Does Goal Setting Work? Let Me Show You How It Can Change Your Life

We have all heard about goal setting, right? Positive attitude all and that? Well, if you think it is just a load of brain-washing baloney, I’ll prove to you that it can work in attaining anything you desire in life. I know this is a bold statement, but I have used it all my adult life, and the results can be astounding. Allow me to show you how it can work for you…

Throughout my life I have always been fascinated with how certain people do better than others, not just financially, but socially, and personally. Since I was young I have always studied what most people would perceive as ‘successful’ people, their traits, personalities, and simply what separates them from other people.

What Goal Setting Can Do For You

When most people think about goal setting, they may conjure up old-style American gurus chanting at frenzied audiences, and to be fair, that is also an image that comes to me when I think about the 80’s/90’s. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about all the self-motivation products I used to buy when I was younger – again, all as part of the fascination I had, and still have, where successful people are concerned.

The fascination has always been why can one person create different results to somebody else, when they both have the same goals. For example, how can one person go on to build a thriving, successful business, where somebody else will make all the wrong decisions, and ultimately end up with a failed venture.

A lot of people will claim this is down to luck, or factors outside of our control. But I strongly disagree. Sure, there may be a certain amount of luck involved, but I also think, and know, that to a certain extent we make out own ‘luck’ by simply trying, and taking action – with the right mindset.

But really, goal setting can help you with your everyday life, and that is just for starters.

Setting goals is not all about making money!

The analogy I read once (a few years ago) was that when a pilot sets of from say London to New York, that the plane is actually off course 90% of the time, and that for the pilot to remain on course, and reach his destination, a continuous, and progressive amount of changes to the flight path needs to be completed. Otherwise the plane would simply never reach it’s destination.

Also, if you were to set off in your car from Edinburgh, to London without a satellite navigation, or a road map, then you yourself would also need to make a continuous amount of small changes to reach your destination. It is the same principle, and very true of many aspects of life, not just travel.

When you think about it, unless you know where you are going, how can you ever hope to reach the destination – any destination? It make sense, right?

This is also true of personal goals, wishes, and desires. If you don’t have a clear plan, or clear destination then you can easily become side-tracked, and miss your desired goal.

Goal Setting Provides a Clear Forward Direction

Goal setting also helps you when you have smaller goals, and desires.

For example, how many times how you heard somebody say:

“If only I won the lottery, everything would be so much better”

But when you ask those same people EXACTLY what they would do with the money, then most of them simply will not be able to give you a clear view of their plans, should they ever come into such a life changing amount. It is also one of the main reasons they will never be in such a position of such wealth.

They are not prepared for it, and do not have the capability to handle it, thus life ensures they will not attain it.

Another example of how goal setting works, from my personal perspective:

When I was younger and just reading about goal setting, I purchased a book called “I Will” by the late Ben Sweetland (an absolute must read if you are serious about making things happen, and taking action to achieve your goals).


The book was quite old, and the version I had (and still have, albeit it is a little tatty now as I have read it countless times) was written in the 1960’s, and this was way before the internet was around, so there were no reviews on such products, and basically all you could do was take the publishers word for it. But I ordered “I Will”, and from the first few pages I was absolutely gripped by the content.

I was 17 at the time, and like many 17 years old ‘wanted to do stuff’ and ‘wanted things’.

I was out of work at the time, and didn’t have a lot going on in my life, and what the book taught me, from the very beginning, was that you MUST plan, even down to the finer details; and by planning in detail, your mind becomes at ease with the task at hand.

I couldn’t drive, and had no job, and the prospect of completing these objectives (as small as they were, in reality) was fairly overwhelming.

The book taught me to break everything down into tiny steps, and by doing so you immediately begin to see the final conclusion – attaining the ‘things’ you are setting out to get.

I tried it, even after reading a few pages, as the book really gets into it, and the philosophy behind it was so well written that it compelled you to take action, and as a curious 17 year old, I thought I had nothing to lose, so I did exactly as instructed.

Goal Setting in Practice

I gathered some paper, and wrote down exactly what I needed to do to achieve finding a job, and getting my driving license.

There is an old saying, that the first step is the hardest to take, but when the ball is rolling, and the momentum has been built, then it is far easier to continue in the direction you are going, or have chosen – so, so true.

