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How to Set Personal Goals for Work & Life (To Achieve Them)


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Today I’m covering how to set personal goals for work and life that are more meaningful so that you’ll be more likely to achieve them (while actually having fun).

Because what’s the point of setting goals that don’t motivate you to keep going?  And why bother trying to reach something that won’t make you happy?

That’s why it’s so important to know how to go about setting goals the right way (yes, there’s a right and wrong way). Which is why I’ve drafted the ACHIEVE Big Workbook, a free resource that will help you set purpose-based goals AND achieve them. Grab your free copy of the ACHIEVE BIG workbook >>>here.

3 Keys to Setting Personal Goals for Work and Life That You’ll Actually Achieve

Achieving your goals requires work. And this work isn’t always easy or simple. It takes mental and physical energy, time, focus and dedication.  

Although some people are naturally more focused, most humans are not designed that way. We get pulled off-track by bright shiny objects, question ourselves, and put things off as a result.  The good news is that you can do something about that.

By setting your personal goals the right way, you’ll be more motivated, focused and energized to achieve your goals.  And that means staying on track no matter how hard the work is or how many shiny objects come your way and getting back on track after experiencing a setback.

There are three keys to setting your personal goals (for work and for your personal life) in a way that sets you up for success:

  1. Conducting a year-end review.
  2. Setting purpose-based goals.
  3. Being clear about your desired outcome & your path to get there. 

Let’s go through through each one and why they matter so much for successful goal-achievement.


Happy woman who knows her purpose


Key #1: Conducting a Year-End Review (And Why It’s Imperative For Successful Goal-Achievement)

One of the most important things you can do BEFORE setting new goals (especially when setting big annual or quarterly goals) is to conduct a review of where you are and how far you’ve come since you last set personal goals.

Goals are all about personal growth and professional development.  In fact, that’s the whole point.  That’s why it’s so important to conduct a review.  When conducting your review, think about the following:

  • Where you started at the beginning of the quarter or year,
  • Your successes and what helped you to succeed (and be sure to celebrate them), 
  • Where you fell short or failed (and why), and
  • What you learned from your journey, including what you learned about yourself.

This process will help give you clarity around your strengths and how you’ve grown (and how to better leverage what you’ve learned in the future).  And it will also help you to be honest about your weaknesses, enabling you to identify how to get help and plan around them. 

The end result is that you’ll be more prepared for your next goal-achievement journey.  You’ll be more confident and will have more control over your path forward.

Don’t worry just yet about how to do this. Not only will we cover that below, but the ACHIEVE Big Workbook includes 10 must-ask questions for when you’re conducting this year-end review. Download your free copy of the workbook here:


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Key #2: Setting Purpose-Based Goals (and Why This Matters So Much)

If you want personal goals (for work and your personal life) that are more meaningful to you, then it’s important that your goals be values-based.  And that means aligning them around your core values.

Your core personal values give you meaning and purpose in life. They also guide your behavior (even if you’re unaware of it).  They’re the lens through which you see the world and your place in the world.

Values-based goals lead to more purpose.  They keep you motivated to do the hard work, help you stay productive and create internal excitement.  And working to achieve (and then achieving) personal goals that align with your core values leads to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.

But that’s not the ONLY reason to set values-based goals because the effects of going after goals that don’t align with your core values are detrimental.

What Happens When Goals Aren’t Connected To Your Values

Have you ever realized half-way through achieving a goal that you don’t really want it after all?  Or have you achieved a goal and wondered why you weren’t as happy as you thought you’d be upon achieving it?  That’s much more likely to occur with goals that aren’t values-based. 

And it’s even worse if your goal is in conflict with a value.  Goal-achievement won’t just be difficult, it will feel wrong (and you’ll be unmotivated).  Moreover, it will infect your entire mentality and make you unhappy – both with your goal and in life.

Unfortunately it’s easy to get caught up in society’s definition of what success means, which often leads to goals that aren’t in alignment with your values.  I see this happen a lot with new clients, which is why so many of them hire me to achieve goals that they throw out quickly after we begin working together (one of the first things I help them with is to reconnect themselves to their core values).

[Recommended Reading: Learn more about what core values are, how they lead to happiness and how to uncover yours in How to Redefine Yourself Into Happiness].


