The 5-Step Process to Stick to Your Goals

stick to your goals

Success will never be a big step in the future; success is a small step taken just now.

– Jonatan Mårtensson

Setting goals is an integral part of personal and professional development. But it’s not enough to merely set these targets; the true challenge lies in sticking to them and seeing them through to completion. In our fast-paced world, distractions abound and motivation can wane, leading to unfulfilled dreams and objectives. That’s why I’ve crafted this guide on how to stick to your goals.

This guide will provide you with practical strategies, psychological insights, and useful tips to help you stay committed to your goals, maintain your motivation, and overcome any obstacles you encounter. Let’s get started!

The Power of Setting Goals

I remember reading a statistic a number of years ago that 3% of Harvard MBA graduates made ten times as much as the other 97% combined.

This statistic is from the book What They Don’t Teach You in the Harvard Business School by Mark McCormack and came from a study that was conducted in the 1970s and 1980s that measured the success of Harvard MBA graduates from this period. The interviewers asked a simple question:

“Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

The answers revealed that:

  • 84% had no specific goals at all
  • 13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
  • 3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them

Firstly, as I was reading this I was actually amazed at the statistic that 84% of people (particularly Harvard MBA graduates) had no specific goals!

Ten years later, the same interviewers followed up on the success of these graduates by looking into the incomes earned amongst this group. Again, the results were amazing.

  • The 13% of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all.
  • Even more staggering – the three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

Even before reading this book I had known that goals were important to have because everyone said they were. As I have grown, read, experienced, and learned I have come to understand just how impactful goal-setting can actually be. So impactful in fact that goals have provided the focus and direction in helping me achieve things I never thought possible.

How Goal-Setting Has Changed My Life

I remember when I was in primary school (between 6-12 years old) I always had the dream of making it to the State Athletics Championship. This was my first real experience of conscious goal-setting that I can remember.

When I first started, the athletes I was racing against at my local club were beating me regularly in every single event. I came close on a few occasions, but never enough to win. To me, there was just something extremely important about being able to win and to prove to myself that I could do it (competitive nature in me!).

I trained, trained, ate, trained, and as the years went by I started winning my races at the local club. In fact, I broke some records! I made it to the District Level where I realized my local club was actually really good. My fellow club members and I all seemed to progress easily to the next level – the Region.

The Regional carnival was amazing. I broke the Regional record for the 200m sprint. I had momentum flying like I had never felt before and I remember so clearly a fundamental shift in my beliefs. Now that I knew I had made it to the State level, my goals shifted. I wanted to not only attend but to win.

We flew across to New Zealand where the carnival was taking place. Before the 200m final, my heart was racing, probably the perfect balance between excitement and nerves. My run was absolutely amazing and I crossed the line… in 6th position.

The above experience taught me a very valuable lesson. Sometimes the biggest hurdles are the ones we face immediately. I had no idea that my club members were some of the best in the Region. I couldn’t see farther than my own club level.

In life, we’re often faced with immediate barriers, one of those being high levels of doubt. I faced my doubt (that I couldn’t beat these guys) and I set a clear goal and started working hard towards it. With each step (literally), I could see my doubt transforming into capability and confidence.

This experience had a major influence on my thinking about goals.

Goal setting has provided me the ability to be able to see exactly where I am going to be in the future. It’s like creating your own crystal ball and showing yourself who you are in a year’s time. The simple act of setting goals has led me on a journey of traveling the world, meeting amazing people, starting my own business, and building a healthy career and lifestyle.

I can’t possibly describe how much that goal-setting has changed my life.

How to Stick to Your Goals

When it comes to goal-setting and making them stick, I have come to realize what processes do and don’t work. From my experience, there are 5 key steps for creating positive change that has proven to work.

1. Reflect

The first thing to do is reflect on where you are. Reflect on the year that was. How was this year? What did you learn? What were your best experiences? What relationships did you develop? What did you enjoy the most and dislike the most?

Reflection will help you gain clarity on who and where you are, helping to shape the direction of where you want to go.

2. Dream Longer-Term

Dream of where you see yourself in 5, 10, and 20 years from now. How is your life different and what are you doing?

Make sure you ask yourself the questions ‘why’ and ‘what for’. Understanding these will help you build intrinsic motivation and commitment for pursuing what it is that you want to do.

 3. Set Your Goals

Goal-setting is not done alone. You need to reflect and also look at the bigger picture before you can start setting your goals. You want your goals to be truly aligned to who you are and where you want to go and you want them to be realistic. Setting goals for 12 months is a great idea. It’s the perfect amount of time to bring about significant change in your life without it feeling too big or out of your reach.

Make sure you are one of the 3%. Commit your goals to paper and ensure they are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

4. Create your Action Plan

This is another important step that people often miss. Many people set goals at the start of the year such as ‘to lose 5kg by the 1st of July’, however, most people forget to create and commit to their action plan of how this is going to happen. Break down your goal into clear, actionable steps that you can regularly achieve and measure your progress.

