Screw Goal Setting, Practice Goal Mastery

Ever set a goal for yourself that you didn’t achieve?

If you said “no”—congratulations. You’re perfect. You’re a model citizen. You’re destined for greatness. Stop reading this article right now and go find a cure for cancer. Away with you!

If you said “yes”—well, you’re like the rest of us—you’re human.

goalsNo doubt, you’ve probably given up on multiple occasions before crossing the finish line and achieving your goal. And this time in January is notorious for being the point that well thought-out goals get silently swept under the rug—you give up, you get burnt out or you fall short.

Any of these goals sound familiar?

I want to…

  • “Start a profitable online business”
  • “Make enough money from my business so I can quit my job”
  • “Lose 20 pounds and get back in shape”
  • “Get on a regular exercise routine”
  • “Spend more time with my family”
  • “Travel more with my partner”


If you’re setting goals like these, how often do you have long-term success with them? How regularly are you checking them off your life to-do list?

I’m guessing not very often. Studies show that 60% of people give up on their New Year’s Resolution in less than 6 months.


Because the type of goals listed above are more likely to hinder your success than help it.

Goal setting by itself is completely useless. I can list out 10 amazing goals for myself right now in a matter of minutes—that’s easy. It doesn’t mean anything.

On top of that, lofty goals like the ones above slow you down. All of a sudden, you have this massive objective that you’re supposed to be working on despite the ten thousand other things on your plate. And when you don’t see significant progress on your goal in a short period of time (i.e. you didn’t lose 10 pounds in three days or get 10 new clients in a week), you start to beat yourself up.

Then your former ambition turns into negative self talk. Your brain spouts off repetitive criticisms like…

“You’ll never achieve this goal—it’s too hard for you”
“Who do you think you are to accomplish something like that?”
“You don’t have what it takes”

Now you’re caught in a downward spiral, your goal has been forced into hibernation until next January, and you are left feeling worse about yourself than when you started.

We’ve all been there—it’s not a pretty sight.

Don’t let this be you! This year, it’s time to take a different approach so you don’t end up in the same predicament as last year.

Let’s take this moment to make a distinction—there’s goals setting (which we’ve determined to be useless), and then there’s goal mastery. These are two completely different things.

To be in the latter category, you have to build a framework to support your goals. Otherwise, as we’ve seen, they will collapse underneath you in a short period of time.

Here is the essential 7-step framework for goal mastery:

  1. Set a specific and measurable goal
  2. Break down big goals into smaller tasks
  3. Do research
  4. Create a plan
  5. Test it, modify it and test again (repeat as necessary)
  6. Get support
  7. Keep going until completed


Let’s look at this framework in action.

For example, say that your goal for 2014 is to “Make enough money from my business so I can quit my day job”. Sounds amazing, right? You’re probably thinking, I’d love to do that!!

But what in the world does this goal really mean and how to you go about accomplishing it? Let’s break it down…

#1: Set a specific and measurable goal

Instead of setting a vague goal such as “Make enough money from my business so I can quit my day job”, you want to create a specific and measurable goal. If you don’t know exactly what you want to accomplish in the very beginning, it’s doubtful you’ll get it done, so be specific.

In this case, your measurable goal might be “double my business income from 2013 over the calendar year” or “consistently make $4000 per month” or “sign up two new clients per month”. (Let’s run with the last one for this example.)

Create a very clear, attainable, specific goal and WRITE IT DOWN. Don’t just keep it floating around in your head. Goals that are written down are 42% more likely to be accomplished than those that aren’t (according to a study by Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California).

#2: Break down your big goal into smaller, achievable tasks

Even though “sign up two new clients per month” is a specific goal, it can still be overwhelming and unattainable if you don’t break it down into smaller tasks. So the next step is to create and write down smaller, more achievable goals that support your big goal.

For instance, how are you specifically going to find these two clients a month? (They aren’t just going to appear because you wrote it down as a goal.) Are you going to attend networking events? Present free workshops in your town? Make cold calls? Connect with JV partners? Or maybe do a combination of several things?

