If there’s one subject I wish they had taught me in school or someone had mentored me on early in my career, it would be goal setting. Take that, add in some visualization and mindset work, and I would have been off to the races. But, instead, I created a pattern of failed new year’s resolutions and unmet expectations that I called “goals” even though they were only dreams and wishes. 

Today, I want to make sure you don’t follow that same path. Goal setting, at its core, is much more strategic and process-driven than what anyone had shared with me. It goes far beyond creating the fluffy, unstructured new year’s resolutions that I used to make in years past. Instead, there is a method for setting goals and creating the environment needed to achieve them. Understanding what I know today, I can see why I failed so many times… I had no strategy or process in place. Today, I am setting goals and maximizing on them – and so can you.

Here are five “must-have” elements for successful goal setting:

First, creating a baseline is key. Like running a marathon requires knowing where the starting line is, setting your goals requires understanding where you’re starting from. You need to be clear about what has driven your past successes and failures. I’m not saying we should spend time focused on your life’s rear-view mirror. Your past has passed. Instead, just give a quick glance backward. Every year in December, I spend some time working through a simple worksheet to reflect back and create a snapshot of where I’ve been. What worked in the past year, and what didn’t? It provides a solid foundation for my goal setting. 

Second, understanding your “why” is essential. Successful goal setting requires an emotional connection that is tied to your goal. As I shared recently in the Grit Meets Growth podcast, there needs to be intensity behind your goals. For example, you hate where you’re feeling stuck or you’re passionate about where you’re going. The feeling needs to get so intense that you’re ready to take action, get uncomfortable, and invest energy into what you want – even when it requires hard work, or you feel like giving up.

Third, your goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. What does that mean? They need to be:

  • Specific: Well-defined and clear. You know what the goal is and what success looks like.
  • Measurable: Includes the ability to measure progress towards completion of the goal
  • Achievable: Attainable, not impossible to achieve, but should stretch you a bit as well
  • Relevant: Aligned with your WHY, purpose, and passions
  • Timely: Includes a clearly defined time-line, with a starting date and a target date

Fourth, you need to create an action plan. Unless you understand the specific actions that need to take place to meet your goals, you will never achieve what you want. Define what those actions are, map out what needs to get done when, and then figure out what one or two things need to happen to start creating momentum. Creating this kind of plan is essential. Then, you need to stick to your plan, which leads us to the final thing I’ve learned…

Fifth, and finally, accountability is key. Accountability shows up in two ways. First, we can hold ourselves accountable and set time aside each week to check in with ourselves and our progress. Second, and even more important, is including others in our goal setting and giving them permission to hold us accountable. Every Friday morning at 8:00 I jump on a call with my accountability partner. We break down last week’s progress, reset for the week, and tell each other what we’re going to do in the week to come – the things we’ll do to move closer to our goals. This call is one of the highlights of every week.

My Transition

For years, I tried to sit down with my journal to write down my goals. I would sit and stare at those blank pages, trying to figure out where to start. It was hard, and as I shared earlier, I would write down two or three resolutions that never turned into anything. Then, a year later, I would find myself in front of that blank sheet of paper, no closer to what I wanted in life. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind, wasn’t asking the right questions, and wasn’t being strategic.

Five years ago, that changed. I researched the tools other people were using to set their goals, and over time, I created my own tool to do just that. Now, I follow this same process every December and use this tool to set me up for the new year’s success. It asks me the tough questions and walks me through my goal setting from start to finish, step-by-step.


You can download Depth Not Width’s 2022 Goal Planner here. It’s free, easy to use, and creates results. Here’s an example… One of my goals in 2021 was to launch a podcast. Today, as I mentioned above, you can listen to the Grit Meets Growth podcast across the globe. I attribute that to my goal-setting process and this tool. Now, you can experience those same kinds of results.


The Takeaway

How will 2022 roll out for you? Will you set goals for the new year, and will you actually achieve them? Or will you find yourself back in the same spot next December, no closer to what you want? The answer to those questions starts with how you set your goals right now.

Don’t wait! Download Depth Not Width’s 2022 Goal Planner now.

Ready for more?

Follow me here for more insights like this one through 2022! If you liked this, you’ll also get massive value out of the Grit Meets Growth podcast that I share with Chris Cathers. Find it here or on your favorite podcast platform. Let’s make this a year worth remembering! – John