Setting the right goals gives you focus, energy, and purpose which is key for success - but also for enjoying the journey to your goal. It's what makes the difference between wishful thinking and achievement.

But setting goals isn't easy. You need to know how to do it right. One of the most common questions people have when it comes to setting goals is, 

"How can I set a goal that's achievable?".

I wasted years of my life on “guru self-help BS” before I found out about proven goal-setting techniques.

With this guide, you won't have to go through what I did. You will see how cognitive & motivation science can improve your life with goals, and create two types of goals so when things go wrong you don’t get stuck.

Use this Step-By-Step Guide, to make your goals this year a reality.

Why popular goal setting advice does not work

The most common goal-setting advice is to set SMART goals. You will often hear this advice from "guru self-help" and popular books like GTD (Getting Things Done).

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If you look at the acronym in detail, it sounds really good right? A lot of people swear by it and some even say that if you do not follow this path then you will never achieve your goals.

But is it true? I would argue yes but we need to take care of three main problems with SMART goals:

  1. They are not specific enough
  2. They are often not or too achievable and - most importantly 
  3. They don't connect with what matters to us in our lives.

Problem 1: Specific can be many things

A simple goal could be "Becoming a CEO in ten years." This is a great goal, but it's too broad.

We don't know what company or where this person wants to become the CEO of.  So you need smaller goals called "doing goals"that connect with our bigger one and provide us information on how we can work towards achieving it.

For example, they might say “become a successful venture backed start up’s CEO by having promotion from Director at year 1 to Vice President at year 2 and then Managing Director at year 3-5".

Problem 2: Even the craziest goals can be Achievable but not all at once

Setting an attainable goal can be something as simple as "Saving $250 per month".

But when we break it down, maybe you are just starting a company and saving €250 is not possible because you need to invest the money into yourself. And often attainable goals force us to play down.

We have bounded rationality which means that we are pretty bad at predicting what will work best for us, or what our capabilities really are.

Very simplified terms, we very much overestimate what could happen in 1 year but completely underestimate how much progress could happen in 5 years or 10 years.

That's why it's important to set short-term and long-term goals if they're going to be achievable ones.

Problem 3: SMART goals does not mean I care about them

The biggest problem with SMART goals is that it does not tell you how to find a goal in the first place. Or many people tend to only focus on one type of goal, like work or career-oriented ones with very short time horizons (“get that next promotion”).

However science has shown us over and over that to truly succeed at our goals, we need to thrive in all the areas of our life.  For example if health is important for me then it will be very difficult to succeed in my career if I am not taking care of myself or have a bad health condition.

We also need a motivator to keep going when times get tough.

For example, if your goal is "I want to become project manager by the end of 2022," and you feel discouraged or distracted from that goal, then what? A title doesn't necessarily motivate us.
If we have a small crisis in life, it may be easy for us to forget why we wanted the promotion in first place!

And lets say you fail your goal.

Without connecting this with the bigger picture it can be frustrating and disappointing as if we as a person has failed completely. To avoid these feelings, we should take some time to think about what they truly care about (called "instrumental values").

The Wheel of Life exercise helps here; use it to find what you really care about in Work AND Life so you create goals that are actually important to.

How to Set Goals That you care About so You Thrive in Work & Life: A Step-By-Step Guide

Part 1. Find what matter to you with the wheel-of life exercise

Put the areas in your life that are important to you

The Wheel of Life exercise will help you figure out what your top priorities are, in work and life. It's hard to set goals if you don't know what matters most. It's a way to break down your life into different areas that YOU care about and figure out what you want to focus on:.

Most people never take the time to figure out what they care about. When things get tough and they need to decide on their next move, they often feel lost without a purpose.

But if you are clear on what you care about, you can take your wheel of life for any decision that comes.

How to create your Wheel of Life Step-By-Step

  • Find a place that is motivating and inspires you (e.g., a sunny table in your favorite coffee-shop).
  • Take a sheet of paper/open a Word document to just write down when you felt most confident, happiest, and inspired. 
    Don't overthink it - just put whatever comes to mind on the list.
  • Open the “Value" sheet below & choose 7 - 9 areas that you care about most at this moment.
    Don't think about what those should be but what speaks to you
  • Then write them at the outside slices of each circle. You can see mine below.
  • If you feel like it, write 2-3 bullets for each area how the perfect you would feel, live and act if that area would already be perfect.
    For example financial independence is important to you: How would you feel if you were completely independent? How would you live and what would you do on a great day if money worries are not an issue for you?

