Putting Your Goals into Action


Goal Setting

Sometimes our dreams and goals can seem so far away and unachievable, but with a little planning and breaking the big things down into little things, you can do it.

A DREAM written down with a date becomes a GOAL. A goal broken down into steps becomes a PLAN. A plan backed by ACTION becomes REALITY.
— @journeystrength

Making dreams a reality

The above quote pretty much says it all. In order to make the big things we want in life achievable, we need to break it down. This will help make things more manageable. Let’s say someday you really want to live in Hawaii and have your own business where you can work from home. That’s a fantastic dream, but how are you going to make it happen?

First we need to list our the goals and subgoals. For example:

  • Goal: Live in Hawaii

    • Subgoal: Live in a small cabin on communal land

      • Target date: in 5 years

      • Research communal living spots in Hawaii

      • Create pro/con list for each of these categories per island: cost of living, culture, access to favorite hobbies, rules/regulations to be aware of

      • List wants and needs in that kind of living situation (shared eating spaces, values of community, private bathroom, private/community based, etc)

      • Come up with realistic amount of money needed to live there, i.e. “Once I make $X,XXX/month, I can afford to live in Hawaii”

    • Subgoal: Work for myself with my own business

      • Graduate high school first

        • Target date: May 15th

      • Attend classes at community college to learn about business

        • Tour campus & talk to admissions counselor

          • Target date: Schedule tour at LCC by this Friday

        • Degree or just taking classes I need?

          • How will I pay for it?

          • How long will it take?

        • Target date: Start classes in fall term after graduating high school

      • Have my own business

        • What is meaningful work for me?

        • Create business plan

          • Who am I serving?

          • Why am I doing this?

          • Where do I see this business going over time?

          • What do I need to start

          • Figure out start up costs

        • Put it into action!

      • Make sure business is profitable before moving to Hawaii

        • Once I make $X,XXX/month, I will feel comfortable moving my at-home business to Hawaii

This is a very brief example, but the more details that you think through and touch base on, the more likely you’ll be able to achieve that goal. By going through this process, you’re forced to look at your goals from a lot of different perspectives, which may save you a headache later on since you planned for it.

Once you’ve set your goals and subgoals the next step is to put your goals into action. It’s likely that having your goals broken down into smaller steps, or subgoals, will make it a lot easier for you to achieve your goals in the long-run.

Develop a plan of action

Write a step-by-step plan for achieving your subgoals, and ultimately your main goal. This includes planning deadlines for each subgoal and writing down all the “nitty-gritty” small things you can do today, tomorrow, and later on this week in order to achieve your goals and subgoals.

Case Study: Liam’s Plan of Action

My Goal: To be a competent soccer player within one year.

How I will benefit from achieving this goal?

  • I love soccer. I will enjoy it.

  • It will help me stay fit.

  • It’s sociable, and something I can do with my friends.

  • It’s a skill and mastering it would give me a sense of achievement.

Subgoals: specific steps to achieve this goal, plus target dates for each step

  • Ask mom and dad to pay for new cleats as part of my birthday present

    • Target date: Tonight

  • Join a local soccer team

    • Target date: By Tuesday, May 2nd.

  • Practice with Dan (my brother) who is good at soccer, and get him to give me some tips

    • Target date: Regularly, starting May 4th.

  • Play at least three times a week (at least two afternoons after school, and once on the weekend)

    • Target date: Starting May 24th

The Nitty-Gritty: things I need to do this week

  • Tonight:

    • Talk to mom and dad about cleats

    • Talk to Dan about practicing with him

  • Tomorrow:

    • Call the local team coach and find out about membership

  • Wednesday:

    • Sign up for the team by Friday of next week

    • Tell Nick and Steve that I want to join them when they play pick up games on Mondays and Fridays once I’ve got my cleats

Try it out!

Choose something that you would like to achieve. Describe it as a specific goal, and include a deadline for its achievement. Then describe the benefits that you will gain, your subgoals and the steps you need to take this week in order to work towards your goal.

