goals you created in the past may have set you up for failure. For example, goals like “I want to lose weight” or “I’ll do better in school,” are vague and unsustainable.

How, then, should we approach goal setting for long term success?


How to set SMART goals

As a coach, I teach my clients to set SMART goals. The acronym shares helpful criteria for “grading” your goals to be sure they’re concrete and tangible.

  • Specific: What do you want to change or accomplish?
  • Measurable: What is the tangible result? How will you know that you’ve accomplished your goal?
  • Achievable: Are you capable of achieving your goal?
  • Realistic: Can you accomplish this goal even with everything else going on in your life?
  • Time based: What is the deadline?

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: I want to lose 10 pounds in the next 90 days.

Can you see how we’ve made our goal of “losing weight” more specific? The goal is measurable because you’ve identified the number of pounds you’d like to lose. When you weigh yourself at the end of the 90-day period, you’ll know for sure if you’ve met your goal.

The goal is achievable given that the action steps are exercising and eating healthy. So long as you have time in your schedule to go to the gym or work out at home, your goal is realistic. And the goal is time-based because you have given yourself a timeframe of 90 days.

This criterion allows you to be honest with yourself and set goals that are concrete and tangible. As a result, you’re more likely to achieve them.


Learn to celebrate milestones along the way

Setting SMART goals makes it easier to break them down into smaller steps. Using our previous example, we might outline steps like (1) investing in workout gear or equipment, (2) signing up for a gym membership, and (3) scheduling time on the calendar to work out.

Last week, I wrote about what it takes to stay motivated as we pursue our goals. One of the most common reasons for losing our motivation is feeling overwhelmed. When we bite off more than we can chew, we’re tempted to procrastinate or give up. This is why it’s critical to break down our goals into achievable steps.

And as we conquer each of these steps, we need to celebrate them for what they are – important milestones that mark our progress.

Our lives are a collection of milestones… birthdays, graduation, first jobs, promotions, marriage, etc. There are “milestones” in sports, too. Take football – while scoring a touchdown might be the “goal,” players celebrate small victories every time a team gains 10 yards (first “down”).

At a baby’s “well-child visit,” the doctor determines whether the baby has met key developmental milestones. If not, there’s early intervention to understand what’s going on before there’s a significant problem.

Not only do milestones highlight our progress, but they keep us on track. If you haven’t identified key milestones along your journey to change, how will you know when to intervene if you’re veering off-course?


It’s important to learn how to set goals that set you up for success.

Are your goals specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based? Identify key milestones to mark your progress along the way. Ask yourself, what am I doing today to take one step closer to my goals? 

As a Certified Life Coach, I’m here to provide accountability as you take action on your journey to change. Book my calendar for a complimentary one-on-one session to learn more about CHOICE coaching and how I can support you in pursuing your goals.


Photo by Darius Bashar | Unsplash