How to Find Your Goals in Life

find your goals in life

There’s a lot of information out there about how to achieve your goals. About how to stay motivated, how to focus on your dreams, and not be distracted by failure and setbacks. But that all assumes that you know what you want out of life, that you already have goals in life you’re eager to achieve.

Recently, in response to a comment, I made about pursuing one’s goals on Possibility Change, I got a poignant reply that asked “But what if you haven’t found anything worth doing, any goal worth pursuing?”

Great question – focus is wonderful, but if we aren’t looking at the right things how useful is it? Sure we can learn from failure, but what do we do with those lessons if we’re not really doing anything? How can we find out where we should be looking for our satisfaction in life?

Step 1 – Make a list of what’s important to you.

Do it quickly and without censoring – it’s ok if your list includes your cat or your new shoes. Your choices reflect a snapshot of your life right now and don’t need to be lofty or impressive. Here’s my quick list (in no particular order): my daughter, my friends, writing, coaching, my house, my central heating, my cat, my favorite TV shows (blush), learning, my blog.

Step 2 – Ask “Why is this important?” for each item on your list.

Here are my answers:

  • My daughter because she is my contribution to the world at the most basic level and because she’s fun, loving, and makes me happy.
  • My friends because they support me, teach me, and make me laugh.
  • Writing and my blog because they ignite my passion and I feel like I’m able to help people with them. And they’re fun!
  • Coaching because I’m helping my clients live better and clearer lives.
  • My house because it provides me with a beautiful and safe place to be.
  • My central heating because it keeps me warm and comfortable.
  • My favorite TV shows because they take me to places where life is silly and adventurous and because they often provide me with a fascinating glimpse into human nature.
  • Learning because it makes me a better person and helps me grow.

Step 3 – Use your answers to identify your values.

Look for themes in your answers. When you read over your list, what pops out at you? What shows up more than once? Are there items that have something in common? I see the following themes in my list: contribution, fun & laughter, learning, helping people, comfort.

The themes we identify reflect our values and what’s most important to us in our lives. And this is where goal setting should begin.

Step 4 – Use your values to set your goals.

The goals that inspire you most will be based on your values, on what’s really important to you. You might already be working on some of them – I’ve set clear goals around my writing and am beginning to revamp my coaching practice. But when I look at my list I realize that I’m not putting much effort to making sure that I have enough fun and laughter in my life right now, so I might want to set a goal to find more ways to play.

When you set your goals:

  • Make your goals bite-sized – A goal of “Learn the skills I need for my next promotion” sounds achievable, while a goal of “Become CEO by the time I’m 30” is probably going to set you up for failure.
  • Make your goals positive – You should work toward what you want, not away from what you don’t want. “I want to find a loving partner” inspires while “I don’t want to be lonely anymore” already feels defeated.
  • Realize that as you work toward your goals they’ll probably change – As we learn and grow from the work we do to move toward our goals we often connect with new, more resonant goals. After I set up my coaching practice I started writing newsletters to attract more clients. But I found that I loved writing as much as I loved coaching, and my goal shifted from attracting clients to creating a blog.

The bottom line is that when our goals tap into the beauty and energy of our values they make our hearts sing. They feed our hunger, we can’t wait to get started working on them. So my answer to the reader who asked about finding a goal worth pursuing is that the answer is in your heart, it’s in your longings, it’s in the things you want more of.

find your goals in life

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26 thoughts on “How to Find Your Goals in Life”

  1. Very Good blog-

    Of the 5 things you identified:

    1) Make a list of what is important to you
    2) Ask why these are important to you
    3) Use your answers to identify your values
    4) use your values to set your goals

    I would add two others:

    5) Develop a Short-term goal action plan. From my personal experience in helping clients I have noticed that it is much easier to look at personal and profesional goals if they are compartmentalized into short and long term blocks of time. Many people will have a vague goal let’s say of saving 50,000 during the next 5 years. Is it a dooable-maybe? But what action steps in your goal plan will you need to do to NOW so you can actually save the 50,000. And how will you hold yourself accountable?

    Realize also that life is not static-but ever evolving, events and circumstances will come into your life that will impact your life profoundly (good bad and/or indifferent), that may change and dhape your values you once had. Thats OK, Just make sure your goals and action plan to et in place reflects your NEW reality NOW-not what yoyu penned down on paper 6-12 months ago.

    6) Develop the FAITH to beleive in yourself and GOD to complete your goals. I embrace a holistic approach to goal setting that includes one’s faith. Regardless of one’s faith or spiritual views in life-most people believe in God. The point here is you have no faith in yourself or in God to complete your tasks -guess what you probably won’t. If you can believe you can achieve it. Conversely, if you don’t BELIIVE or THINK you CAN-more likley you WON”T.

    Best-

    Wayne

    1. Hi Wayne,

      Thanks for your comments – you offer really good guidelines for what to do after you identify your goals. And your point that our values may change as we go through life is so true, I’ve found that as I achieve my goals I learn more about myself and the world so that everything is continually shifting.

      Melinda

  2. This is a wonderful post. I think everybody will appreciate the content. I believe that every one of us have our own goals in life that we want to achieve. Goals are like dreams that we want to come true. But the hardest part of it is to know what we really wanted. We have to know what we truly desire and go for it. The steps in this blog are a good way to start up. I really like the part that our goals may change. It’s really realistic. Just like shifting a career from coaching to blogging.