Value Sheet / Important Life Areas (Click to see List)

1. Acceptance: to be open to and accepting of myself, others, and life.

2. Adventure: to be adventurous; to actively seek, create, or explore novel or stimulating


3. Assertiveness: to respectfully stand up for my rights and request what I want.

4. Authenticity: to be authentic, genuine, real; to be true to myself.

5. Beauty: to appreciate, create, nurture, or cultivate beauty in myself, others, and the


6. Caring: to be caring towards myself, others, and the environment.

7. Challenge: to keep challenging myself to grow, learn, and improve.

8. Compassion: to act with kindness towards those who are suffering.

9. Connection: to engage fully in whatever I am doing and be fully Present with others.

10.Contribution: to contribute, help, assist, or make a positive difference to myself or others.

11. Conformity: to be respectful and obedient of rules and obligations.

12.Cooperation: to be cooperative and collaborative with others.

13.Courage: to be courageous or brave; to persist in the face of fear, threat, or difficulty.

14.Creativity: to be creative or innovative.

15.Curiosity: to be curious, open-minded, and interested; to explore and discover.

16.Encouragement: to encourage and reward behavior that I value in myself or others.

17.Equality: to treat others as equal to myself.

18. Excitement: to seek, create, and engage in activities that are exciting, stimulating, or


19. Fairness: to be fair to myself or others.

20. Fitness: to maintain or improve my fitness; to look after my physical and mental health and


21. Flexibility: to adjust and adapt readily to changing circumstances.

22. Freedom: to live freely; to choose how I live and behave, or help others do likewise.

23. Friendliness: to be friendly, companionable, or agreeable towards others.

24. Forgiveness: to be forgiving towards myself or others.

25. Fun: to be fun-loving; to seek, create, and engage in fun-filled activities.

26.Generosity: to be generous, sharing and giving to myself or others.

27.Gratitude: to be grateful for and appreciative of the positive aspects of myself, others, and life.

28.Honesty: to be honest, truthful, and sincere with myself and others.

29.Humor: to see and appreciate the humorous side of life.

30.Humility: to be humble or modest; to let my achievements speak for themselves.

31. Industry: to be industrious, hard-working, and dedicated.

32. Independence: to be self-supportive and choose my own way of doing things.

33. Intimacy: to open up, reveal, and share myself- emotionally or physically in my close

personal relationships.

34. Justice: to uphold justice and fairness.

35.Kindness: to be kind, compassionate, considerate, nurturing or caring towards myself or


36. Love: to act lovingly or affectionately towards myself or others.

37. Mindfulness: to be conscious of, open to, and curious about my here-and-now experience.

38.Order: to be orderly and organized.

39.Open-mindedness: to think things through, see things from others’ points of view and weigh

evidence fairly.

40. Patience: to wait calmly for what I want.

41. Persistence: to continue resolutely, despite problems or difficulties.

42. Pleasure: to create and give pleasure to myself or others.

43.Power: to strongly influence or wield authority over others, e.g. taking charge, leading, and


44.Reciprocity: to build relationships in which there is a fair balance of giving and taking.

45.Respect: to be respectful towards myself or others; to be polite, considerate and

show positive regard.

46.Responsibility: to be responsible and accountable for my actions.

47.Romance: to be romantic; to display and express love or strong affection.

48. Safety: to secure, protect, or ensure safety of myself or others.

49. Self-awareness: to be aware of my own thoughts, feelings, and actions.

50. Self-care: to look after my health and well-being and get my needs met.

51. Self-development: to keep growing, advancing, or improving in knowledge, skills, character or life experience.

52. Self-control: to act in accordance with my own ideals.

53. Sensuality: to create, explore, and enjoy experiences that stimulate the five senses.

55.Spirituality: to connect with things bigger than myself.

56. Skillfulness: to continually practice and improve my skills and apply myself fully when using them.

57.Supportiveness: to be supportive, helpful, encouraging, and available to myself or others

58. Trust: to be trustworthy; to be loyal, faithful, sincere, and reliable.

2. Check where you stand in each area of your life

Before you set a goal, make sure you have a clear picture of where you stand in each area of your life. When you know where you stand, it's easier to decide the type of goal that's right for YOU.

Go through each area and rate how satisfied with them all-you'll already know what areas need improvement! Give yourself 1-10 rating on how content or dissatisfied with an area is. Don't overthink this either; just give an honest answer based off current conditions (and don't forget to be realistic).

Compare all the areas in your wheel. What patterns do you see?

My wheel of life as an example

My wheel of life as an example 

If you are like many professionals, work will be one area of your life that you may not be satisfied with it. But even so, there are other areas in your life which have a low grade-you may have overlooked them before.

It can be quite eye opening and very helpful when this is clarified for us - now we know why we feel the way we do!

Simplified, the more our wheel is out of alignment on any side of things, the less happy or contented with ourselves and our lives that we will feel.

The good news here is that if we take care of each area in our lives by increasing its grade level (e.g., success), then we should see a great improvement on how well we feel overall and also thrive!

That is why we create goals.

3. Create 1-3 BOLD Long-term goals for each area And Break them into achievable Short Ones

The first step is to identify your goals for the area that needs improvement. If you have a family and it's currently not going well, then focus on this area before anything else.

Set BIG 10 Years Goals for each important area in your life

To set achievable goals: identify first what you want long-term (in 10 years), rather than short-term. Remember we underestimate what we can achieve in the future so be bold! – So put down what would ideally happen if this area was great or how life would look like.  

My 10year, 1 year and 90 day goals

My goal sheet as an example 

Create SMART yearly goals 

With our 10-year goal in mind, it's time to set 1-3 yearly goals for each area. For example, if your 10 year goal is to own a successful marketing agency that makes one million in sales then your one year goal could be to make 30k in sales. Now We Can Use SMART (Specific, Measurable And Realistic). These Goals Should Be Short Term Rather Than Long Term; They Should Also Be Clear And Concise So You Will Know When You've Reached Them!

Break the goals down with action items for 90 day goals / monthly goals

Once you have your goals in place, figure out how to reach them. This can be done by making subgoals, setting up a plan or simply creating some small steps that will help you achieve your goal more quickly and easily.

Many business owners I know use 90 day goals but 30-day or 60-day periods are also fine. It doesn't really matter the time frame. What is important is the time allows you to achieve what you can.


It is important that you have "doing goals." These are things you can measure and know if you do them, it will automatically get better over time.

If my wellbeing goal for the year is to be able to join an advanced yoga class, then one of my 90 day doing goals may be joining 1 yoga session every week and asking the teacher each month for feedback. I am capable of this activity which ultimately adds up to big momentum.
To put it simply: If it's not measurable, it doesn't count as a goal!

Review your goal progress every month With the 3 As (best with a buddy)

Now that you have your goals and action items the most important is to action, assess and adapt them. With these simple tips, you'll set goals with a focused plan and get what you want.

Step 1: Action items and assess your progress every month (with a buddy)

Setting action items and assessing your progress every month (or whatever time you choose) is one of the most important steps in goal-setting process.

It's also best to do this with a buddy so you can hold each other accountable for sticking to your goals. I recommend you literally schedule the sessions into your calendar.

Step 2: Adapt and Problem Solve if things don’t work

It is normal to not reach goals, so it's important to adapt. If something isn’t working the way you planned, brainstorm with your buddy about why that might be happening. You may have just lacked time for this particular goal or perhaps the goal was too big in scale (scale down) or else maybe it simply didn’t motivate you enough-in which case what needs killing is the goal itself

Step 3: Set realistic goals but that are outside of your comfort-zone or of what you're already doing

Your goals should be achievable, but they should also challenge you. Research shows that we're more likely to commit and reach hard than easy goals.  Why?

Hard goals are more motivating because we subconsciously think that they are important. Hard goals also stretch our limits and make us proud if we achieve them and usually give us higher rewards.

And finally, they help us build up muscle to work on hard things. In the end, it is not about achieving the goal but who we become in the process!

Step 4: Review your Wheel of Life every quarter and be impressed of what changed

The last step is probably the most important. Go back to your wheel of life and check how you stand in each area of your life. Be specific why and ask yourself how you could improve “What would it take to raise that six in career to an eight”.

Now to You: Set goals that matter to you and enjoy the journey

I hope that you saw why it is so important to take a step backwards before writing down your goals.

By using the wheel of life exercise you make sure you actually care about what you are working on and help you not loose track of all the important parts of your life. This then helps you to set goals that motivate you. A

"The ultimate reason for setting goals is to start you to become the person it takes to achieve them.

JIM ROHN‧ The only real success coach. He was the coach of Tony Robbins...

And even if you fail your goals it wont be a problem as it simply shows that this was not the right tool for your chosen area of life. You can never fail your area in your life as this is just what matters to you.

Let me know in the comments, which area in you life do you need to boost most? I promise I answer!

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About the Author

Work Psychologist & Advisor, with the sole purpose to find and offer you the most competent advise so you grow professionally and live a fulfilling work-life on your terms. 

Find out more: How I went from being an anxious, always pleasing and stuck in the rat-race professional to creating a well-paying career and fulfilling life on my terms.


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