How to Set Goals In Life

It’s that time of year, when you sit down and consider where you are and where you’d like to be. You know that goals are essential to being successful in life, but you’re not sure where to start. Well, you’re at the right place – we’ve put together some great tips for you on how to set goals in life.

Often when someone says they have a goal, what they really mean is that they are attracted to a vague idea. You may say, “I just want to be happy.” But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” A life well lived rarely happens by accident. It is the result of setting and pursuing goals.

Happiness is not a goal. It is a byproduct of a life well lived - quote from Eleanor Roosevelt

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Planning for Success in Life

This post digs deeper into the first key to success listed in our most popular post, 10 Keys to Success in Life. Planning for success means figuring out what you want and writing it down in detail. You may find a goal planner helpful, but how do you know what to put it in it?

All successful people have a goal. No one can get anywhere unless he knows where he wants to go and what he wants to be or do.” 

Norman Vincent Peale

We’ve put together some questions to help you figure out a life that will bring you meaning and a sense of accomplishment. We’ll help you figure out what to write down in that fancy planner.

Dreams and Goals

Great goals start with daydreams, imaginations, and hopes. The worries, struggles, and busyness of life can easily become barriers to dreaming. Setting good goals starts with taking time to dream. Let go of what others say you or people like you “should”or “can’t” be or do. This is dreamland – there are no limits.

Great goals start with daydreams, imaginations, and hopes.  #Goals2020 #goals Click To Tweet

Listen to any subconscious objections and actively choose to set them aside – just for now. Describe your ideal life. Write down whatever comes to mind, even sketch it if that’s more helpful to you. After you’ve done this, answer the questions that follow to help refine your vision.

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.”

Andrew Carengie

Top 3 Goals

We’ve put together three guidepost questions. Knowing the answers to these above can help you re-adjust the details other goals in your life to keep you moving towards your dream life. These essentially become your top three goals – the goals to which all other goals move your towards.

  1. How do you want to feel?  
  2. What do you want to experience?
  3. If the world only gets one message from your life, what do you want it to be?

​Make sure you know these, because there will be factors in your life you can’t control. 

If the world only gets one message from your life, what do you want it to be? #purpose #legacy Click To Tweet

Goal Example

Let’s say you’ve determined that being a professional basketball player is your life’s goal. Then one day, you blow your knee out. Career over, dreams crushed. What now? In light of the questions above, consider why you wanted to be a pro basketball player.  Know your why.

  1. Is it for the pay?
  2. Is it because you like being part of a team?
  3. Do you like to spend most of your days doing something athletic?
  4. Did you hope for fame?
  5. Would it make you feel accomplished?

There are other ways to do all of the above. Even if you didn’t blow out your knee, knowing the answers to the guidepost questions can help you navigate your career.

After you have defined your top three goals, it may be easier to get into the nitty gritty of defining or setting more detailed goals. All of the more detailed goals should move you towards your top three goals in some way.

Creating A Life Plan Worksheet

​​We’ve put together a worksheet with the questions listed below to help you define your ideal life in greater detail. We recommend you respond to each question with as much detail that if you were to read it 5 or 10 years from now you’d understand exactly what you described.

  1. What are the different relationships you’d like to have in your life?
  2. Which places you would like to visit?
  3. What kinds of friends do you want to have?
  4. Where do you want to live?
  5. What things do you want to buy?
  6. If you could win awards, what awards would you want to win?
  7. What does your spiritual life look like?
  8. How do you want to be intellectually?
  9. What kind of home do you want to own?
  10. How do you want to be emotionally?
  11. What qualities do you want to develop in yourself?
  12. How do you want to be physically?
  13. What hobbies do you want to pursue?
  14. Who do you want to help?
  15. What kinds of projects do you want to do?
  16. How do you want to think and feel about yourself?
  17. What are your goals educationally?
  18. What do you want to be a part of?
  19. How will you know when you have “arrived”?
  20. What are 10 adjectives that others might use to describe you, when you have reached your goals?

How to Plan Your Life Goals

​Once you’ve written up your ideal life, you may want to take a break & see if anything else pops into your mind. Sometimes, once you stop trying to think about it, additional, but important details will pop up.

After a break or whenever you are ready, sit down and go through each of your answers & write down down what achievements are required to get you to this life. These achievements are your actionable goals. They are the actions that will take you from dreamer to achiever.

Just by writing your goals down, you’re leaps and bounds closer to achieving them. According to this article in Forbes, Harvard Business Study found that the 3% of graduates from their MBA who had their goals written down, ended up earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together, just ten years after graduation.”

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How to Set Goals in Life - from Finally Family Homes (pin)


If you want to improve your odds of success even further, make sure your goals stand up to the test of being SMART goals. SMART goals give a more specific direction and a more concrete reality to strive towards. Review your goals and re-write any that need it as SMART goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.

The next important step is to define the path to break down your big goals into smaller steps. Take one big goal at a time and write down the steps or supporting action you need to take to get to that goal and write down every supporting action you can think to take you to closer to your big goal.

For instance, if you want to own a home, you’ll probably need to get a loan.
So “get a home loan” goes on your list of goals.

To get a loan, you’ll need a good credit history.
So “build a good credit history” goes on your list.

To build a good credit history you’ll need to get a credit card.
Add “get a credit card.”

For that credit history to be good, you’ll need to pay your credit card bill on time.
Add “pay the credit card bill on time”

To pay your credit card on time, you’ll need to make sure you “stay on top of the payment schedule”… and so on.

Setting Goals Worksheet

Figuring out the path for each piece of your dream life will result in a long master list of goals. We’ve put together this setting goals worksheet to help guide you through building your master list of goals.

Final Thoughts on How to Set Goals in Life

Yes, this work of writing up goals takes time and effort, but it’s worth it. You can charge ahead in life with what you feel is the right direction, but speed and effort without direction can only guarantee you exhaustion.

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.” 

Bill Copeland

We’d love hear more about you! If the world only gets one message from your life, what do you want it to be? How do you want to make your mark in the world?

One purpose of this blog is to help parents of teens navigate the challenges of preparing their children to be successful independent adults.

Finally Family Homes’ mission is to provide the same kind of support for those teens who don’t have a family or home to help them transition into adulthood.

If you’ve found our post on how to set goals in life helpful, please share! You can make a difference by sharing this post and helping us get the word out about young adults who are aging out of the foster care system without direction, support, or hope.

You may also enjoy:

10 Keys to Success in Life

Time Management 101

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  1. These are such great questions to help teens explore their goals. Instead of asking surface questions, I love how this digs deeper. So much more useful!!

  2. Wow, what an extensive, comprehensive list! I’m pinning this so I can use it with my granddaughter!

  3. Christina, that’s the most thorough list of questions to help our young people set goals that I’ve ever seen. I cannot see how, using the ideas you’ve set forth here, our young people won’t reach their goals. Great job!

  4. Great tips. My oldest just turned 13, so I can use this!

  5. Love these. This is such a practical way to approach goal setting. I especially like setting one way to help achieve a long-term goal that you talked about at the end as well as the “why” behind dream jobs in case things do not pan out the way you hoped.

  6. I’m right around the corner from having a preteen and I’m cringing! This is something I know I’ll have to discuss with him and I’ve been worried it would overwhelm him! This is a great compilation of solid first steps! Definitely saving for later!

  7. I totally had to pin this because I have two preteens at home. This is so helpful!

  8. This is something I’ve been working on quite a bit with my pre-teen daughters and something I wish someone had told me earlier on. Creating specific and measurable goals has allowed me to do things I’d never have considered possible, just because I stuck with it and put my action steps in place.

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