How to Set Powerful Goals You Actually Achieve

How to Set Success Goals You Actually Achieve

“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”
E.B. White

There’s a mountain of information available about the best way to set goals. Every guru touts the “secret” to achieving dreams: manageable chunks, delayed gratification, the SMART system, accountability, visualization, mental toughness, et cetera. But what if I told you that a key ingredient, perhaps the most powerful ingredient of all, is usually missing from the goal-setting recipe? And—you’re going to like this ingredient.

Marshmallows and Goals

You know the classic story about the researchers, the kids, and the marshmallows? The one where the researchers told kids they could have a single marshmallow now, but if they delayed gratification by waiting, they could have two marshmallows later? Researchers found that the kids who waited for the two marshmallows were more successful later in life. They did better academically and had better coping skills.

There’s definitely a strong connection between delaying gratification and achieving goals. After all, the concept of better life through self-denial was invented long before marshmallows, right? We’re constantly told that great suffering brings great rewards, and that to fail to reach a goal is to show moral weakness. Sometimes the messages are direct, sometimes they’re subtle, but they always seem to come. You didn’t lose that 50 pounds? Ah, you lack willpower. No promotion? Clearly, you didn’t work hard enough. We set goals, we fail, and we feel awful about ourselves.

It’s a wonder we keep setting goals, but we want those marshmallows and we deserve to get them.

Powerful Goals Are Better, Right?

Not only do we humans love to set goals, we love to set BIG, POWERFUL goals. We have grand, long-term visions for ourselves and we know big payoffs come from big accomplishments. If you lose the 50 pounds, you’ll be healthier and live longer. Score that promotion, you’ll earn more buckage. And when we set these big goals, we count on the big payoffs to motivate us to work hard over prolonged periods of time.

The fact is, though, people overrate the motivational power of big payoffs. We come up with great plans and systems, set our goals, work our tails off … and then we quit. Why is this?

In reality, science shows that big payoffs motivate us to set powerful goals, but big payoffs don’t actually help us achieve them. In fact, While big goals indeed can bring big rewards, they also set us up for failure—immediately.

Sadly, you’ve probably experienced this many times over, but fear not. I’ve got a better goal-setting recipe for you. The secret ingredient isn’t marshmallows—but it’s just as sweet.

The Three-Letter Goal Success Key

Humans aren’t wired to think far into the future. When we know what we want, we want it—look out for a three-letter word—NOW! We feel stress when we aren’t instantly rewarded, and that leads to giving up. Simply, suffering delayed gratification rather sucks.

Though the psychology of goal setting is complex, researchers have discovered that it’s really the immediate payoff that motivates us. We need results sooner rather than later. Now, this seems to say we can’t set long-term goals, but that’s not the case. What it means is that when we’re having FUN along the way, we keep going and achieve our dreams. (Ok, see what I did there? I actually just gave you two key three-letter words: NOW and FUN.) In other words,

FUN + NOW = GOAL SUCCESS. Click To Tweet

It’s that simple.

But how does that actually work? Big dreams are, by nature, hard to achieve and delayed for a long time. That doesn’t go along with having fun right now, does it?

Actually, it does. Give these four fab tricks a try.


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Infographic - Give these four fab, science-based tricks a try for greater success with long-term goal setting. ~ Courtney Helena, Blogging Coach.

1. Break It Down

Many goal-setting processes emphasize breaking tasks down into steps. Usually the point of this is to see a clear path from your starting point to your desired end result. If you can see your steps, you know what to do next.

Okay, that’s great, but what I’m suggesting is a little different. Rather than seeing each step as connecting to the next, visualize each step as a goal in its own right. And when you reach each step, each milestone, celebrate the hell out of it. Why not? You worked hard for it, you earned that party! Treat yo’self, girlfrield! Call me and I’ll celebrate with you, anytime.

If you’re not convinced, think of it this way. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, that’s 800 freaking ounces to lose. That’s a lot of work! But a lot of work deserves recognition, doesn’t it? That earns you the right to have 800 freaking parties to celebrate each and every one of those damned ounces! If that’s too many parties for you, celebrate each pound out of the 50. (Ahem really, does “too many parties” even really exist? Seriously? But I digress.) Girlfriend, you fought to lose that weight, and you deserve to feel great for a job well done. And if you feel great, you’re more likely to keep going.


2. Tell Yourself a Different Story

Ask any guru and they’ll tell you, mindset is key to achieving goals. Positive mindsets bring success.

The great thing about this is that you have complete power over how you frame, or think about, any situation. You get to decide what’s good and bad, right and wrong. And if you tell yourself something is awful, you’ll feel bad about it, so why do that to yourself? Who wants to spend extra time feeling bad?

Let me give you an example. A friend of yours is trying to lose weight. She calls you to tell you she backslid and gained a few pounds. What do you tell her? Pause and really think about that situation for a moment. I would bet money you don’t tell her she was a stupid idiot and a failure, or think she’s doomed and hopeless. Right? Amirite? So, talk to yourself like you would to her. We women tend to think we can’t be nice to ourselves, but news flash—we can.


3. Distract Yourself

If you really can’t find the fun in something you’re doing, add the fun to it. You know how you listen to music and dance while you clean the house? Or, how you or someone you know uses a colorful bullet journal to become better organized? If you think creatively, you’ll find ways to add fun to a situation. The fun doesn’t need to cost money or take a lot of time. Just think creatively—what would make a dull job bearable? When you figure it out, go do it. There’s no need to suffer.


4. Choose What You Like

Okay, let’s get super real here. If you really hate every step of fulfilling a goal, and you can’t find any way around that, then I ask you—why are you doing it? When you’re not committed to the steps, it’s time to get off that trail. Find a different path. It’s no moral failing to decide something isn’t worth your time and attention—it’s self-care, sister. You’ve got better things to do!


Setting goals is a great thing, but setting yourself up for a long, boring slog through painful tasks rarely works. Try one or all of these four sweet tips for FUN + NOW and make your goal setting SUCCESSFUL!


Free Goal Setting Infographic and Interactive Journal Page from Courtney Helena. Believe me, you haven't yet seen this scientifically-based approach to long-term goal setting. Don't you think it's time you gave those goals another try?

To help you put these strategies into action, I’ve prepared a fab set of free downloadable goal-setting resources. The set includes an infographic of the four key goal setting points and an interactive journal-sized PDF to get you organized for conquering the world. To score the set, head over to the Library, enter your password, and start your download. If you don’t already have a password, fear not. Use the form below to request one. Hang tight, we’ll send it to you pronto and add you to our mailing list for other great free tips and freebies.

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How to Set Powerful Goals You Actually Achieve. Every guru touts the “secret” to achieving dreams: manageable chunks, delayed gratification, the SMART system, accountability, visualization, mental toughness, et cetera. But what if I told you that a key ingredient, perhaps the most powerful ingredient of all, is usually missing from the goal-setting recipe? And—you’re going to like this ingredient.


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What tricks and tips do you have for succeeding with long-term goals? Share them in the comments and help your sister readers—you never know whom you could touch today with your words.







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Courtney Helena
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Courtney Helena

Blogging + Accountability Coach at Courtney Helena
I'm living the dream + working the laptop lifestyle from beautiful Brazil! I empower heart-centered, passionate entrepreneurs in creating a better life for themselves and their clients. Together, we find solutions + change the world.
Courtney Helena
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