  3. Hi, Melinda –

    In step #3, I would also look for what brings me JOY!

    Thanks for the practical suggestions!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  4. What a great post. So often I see people whose goals don’t equate with their own interests or even values because they’ve fallen into the trap of purely trying to fulfill what they perceive to be other peoples’ expectations. Some of that may be quite natural but I think our biggest goals should certainly correspond to our own core beliefs and values. We need to be true to ourselves to make our goals more compelling.

    Thanks Melinda

    Mark

  5. Thanks for your comments, Mark, they are so true. Another thing we do is base our goals on the “shoulds” of our society – money, status or things.

    Melinda

  6. I believe when you find girls you find your purpose. But in all seriousness, when it comes to major success, it always backed behind an activity the person can only see himself doing. As an author, all i can do is see my self rapping my soul in the eternal fire of my heart with every drop of my pen on to the ink pad of my mind. This is all i can do. Nothing else, drives me..except…beautiful woman.

    But back to the point. When you find a purpose, you have a goal in life. Then once you establish a goal never stop until you achieve it..and then once it’s achieved. Do it bigger and better than any other person in the history of that field.

    1. Jonathan,

      Sounds like you have your eye on YOUR goal – good luck finding the woman of your dreams :) LOVE your blog and it’s message of personal responsibility – very powerful!!

      Melinda

  7. What a great article. This was my first time on The Change Blog (found it by chance) and I’m glad I scrolled through some recent articles.

    I say I’m glad because there is so much out there about goals, but there is so little about setting the right goals. For most people, I think they simply don’t set goals because they don’t know what’s worth it to them.

    The tip about making goals positive is also really good. I can’t recall from who (Robbins?), but I’ve heard someone talk about how people can list a million things they DON’T want… but when it comes to find what they do want they’re at a near standstill. but really, that’s what is going to move us to action!

    This is a great article, and I’d really like to see an expounded version for such an important topic! Thanks for sharing and I’ll be checking back on this blog to be sure!

    1. Thanks Robin! I’m glad you found my post helpful – and I do see the inclination to talk about what we don’t want popping up in my coaching practice all the time. I’ve found that simply the act of translating what they don’t want to what they do want can be pretty powerful for some folks.

      Melinda

  8. At last! Thanks for this Melinda. You’re so right when you say there’s much written about how to achieve goals, and I think you’ve hit the mark with the ‘bit that comes before’! I’ve had several clients recently, in response to “So what do you want?”, say “I don’t know”, they just know they aren’t happy.

    I have guided them towards looking at what’s important to them, but I like your 4-step approach, particularly Step 2 because it helps you get ‘underneath’ and uncover some really great stuff for the client!

    I like your practical approach and the way you have used real examples. This is the first time I have read your blog and also came upon it by happy accident. Will be looking out for it in the future. I’m fairly new to blogging and currently honing my style, and always interested in reading other people’s blogs.

    Thanks again for this!

    Debbie

  9. Thanks so much for your comments, Debbie! I know it’s tough when clients hit that brick wall of “I don’t know” – it can be a real challenge to figure out how to move past it.

    Melinda

  10. Hiya i enjoyed reading this, i get down really easily and wont leave the house for days i wish i could be a more motivated person but something is always dragging me back its like theres a a dark cloud in my head and i just want the sun to push it away. i’d love to get out there and make new friends and be a happy confident person i just find it so hard. its comfort to know there are other people like me, sad really because i’m only 20 years old.
    your an inspiration Melinda. :)

  11. Thanks, Aimee :) You sound like you might be a little depressed, have you talked to anyone about your feelings? Maybe a minister, teacher, or counselor?

    Take care of yourself!

    Melinda

  12. Wonderful! I get very happy when I see such a things.I need to find my goals too & I need to work on them hard.thank you very much

    hope to be Healthy,Happy & safe with your dear daughter.

  13. Am totally with you on this – values based work, relationships and life are key to fulfillment. I would add that using your values to create your own unique definition of success gives a compass for you to steer through the ups and downs of life more smoothly.

  14. Melinda-

    Great post! I agree that using your values to create you goals is key. Also how you described to make them “bite size,” this is extremely important because attainability is the key to goal success and we will only keep striving for larger goals only if we have received some personal intrinsic reward of accomplishing smaller ones first. Thanks!

  15. What a beautifully chosen photo!

    Before choosing your goals, there’s a little-appreciated choice you need to make. Goals not listed in positive terms – such as to lose unwanted weight or exercise more – don’t work because then you’re putting energy into something you don’t want!

    Energy energizes, so this puts energy into your extra weight. Serious exercise can be uncomfortable if you’re not used to it, it’s not something you really want to do.

    The principle is well illustrated in the extraordinary difficult I had to stop smoking, see http://www.lifestrategies.net/stop-smoking/

  16. What a wonderful article! I really enjoyed reading this. I am almost positive that this has helped many people and will continue to do so. Keep up the great work Melinda!

    -Bella

  17. Melinda

    This is what I was looking for really can’t tell how much it helped me I was setting and thinking about my goals to be very honest didn’t know what actually goals are how big or small they could be i was all tangled up in that thoughts then by chance or I would say when you look for something by heart you I’ll found it as it happened to me . Was struggling to understand what goals are and how to find then I saw your blog really make it easy for me to find out mine Thank you so much .

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