For this example, say you decide that attending three networking events per month is the most effective way for you to consistently land two new clients. Now you’ve broken your big goal into a smaller “doable” goal. (Note: Keep breaking down every goal until it’s in its smallest, most achievable form. This might take a few iterations.)

#3: Do research

Next you want to do the research. Which networking events are you going to attend? When/where are they meeting? Do you have to be a member to attend? How much does it cost? How are you going to effectively network and get clients? What’s your elevator speech? Write all of this information down.

Doing the research is a critical step to help you reach your goal. You can’t effectively accomplish a task if you don’t know what’s involved. At the same time, you don’t want this step to slow you down or leave you with a truckload of excuses about why you can’t get something done. Do the research quickly and then move ahead to Step 4.

#4: Create a plan

To set yourself up to win, you need to plan in advance how you’re going to successfully achieve the smaller goals you’ve set for yourself. I like to call this the “pre-work” or “pre-action” step. In other words, this is the time to create a concrete plan using the information that you gathered in Step 3.

For this example, creating a plan might be choosing the exact three networking events you’ll be attending and adding those events into your calendar. You might also need to order business cards, send your suit to the dry cleaner or practicing your elevator speech—plan ahead for these things.

PLUS, be sure to plan ahead for things like what you’re going to wear, what you’re going to eat that day or what you need to bring. Many times, seemingly “insignificant” circumstances (e.g. not knowing what to wear that day or what you’re going to eat for breakfast) will secretly stall you or completely knock you off course in the long run. Don’t let this happen to you—plan everything ahead of time.

#5: Test it, modify it and test again (repeat as necessary)

Now that you’ve done all the research and pre-planning, it’s time to dive in and get your hands dirty. Get started working your plan and achieving your goals!

Keep in mind that goal mastery is a process and an experiment—not just a one-time task execution and you might not “get it right” the very first time. This means that you have to try out your plan, test it, modify it and test again. It’s normal to tweak your tasks and plans as needed until you reach your ultimate goal.

Say, for instance, that you scheduled three 7am networking events into your calendar but all the Folgers in the world can’t seem to get you out of bed in the morning. This might mean you should look into attending evening networking events. Or say that you flawlessly execute your original networking event plan for three months straight, but you notice that you haven’t gotten the consistent two clients per month that you want. Well, it might be time to rethink part (or all) of the plan.

Be prepared to tweak your plan, test it and then test it again. It’s all part of the process, so don’t give up right when things start to look a little rocky.

#6: Get support

When you’re making significant changes to your life or business, it can be extremely helpful to get the right support. If you’re struggling to follow your plan or achieve your long-term goals, find an accountability partner or a coach who can help you. This will help you consistently stay focused along the journey and even help you escape some of the common pitfalls you’re destine to encounter along the way.

Never be afraid to ask for help. People who have an effective support system are more likely to  reach their long-term goals than those who don’t.

#7: Keep going until completed

In this case, “completing” your goals just means that you’ve managed to lock in a steady routine of attending networking events. Truthfully, you didn’t “arrive” at the finish line—instead, you created a successful habit which allowed you to achieve your goal.

In the end, having a successful business means executing a series of successful habits. (This is the same for being successful with your health or with your relationships, too!) When you break it down—goal mastery is simply habit creation. To have a successful business operation, you have to consistently do the work every day. And when you can master this, you will undoubtedly reap the benefits.

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[email protected] - 5 years ago

Hi Lauren,

Thanks for the great tips. It’s what we all need at this time of year. The third week in January also seems to be the week everyone starts forgetting their resolutions!



    Laurel Staples - 5 years ago

    Hi Naomi–glad you liked the post! I thought it would be appropriate for this time of year. 🙂

Life Giving You Lots of Crap? Here’s Why… | 10x10 | Get More Clients | Coaching Success - 4 years ago

[…] After you’ve written out your goals, check out this article to learn how to effectively accomplish them: Screw Goal Setting, Practice Goal Mastery […]

Life Giving You Lots of Crap? Here’s Why… | ProCoach Academy | Get More Clients Now - 3 years ago

[…] After you’ve written out your goals, check out this article to learn how to effectively accomplish them: Screw Goal Setting, Practice Goal Mastery […]

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