Firstly, I wrote down exactly the steps I needed to take to gaining a driving license, which went along the lines of:

  • Needing driving lessons.
  • Finding a driving instructor.
  • Getting hold of the yellow pages.
  • Asking for prices.
  • Booking my first lesson.
  • Practicing with a family member to pass quickly.
  • Passing my test.
  • Done.

Now the above might seem fairly mundane, and obvious, but do you know, everything becomes obviously when you break it down into smaller steps, and actually take ACTION.


Within 1 day I had written my first goal list, and 2 days later had my first driving lesson, and around 8 months later I had my driving license, and a car – Done.

The other thing I needed at the time was a job, as mentioned above, so I carried out the same formula of breaking this down into steps, which again, consisted of similar, ‘baby’ steps:

  • Needing to find what jobs were available.
  • Purchasing the local newspaper for job advertisements.
  • Compiling a list of jobs that I could do, and that I was interested in.
  • Phoning up the companies on the compiled list.
  • Making sure I had a suit for the interviews.
  • Attending interviews.
  • Getting a job.

And inside a week of writing this list, and following through, I had a part time job which suited me perfectly. In fact, I remember at the interview of the first job I went for, the manager saying that I was the first person that had arrived in a suit, and that was one of the reasons I was offered the job.

Like I said, it might all seem obviously, but without me actually writing down what I really needed to do, and the actions I had to take, I simply would not have carried through. So I quickly had a job, and passed my driving test 8 months later.

From that moment I was hooked on goal setting, and have used it ever since.

Another personal example was when I went to get my first proper car.

Back when I was younger most cars I could afford were rust buckets, so after I had a couple of £200 (or so) cars that were literally just about passing their MOT, I wanted to get something a bit better, so after looking at a few forecourts (traveling by bus), and assessing how much I could afford I decided on a Ford escort, and it had to be a white one.

Now here is the amazing thing about goal setting.

When you are actively searching for what it is you desire, your subconscious mind suddenly springs into life, and if you didn’t know, your subconscious mind is a part of your brain that is responsible for your well being, your deford-escort-goalsires, and wants, and you can actually train this part of your brain to help you – although that is a subject all on its own.

But yes, have you ever decided you wanted something, and suddenly you start seeing it everywhere? You just notice what it is you have decided on, and because you have actually focused on it on a subconscious level you suddenly see it everywhere.

For example, with the Ford escort I wanted, I suddenly started seeing them all over the place, driving past me, in people’s drives, and the strange thing was they were all the exact colour I had envisaged owning. It is actually quite spooky when you first notice it happening, honestly it is 🙂

Your Subconscious Mind Working For You

I would actually be very surprised if you have not had very similar experiences, because we all have that part of the brain that makes this happen.

Even over the last year there were ‘things’ I wanted where the exactly same sequence of events happened.

I wanted new railings on the drive wall – and saw them everywhere whilst I was driving – not in the same Ford escort, I might add 🙂 But I found myself looking at people’s walls, and drives without even realising, and making mental notes which fine tuned what it was I was aiming for.

We ALL do this, maybe not with railings, but other purchases in your life.

But, you can use this same goal setting method for almost anything, including:

  • Relationship goals
  • Financial goals
  • Jobs
  • Health
  • Retirement
  • Happiness

The list really is endless, and it all boils down to deciding what it is you really want.

Writing Down Your Goals

I read once that there is something magical that happens when you physically write down your goals.

And the reason for this, I think, is because when you actually write something down it almost becomes a commitment to attaining it, and reading down on paper what it is you want, is somehow very soothing, and leads to taking the actions you need in a calm and considered way.

It’s true, you should try it.

I would say that most successful people know what they want, but more importantly, they know what they are prepared to do to achieve those goals.


Also, when you write down your goals, and read them on a continual basis, you will be surprised at just how this focuses your mind; almost like a constant reminder that if you don’t actually do anything, then your goals will be just that – goals, without any true meaning.

Now I must stop at this stage, because I can hear in my head as I type this “Ben, this does all sound a bit like a series of cliches” 🙂

But, honestly, this stuff works. But, you have to take action.

Have you ever been down the pub, with friends, and talked about what you are going to do? Maybe start a business, go for that new job, and buy that dream house….. one day?

I would say we have all been there, but it is those that take the actions required that make it happen. It is common sense when you really think about it.

You Goals Must Be Genuine Desires

This is important, because if you just write down a list on fanciful wants, of ‘things’ or ‘stuff’ you might like to have, but are not really that important to you, then you will simply not have the motivation to put any effort into their attainment.