You can do this by filling in the spaces next to the following headings:

Plan of action

  • My goal

    • How I will benefit from achieving this goal?

    • Subgoals (specific steps to achieve this goal) PLUS target dates for each step

      • The nitty-gritty (things I need to do this week)

Identifying the obstacles

Once you’ve defined your goals and worked out subgoals and a plan of action, you’re well on your way. But keep in mind that it’s not always smooth sailing from here.

Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions and thorough planning, obstacles get in the way. Obstacles are the things that can stop you from getting what you want. They can be practical problems like lack of time, or psychological blocks, like fear of failure.

Some practical problems you may face:

  • Not having enough time

  • Not having enough money

  • Not having enough knowledge or skills

  • Stress and fatigue

  • Parents or friends who don’t approve of your goal

Potential psychological blockages:

  • Fear of failure

  • Fear of disapproval or rejection

  • Lack of confidence in your ability to succeed

  • Frustration

  • Lack of motivation

  • Short attention span

  • Lack of well-defined goal

Obstacles don’t necessarily stop you from achieving your goals, but they present a roadblock. They challenge you to devise strategies to overcome them.

It’s often helpful to anticipate any obstacles that are likely to arise while you are working toward your goals, and to plan out how you can deal with them.

As an example, let’s take a look at how Casey planned to overcome her obstacles in relation to regular exercise.

Casey’s goal: To exercise at least five times a week.

Casey’s plan for overcoming the obstacles

Possible obstacle: I’ll get bored.

Strategies to overcome the obstacle:

  • Vary my exercise (try different running routes, run sometimes on the sand at the beach; take an aerobics class, lift weights at the gym, do a workout on YouTube at home, etc.)

  • Talk to Dad and Sasha about training together in the mornings

  • Listen to good music while training

Preparing for obstacles with your own goals

List all of the possible obstacles that might get in the way of achieving your goals, and strategies that you can use to overcome them.

  • My goal

    • Planning for obstacles

      • Possible obstacle #1

        • Strategies to overcome it

      • Possible obstacle #2

        • Strategies to overcome it

Attaining your goals

Focus on the rewards. You might feel motivated if you focus on rewards rather than the pain involved in achieving your goals. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to write down all the benefits you hope to gain. Try to think laterally when you write your list. Besides the direct benefits of getting what you want, you might also feel the additional satisfaction of being in control, which can increase your self-worth and self-confidence.

Visualize success. Many people know the benefits of visualizing their goals—it’s a technique that many elite athletes use. Focusing on the image of swimming, or running or winning in front of a cheering crowd helps many athletes stay motivated while they’re in training. In a similar way, you can create an image of the things that you want to achieve and use it for inspiration.

Be flexible. There’s never just one way to achieve something. Have multiple options in mind to achieve your goals. It’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket. Investigate and plan other ways to get to where you want to get, whether it’s a college degree, job or vacation.

Get support. It’s important to reach out and get support from others who can help you achieve your goals. This could be practical support from teachers or coaches, or moral support, from those like friends and family.

Moving forward

Setting goals can keep you focused and motivated, and can increase your chances of getting the things you want. You can set goals for different areas of your life, such as your career, lifestyle, friendships, attitudes, interests and health.

In order to achieve your goals, you’ll need to clearly define what you want; set subgoals that you’ll need to achieve along the way, and follow through a step-by-step plan of action.

Sometimes obstacles happen. That’s okay. Accept that we can’t always be in control of our lives and embrace the new challenge. Try to avoid thinking of an obstacle as a personal failure and re-frame your thoughts into the mindset that you’re not there yet. You will get there. You will make these dreams come true. Just keep focusing on how you can make it happen—remembering to be flexible, yet persistent.


Information for this article was provided by:

  • Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond, Foundation for Life Sciences, 2005


Acknowledgements: This article was partially written by youth and staff for us.ReachOut.com