 5. Review and Revise

Keep track of your progress toward your goals. Do you have a system in place to support your progress? Reviewing will help you determine if your actions are helping you progress toward your goal and whether the needle needs to be shifted.


Goals can change over time. The key is to remember that external influences always happen. Your goals should be flexible enough to accommodate such needs as they arise but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture you set for yourself in step 2.

Goal-setting has changed my life for the better and I will always continue to set goals. Without them, there is a lack of direction or purpose.

What goals are you going to set yourself and how do you plan to stick to them?


35 thoughts on “The 5-Step Process to Stick to Your Goals”

  1. I had just finished writing about what I wanted to accomplish in this year a d then stepped away from my journal to check my email and immediately came to this. I think I am almost on target except after reading this I know I must implement and plan a timeline for what I want to accomplish thus year. I was missing that. I’ve been doing pretty well the past five years at moving toward my goals but as I age I want to be more steadfast with them. I suppose I am growing more disciplined and therefore have been making things happen and I want that to continue growing. Thanks for reminding us to make a plan to implement our goals. Happy 2014 to you and congrats on all you’ve achieved!!!

    1. Hi Bethany,

      That’s fantastic to hear!

      Setting goals that are EFFECTIVE is something that comes with practice. It sounds like you have most of the ingredients already in place which is great!

      I hope you have a fantastic 2014 and you smash your goals :)

  2. Thanks for this piece. Its going to be very helpful as I take stock of year 2013 and looks earnestly ahead to 2014.

    Goal setting is as vital as living!

  3. I am looking forward to 2014. I know what I want but I have just got to stick with the plan and make things happen and not fall into the trap of letting others affect me. It is going to be tough and a huge challenge but I want to win it big time.

    You are right, have to put it on paper and build up a plan otherwise it is so easy to lose track of the goal and get lost.

    1. Hi Naaj,

      As you say, it’s VERY easy to get lost and let ‘life’ get in the way of what you want to achieve.

      Another key tip is to ensure that your goals are RELEVANT to where you want to go in your life (longer-term) and that it is inspiring, motivating and energising to you. If it’s not inspiring to you then why do it?

      As an example, I know a lot of people set goals for losing weight, yet they value eating out much more than they do doing exercise or eating healthy. And that’s fine, but it’s about aligning your goals with what’s most important to you.

      Another key tip to stay on track is to ensure you have the right support in place (that is, the people around you AND the systems you put in place for yourself… such as rewards, scheduling etc).

      Good luck, I know you’ll be a success :)

  4. I agree with this totally, Brandon. The only clarification I would make it this…

    The difference between goals and fantasies is your willingness to see yourself as part of it, not separate from yourself. People will write the action steps and commit to them to the degree they feel worthy of attaining the goal. Otherwise it stays just out of reach…enough to go onto the next round of New Years Resolutions. :)

    1. Hi Larry,

      I really like that point… the different between goals and fantasies is your willingness to see yourself as part of it. It’s VERY true! I’ve never heard that before but it’s a good one.

      It all comes down to beliefs :) Beliefs are hard to change, but when you ‘feed’ your brain with inspiring and relevant information it can change your beliefs quite readily.

      Let’s make sure this year’s resolutions don’t end up in next year’s bucket :)

  5. Did you know that this study never actually took place? The only way to make changes in your life is to change from within. Not make resolutions that you never seem to really accomplish.

    1. Hi Dayna,

      I’ve read difference pieces about the authenticity of the study, but the key thing is the messaging. The message of writing down, clear, actionable goals is the point of this.

      You’re definitely right that it all starts from within. Knowing yourself, knowing what you want to achieve, understanding your skills and abilities, how you can learn, who you can connect with, why you want to achieve what you want to achieve e.t.c

      I wish I could give it all to you in one article, but unfortunately with limited time and space on this page I hope these 5 tips serve as a great starting point for many :)

  6. It’s twice in two days — “Write it down.”

    That’s what I am going to do on the 31st. I’ve been going over a bunch of stuff for the last few days, and this will solidfy it. As as a dreamer, I am also a doer — and a project manager, so your approach works. Writing it down is what moves me from idea to reality.

    In 2012, i wrote down a bunch of stuff in July for what I wanted my next year to be. That included starting my business, and taking 3 months off in 2013. I did just that — and what was more impressive is that a whole lot more happened in 2013 than I had imagined. It grew organically.

    1. Hey Nathalie,

      I love your comment because it shows that the simple act of writing your goals down can make a huge difference. It works! The key is to then keep it front of mind and to stay focused on the goal at all times.

  7. Thanks Brendan for the inspiration! I just finished taking my personal “inventory” of this year; it truly is eye-opening to see on paper how much I have changed, grown, and even taken a few steps in the wrong direction.

    With my goals and strategies for 2014 now on the wall next to me, I can review these every day. I do believe it will help me to better block out all the noise around me so I can focus on what I really want in life.

    Best of luck to everyone and may 2014 be YOUR year!

    1. Hi Martin,

      Congratulations on all your success in 2013… that’s fantastic to hear!

