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Goal Setting: 25 Tips

At Blue Pencil Institute, we help our clients establish "Goldilocks goals" for their careers and their lives -- ones that are not too hard, not too soft, but just right. How? Here are Blue Pencil Institute's top 25 tips for setting personal and professional goals. For more information about Blue Pencil Institute's programs, products, and coaching, visit our website at For more tips for career professionals, follow Dr. Laura Hills on Twitter @DrLauraHills.

Goals with no time frame can fizzle. They tend to be put on the back burner whenever something/someone comes along that needs attention. Establish a timeframe for every goal.

Writing down your goals is the first step toward achieving them.

Phrase your goals like you've already achieved them. Ex: "I now own outright a new blue BMW 4-door sedan" or "I have just been promoted".

Write goals in positive terms. Ex "I am now free of the habit of smoking." (NOT: "I'm not a smoker.") Positive outcomes are more motivating.

Phrasing your goals in the present tense makes them more compelling & triggers your brain to think of them as achievable and real.

Establish goals that do not contradict one another. Don't try to buy a $950,000 house if your income goal is only $50,000 per year.

Focus on your end goals first. Then open your mind to new ideas. You may find that there are several means by which you could achieve them.

Set goals that are high but attainable. A too-easy goal with little payoff isn't very motivating. Impossible goals are a turnoff.

Forget what sounds good or noble or what others expect of you. Choose goals that resonate with you personally.

If your career goal falls into the "should" category, or is not self-imposed, it's probably not the right goal for you.

Adjust your goals to account for new opportunities and responsibilities and to align with your personal growth.

Establish goals in these six areas: Family/Home, Spiritual/Ethical, Social/Cultural, Mental/Educational, Financial/Career, Health/Wellbeing.

Develop goals that have at least one performance indicator attached to them (such as a dollar amount, a percentage, or a raw number).

Establish three types of personal goals: Accomplishments. Behaviors. Things.

Recognize when you're establishing goals out of pain you haven't yet worked through. Work on healing before trying to move forward.

Choose goals that represent what you want for yourself and others when no one is looking and that are consistent with your personal values.

Develop goals that are bold and that excite you. Don't be ho-hum about them. You will need more than discipline to succeed.

The more successful you become, the more you'll be deluged with opportunities. Don't let new opportunities distract/pull you off course.

Write goals in rich detail. Your subconscious manifests ideas literally. Use clear/specific/powerful language to describe what you want.

Develop goals that you care about deeply and that will bring you great satisfaction and joy when you ultimately achieve them.

It can be daunting if all of your goals are hugely difficult and will require years of hard work. Establish both short- and long-term goals.

Establish career and life goals that are truly YOUR goals. Don't try to please others at your own expense.

Wealth is not an end goal. Happiness, security, freedom to travel -- these are examples of end goals. Wealth is just a means to those ends.

Three top reasons we don't achieve our goals: We don't value them. They aren't sufficiently specific. We lack the support we need.

Write goals with passionate, motivating language. Ex: "I absolutely love and am excited about waking up every day in my beautiful new home."