What it looks like to have happiness


Key #3: Getting Clarity About Your Desired Outcome + Path Forward (And Why It’s Necessary When Setting Personal Goals for Work and Life)

I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goal-setting by now.  The first prong in SMART goal-setting involves being specific about your goal.  Of course, that makes sense (it’s pretty difficult to achieve a goal, much less get started, if you aren’t specific about what you want).

But there’s more to it than that. 

Getting clear around your goal helps you to start putting a rough path forward for goal-achievement.  And it helps you to determine whether you really want it.

Furthermore, taking time to think through exactly what you want (and the rough path forward) will uncover:

  • Gaps in knowledge and skills (so that you can plan accordingly),
  • Where you’ll need help, and
  • Habits that might help or hinder your progress.

Please note that I’m not telling you to plan your entire path forward.  That’s not possible!  Plans will change due to new knowledge and unexpected circumstances.  

But it’s important to think through what you want and how you might get there so that you can identify where to get started, new habits to develop (and old habits to replace), and how to leverage your strengths and skills to your best advantage along the way. 

This process will uncover how difficult your goal might be to achieve, and how committed you really are to doing the work necessary to achieve it.  And it will help you be more prepared to achieve your goal.

[Recommended Reading: Discover the most common goal-setting mistakes that prevent you from reaching goals that are meaningful in Top 10 Goal-Setting Mistakes To Avoid].


Top 10 Goal-Setting Mistakes To Avoid Featured Image


Conducting Your Review

When it comes to conducting a review, I recommend that you do this any time you set new goals (whether this be on an annual basis, quarterly or even mid-year).

It’s important that you conduct your review BEFORE setting new goals because it will help you decide what you want your next personal goals to be.

What To Do When Looking Back

Your review is basically a self-assessment (a look-back) on your past year or quarter.  You’re looking to identify how far you’ve come, what you’ve learned and how much you’ve grown.  By doing this, you’ll uncover what you want moving forward and your next steps to help get you there.

Here’s how to self-assess:

  • Analyze the goals you had.  Ask whether they were too small, too big, or just right.  And be honest about why.
  • Look at any goals that you didn’t fully achieve (and even those you gave up on) and ask yourself what could have been done differently – both when setting the original goal and while trying to achieve it.
  • Consider what you learned while striving to achieve your most recent goals.  Identify how you can leverage what you’ve learned and your strengths into the next round of goal-achievement.
  • Review how far you’ve come.  Most people pay too much attention to what didn’t happen (as opposed to what did).  This will help you with your mindset moving forward and will also help you better identify strengths and areas of growth.

Things To Look For

While conducing your self-assessment, be on the lookout for behavioral patterns and habits that could be hurting or helping you.  And also examine (and challenge) your beliefs. 

Your regular patterns of behavior and habits are important, as they are ultimately what determine whether you fail or succeed.  And what you believe is ultimately what determines your behavior (so it’s important to know what’s helping and what’s potentially sabotaging you that you might need help with).

Final note: don’t judge yourself when going through this process.  Instead, try to objectively observe.  The goal is to understand the “why” behind what worked and what didn’t (not to beat yourself up).


Sunshine in pink sky


How to Set Values-Based Personal Goals (for Work and Life)

Now that you know how important values-based goals are, let’s talk about how to set them for yourself.  First, note that it doesn’t matter whether your setting a personal goal for work or for your own personal development. 

Professional goals should relate to your core values just as much as your personal development goals.  If they don’t, you’ll end up miserable in your career.

Before setting your goals, make sure that you’re clear around your personal core values.  If you’re not sure, start by asking yourself questions around what you value in life, who you want to be (as a person) and what you’d most like people to say about you as a human being.

Once you’re clear on your core personal values:

  • Connect your goal to your values.  Identify which values your goal aligns with.  It doesn’t have to align with them all, but should align with at least one of your core values.
  • Next, identify whether your goal (or the actions you’d need to take to achieve your goal) could potentially conflict with any of your core values.  If there’s a potential conflict, analyze how it could be avoided and reassess whether you really want this goal.

This process is extremely important, so please take the time needed to go through it fully!  Yes, it takes a bit longer than what you’re used to.  But it’s so worth it.


Picture of a path in the grass


Case Study On How to Set Purpose-Based Personal Goals (and Deal With Potential Conflicts)

In 2013 (when I still practiced law), I set a goal to increase my book of business.  I had just come back from my cancer battle, and my legal practice had suffered.

