Master Goal Setting to Achieve Your Goals Quicker


How many goals have you set for yourself that have tapered into the abyss and were never brought to fruition?

There's a reason why bookstores have self-help sections dedicated to helping you achieve your goals and overcome barriers. It's probably the same reason that we're not all walking around as superhuman-achievers having accomplished every goal we've ever had.

Goal setting [and achievement] is a skill.

As Dr. Seuss might say, there are big ones, small ones, long ones, and short ones. Some goals are more easily accomplished than others. For example, a goal to make your bed every morning for one week is short-term, minimally time-consuming, with little to no learning curve involved. Whereas, becoming a licensed physician requires the achievement of 1000 smaller goals prior, and may challenge your grit and resilience.

Whatever your goals are; this blog is intended to shed light on the topic of goal setting as it relates to emotional and mental wellbeing. 

Topics Covered:

  • Types of goals
  • Why is goal setting important?
  • Clarify your goals
  • Achieve your goals

Types of Goals

Goals are typically considered as either short-term or long-term. The definition of 'short-term' vs. 'long-term' is subjective and there is no universal metric used. What's important is how you conceptualize your goals to the extent that you pace your progress in a reasonable timeframe. Realistic expectations contributes to consistency while working towards bigger goals.

  1. Short-term goal: a goal that you aim to complete in the near future. This could range from a week to a few months or a couple years.
  2. Long-term goal: a goal that you expect to complete in several years.

Does money buy happiness? 

Let's break that down. Yes, to an extent. Plenty of evidence supports the idea that wealthier people are happier (Lucas, Dyrenforth, & Diener, 2008). 

There is an obvious benefit to having sufficient funds, which is security. On top of security, excess money provides opportunity for fun, new, lavish experiences. It can also allow for time off and buffer stress because you're not operating in survival mode or wondering if you can afford next month's rent. Money is important and financial health and wealth can certainly influence mental health and wellbeing.

Money doesn't guarantee happiness. 

New research conducted at the University of British Columbia shows that time was valued by just over half of graduating students (approximately 60%) compared to money (approximately 40%). At a year follow up, they found that those that prioritized time above money were happier (i.e. scored higher on life satisfaction) than their counterparts (Dunn & Courtney, 2020). It's suggested that how you live each day and conceptualize your life weighs heavier on life satisfaction than your income.   

Why is Goal Setting Important?

Goals are a way for us to channel our values in a structured way, to help build our self-efficacy and confidence, and cultivate a life that aligns with our senes of self.

Happy are those that live in the present while mindfully moving towards their goals [observations made from a therapist with years of clinical experience]. This is a simplified idea of the array of contributing factors that cultivate happiness, contentment, or joy in individuals. The data supports the following:

  • Setting goals and reflecting upon them is positively correlated with academic success (Morisano, Hirsh, Pihl, & Shore, 2010; Dunn & Courtney, 2020).
  • Goals and the experience of motivation are interrelated. We tend to experience motivation in some part of goal setting (Dunn & Courtney, 2020). Next time you're feeling motivated, notice how energized and connected you feel.
  • Goal setting is associated with optimism; hope [that things can and will get better] and optimism are linked with how we manage our goals (Bressler, Bressler, & Bressler, 2010; Dunn & Courtney, 2020). Goal setting [and achievement] reinforces the idea that you have agency and self-efficacy.

Goals Clarification

Perhaps you've noticed that something feels off; you're irritable, anxious, depressed, or otherwise unsettled. There's a cognitive dissonance between your current circumstances and ideal. You're experiencing misalignment in some aspect of your life. Is it part of your career? Relationships? Family? Living circumstances? Fitness?

Working with a licensed therapist can help you clarify your values-based goals by untangling thoughts and feelings out loud with an unbiased party. Registered psychotherapists and social workers are trained in active listening and asking questions that facilitate self-discovery and understanding.

Once you have a better idea of the direction you'd like to take, your therapist will work collaboratively with you to move towards your goals. In therapy, this could be achieved using any one or combination of these processes:

  • Talk therapy
  • Developing SMART goals and action planning against barriers
  • Developing cope ahead plans for difficult emotions
  • Setting realistic expectations
  • Brainstorming
  • Resolving conflicting thoughts and feelings
  • Reframing or letting go of core beliefs that keep you stuck
  • Developing self-compassion and self-efficacy
  • Rewiring inner dialogue to become more encouraging

What do you remember when you reflect upon your past experiences of emotional turmoil? Emotional turmoil often stems from an inner conflict or feeling of 'being in limbo', where you are undecided, unsure, and living half-way in or out of choices.

If you've experienced this, you know it's an uncomfortable place to be. It can be draining and all-consuming as our minds search for the 'right' answer. We want to make the choice that is worth our investment of time, energy, [and possibly money].

If you've ever clarified a direction or made a concrete goal, you also know how empowering that can feel to make an active choice and start taking agency on how you live!

Goal Achievement 

Hands up if you've ever set a clear goal and got all the excitement and motivation that comes with that, only to have it fade after the planning process is over and reality sets in (Hello, New Year's resolutions). Planning can promote positive feelings, specifically, motivation, and unfortunately, motivation is a feeling - and feelings are temporary.

That's why relying on motivation to achieve your goals is largely unhelpful. Depending on what your goals are, you might need to manage your expectations and figure out what you have to accept about the process of achieving this goal.

For example, if I have a goal of being able to do the splits, then I will have to accept a few things:

  • It's not going to happen overnight.
  • I have to start somewhere. Progress will likely be slow and minimal at first.
  • Discipline is necessary to stay consistent and scheduled in my stretching routine.
  • It will be uncomfortable at times.
  • I will not always want to do it. In fact, I might dread it or have urges to avoid it at times.

There are many skills and strategies that are useful in goal setting and goal achievement. Consider SMART goal setting below.

goal setting


  1. Bressler, M., Bressler, L., & Bressler, M. (2010). The role and relationship of hope, optimism and goal setting in academic success: A study of students enrolled in online accounting courses. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 14, 37-51.
  2. Dunn, E. & Courtney, C. (2020, September 14). Does money really make us more happy? Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from:
  3. Houston, E. (2019, April 9). What is goal setting and how to do it well. Positive Psychology. Retrieved from:
  4. Lucas, R. E., Dyrenforth, P. S., & Diener, E. (2008). Four myths about subjective well‐Social and Personality Psychology Compass2(5), 2001-2015.
  5. Morisano, D., Hirsh, J. B., Peterson, J. B., Pihl, R. O., & Shore, B. M. (2010). Setting, elaborating, and reflecting on personal goals improves academic performance. Journal of Applied Psychology95(2), 255-264.