Here’s an analogy I will give you, albeit a slightly dramatic one:

Imagine one day that a loved one became ill, and that unless you took action, then the illness would progress to an unwanted conclusion.

Now I know this may stir some emotions in some readers, and I apologise now for that, but think about it on a goal setting level. You would really want your loved one to get better, and if there were actions you could take to make this ‘go away’, then you would move heaven and earth to make that happen. You know it, and I know it. There is nothing you wouldn’t do that was within your physical power to help in this situation, and make sure that nothing further could happen to such a sad, potential conclusion.

Now think about the emotion the above analogy would invoke in you; you really would take absolutely massive action in that situation, wouldn’t you? If it were in your power? Of course you would.

So your goals must be something you really, really want, otherwise you simply will not be bothered to do what it takes to start moving in the direction you need to.

Away From Pain – Towards Happiness

It is a fact, that in human nature more people will take action to move away from something they don’t want, than towards something they do want.

For example, if you wanted to start a business, it may be something you hope for, and hope that some day it might happen, so your desire to move towards it, currently, may not be strong enough to warrant the actions required – towards the happiness.

On the other hand, if suddenly you found yourself behind on your mortgage payments, and had the real possibility of losing your home, and your family’s security, you would again, move much more quickly to stop this happening – moving away from potential pain.

Therefore, when deciding on your goals, you really must be honest with yourself, and decide if those wants, and wishes are real, or if they are just fanciful hopes.

Massive Action is Required

On the same theme of moving away from pain, or towards happiness, you will only put in the required effort, if your list contains real, and mostly emotional ‘wants’. You will simply not put in the effort required otherwise, that is a fact.

Why should you put effort into something that you don’t really care about? You won’t, will you.


There, I cannot say it much bigger than that.

Goal setting works, it really does, but you have to actually DO something. Life is short, why wouldn’t you want to fulfill all your wants, and dreams?

Remember the mates sitting in the pub scenario, I mentioned earlier? Well, I personally moved away from that, and decided that my life was far more important than just sitting around ‘dreaming’ about what I wanted – and you can do the same. It is 100% a choice, and one I recommend you take.

In conclusion to this post on Goal setting, I would lay out the following formula for your goals, should you decide you are going to be one of those people that actually takes the steps required to enhance your happiness.

  • Have a serious think about what it is you want.
  • Write down your goals, no matter how silly they may be at the time.
  • Read them daily, and study them.
  • Decide if those same goals are really what you want.
  • Decide if you have what it takes to achieve them, and follow through.
  • If you decide against the those goals, then they were not really important to you in the first place.
  • Break down your goals into manageable sections, baby steps, and complete the first step as soon as possible to start gaining momentum.
  • If you decide the goals are important, and worth going for, then take all the actions you have detailed in the manageable sections/steps.

You will soon learn if those goals are important, because if you find yourself struggling to gain momentum, and if you cannot really be bothered with taking the steps required, then scrap those goals and re-assess what is really important to you, and write a new set of goals.

What I have found throughout my life, is that once you have decided to start setting goals, and have got into the habit of breaking down the goals into manageable sections, then if they are important to you, you will find a way to attain them.

If those same goals were not so important, you will take no action, and will simply make excuses.  So your goals must be aims that really propel you to take action, otherwise you will be wasting your own time.

But, use this formula the right way, and this goal setting lark can lead to you places that will definitely surprise you, but you must be honest in what you want, and what you are prepared to do for your goals.

I have used the same formula, and steps for all areas of my life, especially in business, when I am looking at starting a new venture. Starting a business can seem such a large step to take, that many people will just not get started; but I promise you, once you start getting into the habit of writing down what you need to do, and breaking down those steps even further, then you end up with a formula for success.

Should you always stick to the plan?

Remember the pilot analogy from earlier, where he would be off course for 90% of his flight journey? The same happens in life, you will find yourself constantly re-adjusting, and this will ensure that you stay on the right path, because no journey will ever be set in stone, but only by having a clear, and concise plan can you see what is not working for you, which then gives you the opportunity to change direction, and adjust the course (steps) in the correct direction you need to go in.

Conclusion on Goal Setting

It is far better than blowing about in the wind, with no direction.

One final thought that I always keep with me, is this:

If you don’t have a plan for your life, then you can bet your last £ that you will become part of somebody else’s plan – and why take the risk……



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