13 Ways To Set Small Life Goals That Actually Work

Make changes in your life that you can feel.

Last updated on May 30, 2024

Setting life goals that make you happy vikoshka | Canva

The reason you ponder goals of any sort is because you desire MORE from your life. Yet, because most folks don't actually reach their big goals, it's hard to have confidence in the process. Truth is, if you want to achieve happiness, goals can be an incredibly powerful tool for achieving more.

Here are 13 ways to set life goals that actually work:

1. Be realistic.

It’s easy to say “I’m going to work out every single day," but you have to ask yourself — is this realistic for me? Is it something that you can sustain when regular life kicks in? Don’t expect to go from couch potato to workout queen overnight. A more realistic goal might be: “I’m going to move more this year, so I’m going to commit to working out at LEAST twice a week.”


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2. Understand what's worked in the past (and what hasn't).

Be honest about what’s worked for you in the past and be especially honest about what hasn’t. You aren't going to change drastically overnight, so make sure that your goals are achievable and something that fits into your life.

3. Be specific about your goals, but DON'T limit yourself.

If you make broad, squishy goals like “lose weight” “get out of debt” or “write a book” you’ll probably find it challenging to find focus. Yet, don’t get so into the minute details around achieving a goal that you feel restricted instead of motivated. A goal that meets these criteria may be: “I am going to finish my novel this year by committing to writing 5000 words a week.” Make your goals bite-sized and achievable.

4. Dive into the "WHY" of your goals.

Why do you want to lose weight? To get healthy? Or to feel attractive? Why do you want to write a book? Because your biz guru says you need one? Or because you want to create something with your craft? Hint: you get to be selfish. No one needs to know your why except you. Believe it or not, studies have proven that if you keep your goals to YOURSELF, you're more likely to achieve them. 

RELATED: How To Set Realistic Goals That Make You Feel Good All Year-Round


5. Actually believe you can do it.

We have to believe that improvement is possible and goals are reachable. Once we get past our own doubts and truly believe, we can begin moving in the right direction. Have faith in the sheer power of your desires.

6. Get super excited about it.

It’s easy to let the critics and the naysayers about goals and resolutions make us feel like we have to dampen down our excitement for our desires. But trust them off and get EXCITED! These are YOUR goals and NO ONE should be holding you back.

7. Keep the momentum going.

It’s easy to be excited in the beginning, but just as it’s easy to lose the momentum after January shifts into February and beyond, it’s easy to lose enthusiasm for achieving our goals. Build shots of love into your days and weeks so you continue to nourish your precious attention and enthusiasm to achieve your goal. Celebrate small victories and be satisfied with the work you've ALREADY accomplished.


8. Don’t set conflicting goals.

We vow to make more money, spend more time with family, get organized, and get in shape — all in a single bond. But you have to be honest, darling. You cannot spend MORE time with family and work MORE hours — it just isn’t humanly possible. Check your ego at the door when you set goals and make a choice about what area of your life gets priority.

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9. Physically write down your goals.

A study of Harvard MBA students showed that those who wrote down their goals made more money than those who didn’t. While money isn’t everything, it shows how committing your goals to paper helps you become more committed to achieving them.

10. Break them down into bite-sized chunks.

Most of our desires are pretty big, so in order to bring them into reality, it will take a series of small steps. After you write down your goals, spend a little bit of time breaking them down into manageable steps.


11. Seriously commit to that first step.

We humans tend to procrastinate as long as we can before doing a task, so without any solid deadlines, it’s unlikely you’ll do much. After breaking down those goals, set deadlines for various milestones. Most importantly, set a date for taking that FIRST step.

12. Make your goals a part of your everyday life.

Without bringing your desires into your routines in some way, you’ll never have time to move towards them. This will likely mean you’ll have to give something up in order to make that space. You – and your desires – are worth it.

13. Watch your goals unfold before your very eyes.

You’d never decide to make a cake, put it in the oven, and then never set a timer or check on it, would you? You have to have a plan to monitor the progress of your goals. Set up a notification on your calendar, a task on your phone, or commit to reviewing your goals on the last Friday of each month. In order to achieve any of your desires, you have to get clear about what it is you WANT. Create a life you love by creating goals that work for you. If you utilize these tips, you’ll be setting yourself up to bring those desires into your reality.


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Debra Smouse is a life coach and author whose work has been published in TIME, Huffington Post, MSN, Psychology Today, and more.