Goal Setting That Really Works

James Duffy

It’s that time of year that a whole lot of humanity makes new year resolutions – goals they want to accomplish over the next 365 days. And the vast majority will not accomplish any of them, and will likely have forgotten they even made the resolution in about 45 days, maybe more like 15.

So, after years of getting pumped about setting goals to transform our lives and waistlines and bank accounts in the short span of a year, is the whole exercise just a futile pipe dream?

Yes. For most. But not for you; not if you do it right.

The problem with most goals is simple, and the solution to really set and reach goals is equally simple.

Most make new year resolutions based purely in the outcome.

The outcome can be stated simply – lose 50 pounds, make $10k/month, travel more, find a spouse, be more spiritual. Simple statements. Desired outcomes. And there it sits, and stops, forgotten until December 31…next year.

The transformational goal setting will begin with the outcome – ‘have a better relationship with my spouse’. And with that end goal in mind, then the real goal setting can be done by defining exactly what to do each day, each week, and sometimes each hour to reach that desired outcome, one small step at a time.

Try it. You will find it effective. You will find this goal setting transformational.

So, the outcome, ‘I want to lose 50 pounds’ translates to the goal ‘I will walk ¾ mile every morning at 6am’, or ‘I will grill enough chicken breasts for the week on Sunday afternoon, then pack a grilled chicken salad for lunch at my desk; and will not go to Taco Bell for lunch at all this year’.

Specific action that will actually lead to the desired outcome is the goal, and you will be transformed if you keep the goal.

Oh, and excuses are the next goal killer, and by default the outcome killer. Excuses that come in the form of external factors outside our control. It may be pouring cats and dogs at 6am when your goal is to walk ¾ mile. Or the kids may not be able to find their shoes or their homework when you were supposed to be making your Chicken Caesar. Fine excuses to skip the walk this morning or swing through the drive thru.

That’s where the transformation happens, in finding a way to overcome the external forces keeping you from the goal. Runners have very effective rain gear. Maybe it’s time to invest in your own 6am downpour emergency rain suit. And, perhaps the evening prior is a good time to cut the lettuce and slice the chicken for the next day’s desk menu.

I will say, I see this external excuse force played out more often in small business than anything else. A Realtor may set an outcome of closing 24 transactions this year. The goal to realize that outcome of 2 closings a month is to prospect by calling expired listings for 2 hours every morning. (And, yes, that goal, realized, would most certainly result in reaching the outcome of selling that many homes a year.)

And then life gets in the way.

The agent has a closing scheduled at the end of the week, so instead of prospecting 2 hours this morning, fields a call from the other agent asking if the appraisal has been done, calls the lender to see, sends an email when the lender does not pick up – possibly because she is prospecting to reach her own goals… Then the agent decides to drive by the property to check to make sure the repairs have been complete, and then call the buyer to remind them that they have to switch utilities over to their name, and…

You get the idea. Stuff, life, gets in the way of reaching our transformational daily goals. And at the end of the year we are still 30 pounds overweight, have only sold 11 homes, or still fighting with the spouse over those little things. We just have not reached the outcome, because the goals were not kept daily, weekly, monthly.


Now picture the opposite for yourself.

You’re the Realtor who decided to return that call from the listing agent at 11am, after your two hours of prospecting, which resulted in one scheduled listing appointment for Wednesday afternoon. You are the one who dropped 50 pounds because you were gilling your organic free range chicken breast every Sunday afternoon and braving the elements at 6am for your three quarter mile brisk walk.

What are the results come December 31, as you prepare to ring in yet another New Year?


Not only do you feel much better after losing 50 pounds; your friends are all complementing how hot you look in that new dress, and your husband is beaming with pride when the other guys compliment you. Or you sold 25 homes, exceeding your goal, and have a buyers’ agent joining your team and a family cruise to Alaska booked. This year, don’t stop at the goal setting that everyone does and forgets. Drill down to daily actions that are the true goal that will guarantee your transformational outcome. Happy new year!

About The Author

For years, 18 as of this writing, I have walked beside average men and women of all ages on a specific journey. The journey of home ownership.
And what I have discovered in opening up the financial reality of thousands of individuals & couples is a constant mix if fear, hope, confusion and achievement. It really is an exhilarating journey!
And I have read innumerable books on personal finance, read the blogs and listened to the podcasts, and spoken to the experts. And there always seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the theory of ‘personal finance’ and the lived reality of what is, truly, personal finance.

This is a place where real life meets real money. I hope you will come along on the journey to explore Finance, on the Front Line.


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