Goals: A How-to Guide

Set yourself up for success with our easy-to-follow goal guide
Published December 31, 2016


Catherine Thorburn, a Toronto-based life coach who offers personal, career, and business coaching, sees people struggling with goal-making all the time. And one of the reasons, she says, is because they don’t start with a vision of the bigger picture.

Be realistic

“You don’t want to set yourself up for failure,” Thorburn says. For example, if your goal is to make exercise a regular part of your life, but you currently don’t exercise at all, then setting a goal to run a marathon right away may not be realistic. Instead, a goal such as putting your running shoes on and going for a walk every other evening might be more doable.

Have a vision

Make your goal a fully realized vision, Thorburn advises. The key is to create tangible goals that have value to you. For example, setting a goal such as, “I want to have a relationship” isn’t a fully realized vision. Why do you want to have a relationship? What are you looking for in a relationship and what would one bring to your life?

Take turtle steps

Thorburn, who studied under author and Oprah Winfrey Show life coach Dr. Martha Beck, recalls something her mentor said: Break goals into turtle steps.

“I think there is so much power in that,” Thorburn said.

You are more likely to reach small goals, which will naturally make you feel accomplished.

Be accountable

How you track your progress toward reaching your goals is up to you. If you are a visual person, using charts may be helpful to you. Others may like writing, so keeping a diary, food journal or exercise log may be useful. Some people might just need reminders on their phones to stick with their goals or, if exercise is their goal, a fitness tracker might help. Even just talking about your goals can be helpful – to keep herself accountable, Thorburn tells people about the goals she’s set.

Dealing with setbacks

When it comes to dealing with both setbacks and successes, it helps to be open and honest with yourself.

If you’ve run into a setback, Thorburn says to take a look at what caused it. Was it something within your control? If the root of the setback was within your control, she says ask yourself if your goal was unrealistic in the first place. Consider adjusting your goal to make it more achievable.

Handling successes

Again, small goals are key. The simple achievement of doing something you set out to do, however minor it may be, can have an impact on how you feel about yourself. And if it feels good to recognize yourself for meeting these goals, even the little ones, Thorburn says take a timeout to celebrate your achievement.

On the flip side, Thorburn says, it is very human and healthy never to be 100 per cent satisfied with ourselves. “There’s nothing wrong with wanting to achieve more.”

As the new year rolls in, Thorburn says it’s a good time to set a fresh goal – provided you’re not just setting one because it’s that time of year and you think that you should. Think about the goals that mean something to you, and see the value in them. Create a vision for yourself and the goals you want to reach this year.