While setting this goal, I reviewed my core values so that I could ensure that it was a purpose-based goal and wouldn’t conflict with any of my values. My core personal values include family, service, connection, to inspire and to have fun. 

Next, I identified why I wanted to increase my business so that I could figure out how my goal aligned with my values.  My reasons for wanting to increase my business included:

  • Reconnecting with longstanding clients who I appreciated,
  • Helping and serving as many people as I could,
  • Paying off debt, and
  • Increasing the amount of money I took home to my family (my income went down because of my cancer).

My goal was aligned with my values of family, connection and service.  But there was a red flag. . .

To increase my business, I would need to work more often.  Although the end-result (more money for my family) would be helpful, it could potentially hurt my relationships with them.  And that could potentially conflict with all of my core values.

But that didn’t mean that I had to drop my goal.  Instead, I planned around it by designing a few non-negotiable rules for myself about what I would/would not do to achieve my goal.


Woman conducting a self-review


How to Be Clear About Your Outcome + Path When Setting Personal Goals

Now that you’ve done a review and aligned your goals around your values, it’s time to get clear about EXACTLY what you want and start thinking about your path forward.

Remember that the point of this step is to (1) uncover your rough path forward (and your first step), (2) help you determine how badly you want your goal (and how committed you really are to doing the work to achieve it) and (3) help you stay motivated and focused along the way.  

It’s also going to ensure that your goal is reasonable and measurable (part of the SMART goal-setting process mentioned above).

To get the specificity you need, start by identifying EXACTLY what you want to achieve and how you’ll measure it.  Ask yourself how you’ll know when you’ve achieved your goal.

Next, identify where you’re likely to grow, what lessons will be learned and the strengths/skills that you’ll be cultivating (and strengthening) during the goal-achievement process.  Ask questions such as:

  • Where do you want to grow personally?  
  • Who do you need to be to get through the journey?
  • What knowledge do you need to gain?
  • What skills need to be learned or strengthened to help you achieve your goal?

Your journey is where you’ll spend most of your time (and where you’ll learn and grow the most), so get clear on what you want out of it and who you need to be for that to happen.

While going through this process, write everything down. You’ll want this information when planning your action steps.

Case-Study on How to Get Clarity Around What You Want Out Of Your Personal Goals (for Work and Life)

Let’s go back to the example above about how I wanted to grow my business.  I started with a vague concept of wanting to grow my business, but knew that I needed to get specific. I ended up settling on a 20% revenue increase for the year, making my goal specific and measurable.

Next, I identified everything I would get out of my journey.  I would be able to serve more people (helping me feel good about myself and enabling me to connect with more people – which is important to me).  And I knew that I’d also be able to pay off debt and ensure that my kids could continue going to their school.

I knew that I needed a strong team to help me achieve my goal that I could delegate to.  That uncovered some weaknesses.  I needed to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and learn to trust people more (but I knew that if I was successful, I’d be strengthening my leadership abilities).

Finally, I uncovered that I needed to let go of worrying whether I’d make it (I can be a worrier).  That meant working on my mindset consistently throughout the year.

This process helped me get more clarity around what I needed to do to help ensure I met my goal and opened my eyes to some of my tendencies that could work against me.  It also forced me to be honest about how hard it would be to achieve (testing whether it was something I really wanted).

[Recommended Reading: Goal-achievement can be stressful.  Read about How to Avoid Stress (5 Unusual Stress Management Strategies)].


Title Picture for How to Avoid Stress Article


Ready to Set More Meaningful Personal Goals (for Work and Life)?

It’s time to set your personal goals – for work and your personal life.  Self-assess, check them against your values and be specific about what you want (and what you’ll gain from the process).

Although this won’t predestine you for success, it will get you started on the right foot.  You’ll be more motivated to achieve your goals and more likely to stay on course.  Plus, you’ll have more fun on your path to achievement.

And be sure to Download the ACHIEVE BIG Workbook, which will help you set meaningful goals and take consistent action so that you’ll actually achieve them. Grab your copy here:


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Hey there, I’m Heather

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I’m here to help purpose-driven lawyers and other professionals (like you) build your ideal career to support the life you actually want. Because you shouldn’t have to choose between professional success & personal happiness.

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