      It sounds like you have a solid plan for 2014 so I wish you all the best and hope you have a fantastic year!


  8. Thanks for this post, Brendan. One crucial step for sticking with a goal, I think, is to explicitly state why the goal is important, and to remind yourself of that each day. That way, when the going gets tough you know exactly what to say to your “I want to quit” voice.

  9. I think the hardest part is creating a system for sticking with your goals. We all say or write down our goals each year, month, week, etc.; but creating a system to achieve a goal and sticking with it – that seems to be the key for so many of us…at least it is for me and many of my friends.

    1. I like your thing, Candice.

      I call this the ‘strategy’. It’s about what support and what systems are you going to put in place to ensure you stay focused, disciplined and committed to your goals.

      Part of the strategy includes your support network, who you will be accountable to, specific times to review and revise and what reward mechanisms will you have in place to celebrate your successes along the way.


  10. Great post Brendan.

    I’ve been working hard on change for a while and I recently came across a great inspirational speaker, Charlie Harary, who had some solid ideas on how to move from inspiration to change which intersect nicely with your post.

    I created a video called 3 Minutes to Change, Grow, Be Great to elucidate Charlie’s ideas.
    Here’s the link:

    In a nutshell he discusses 3 parts to change:
    1. Inspiration provides the motivation.
    2. Mentality creates the mindset.
    3. Actions are the practical steps.

    These 3 parts are broken down into 9 key concepts:
    1. We know we have the ability to change.
    2. The purpose of inspiration is to see who we can be.
    3. Taking responsibility for our lives gives us control.
    4. Our focus creates our reality.
    5. We need to build a strong want to change.
    6. Our power to change is unbounded.
    7. Setting big goals provides ongoing inspiration.
    8. Change comes by building habits of success.
    9. We should focus on growing one day at a time.

    Take a look at the video if you have the chance and let me know what you think.

  11. Brenden,

    Congratulations on your success. I agree with your points and believe that goal setting is something we work at every day. Is building those habits to get us to where we want to go.

  12. Insightful post. Don’t just dream…live the dream. Just thinking about doing something is only a mere wish or fantasy. Making the necessary steps to achieve it converts the wish into a goal. So transform your dreams into a reality – it just takes one step at a time! :-)

  13. Brendan,

    A very insightful post. The problem with us that we write our goals like one,three,six and 12 months but the point is that you need a SYSTEM, a proven SYSTEM to get there. That’s the hardest part that i am struggling with.

    I think that you MUST know what the SYSTEM is before you can get there. Maybe, Brendan you can write another post about this where you need to find, learn and achieve the goals you set out for yourself.

    Example is how to lose 5kg in three months. First you need to see if that is achieveable, what is the best most effective diet plan to follow and the determination to arrive at your destination.

    What i am trying to say is the thought process and actionable plan to get there..

  14. Brendan,
    Great thinking. I just wrote a post about Goal setting Rocks! and I agree with you; most people miss the action plan or they think that the actions are naturally extentions of the goals you have set. I put that the action plans are part of goal setting. You need to figure out the tactics you need to deploy to reach your goals and write them down and follow them or evaluate and revise if you are off course. Like your post

  15. Hi Brendan,

    Great piece. Its something I needed most!!! I have in the past been a huge goal setter and it has always amazed me to see how much I have achieved because of them.. Of late I have been in difficult times and I have wandered and become directionless. Although I no longer know what I want, I intend to follow these steps and set some realistic goals to be better than what I am today..



  16. One of the most valuable ideas that you share ,Brendan, is that writing down goals is crucial to implementing goals. How? You need to think about tangible goals before you write them down.

    The very act of writing your goals down is key to internalizing the goals. I write down and edit the lessons that I learn to make sure that I have understood them and retained them. Thoughts that are recorded become real and relatable.

    That is why quotes are so popular.

    You can use your written goals as daily affirmations. Do your goals stretch your current beliefs? Repeat them daily with conviction and surprise yourself with the results!

    I want to show my appreciation for one more of your thoughts. Your goals should grow as you do. Building bigger goals into your growth plan can help you achieve much more than the limits that you impose upon yourself with your current way of thinking.

  17. Great piece Brendan. I guess most important thing is to execute your plans. most people make their plans but when it comes to executing, they fall behind due to laziness or some reason. That should be taken care of.

  18. Thanks for this post Brendan. I have to admit, in the past, I have fallen into the group that doesn’t create clear goals and stick to them. I realised toward the end of 2013 that writing goals actually inspires dread in me, like they’re another ‘should-do’ list. Then I came across Danielle LaPorte’s The Desire Map, which encourages you to write goals based on how you want to FEEL. Suddenly someone was speaking my language!
    After going through this process, my husband and I are both now really clear on how we most want to feel and we’ve created our goals around those feelings. I have to say, the process was so enjoyable and enriching. I was surprised!
    As you recommend, we have a system to check in each week to see that we’re still aligned to and actioning these goals, which really helps. I feel so enthused about goal-setting for the first time and can sense that they actually may work this year!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *