Goal-setting, especially having the proper tools to structure goals, is crucial for long-term achievement. The usual problem, though, is not setting goals but completing them.

While a vision involves creativity and foresight, goals require strategy and dedication.

An extensive study on goal-setting by Marshall Goldsmith and Laurence Lyons helps us understand an essential component: why people give up on goals. Here, according to Goldsmith and Lyons, are six of the most common reasons people give up on goals:

Lack of Ownership. It’s necessary to “buy in” to one’s goals, to take ownership. Doing so shifts the initiative to an internal point of reference. Then effectiveness and mastery can result.

Time. Goal setters tend to underestimate the time it will take to complete the task (an “optimism bias”), leading to giving up.

Difficulty. The optimism bias equally applies to difficulty as well as time.

Distractions. People tend to underestimate the distractions and “noise” of competing goals.

Inadequate Rewards. Disappointment sets in when achievement of a goal fails to translate into other goals or to yield the desired happiness.

Maintenance. Maintaining changed behavior is difficult, and there is always the pull of the old and the fear of the new.

Create a Map

A successful journey involves three critical steps: determining where you are now, deciding where you want to go, and figuring out how to get there.

Creating a plan and plotting a course allows you to stay on track, recognize and avoid detours and distractions, measure progress, and move effectively toward goals. Without a plan, you cannot know where you are, nor strategize to get to where you want to go. If you don’t know where you want to go (a goal), you can’t figure out how to get there.

Eleven Steps to Ignite Success

The following steps will guide success when coupled with the blueprint of how to establish specific, attainable goals:

• Have your needs and values in sharp focus.

• Know what you do uniquely well.

• Assess specific strengths, passions and weaknesses.

• Establish SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.

• Determine three key initiatives to take for each goal (timetable: 1–2 weeks).

• Decide on the next best action for each initiative (timetable: 2–3 days).

• Structure a strategy to reach and stretch each goal.

• Increase tolerance of planned risk with associated fear.

• Focus on specific results, action and momentum regarding goals.

• Continue assessment of disciplined activity with refinement of goals.

• Endorse your progress.

Applying SMART Goals to Your Personal Mission Statement

You can use these five key questions to apply SMART goals to your personal mission statement:


Who should accomplish the objective? In conjunction with others? Should certain aspects be delegated?


“What must happen” focuses on specific outcomes within a particular time frame to achieve a goal. Each outcome should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.


“How to accomplish the goal” may be a co-created exploration and discussion of possible approaches and alternatives, but the choice of direction must come from you, because the outcome must belong to you. A commitment needs to result.


This exploration clarifies a pathway and precisely determines the goal. If it is unclear or uncertain, the best intention would be a promise you never keep.


The time frame for each objective must be specified so that the sense of mastery can occur. A goal may have a several-month time frame. Each goal should have an initiative that can occur within the next several days, and each initiative should have a next best action, to begin within the next day or so.

A Framework for Change

These are the principles of change that I use in professional coaching.

Coaching fully inhabits the present moment, looking ahead to form visions and goals. In doing so, what arises in content and process becomes useful information for fashioning progress.

A story is generated in the present moment; a current story can be discerned from a new edition of an old story. It becomes evident in the process when someone is recycling an old story, manifesting limiting assumptions, or not fully pursuing success. For example, procrastination informs about readiness; resistance guides implementation strategy; fear announces desire; intention forms commitment to action.

The coaching frame is the same as what you can ask yourself: “What needs to be done to begin change that I am willing to do today?” “What will I do tomorrow to further my goals?” The coaching model has the end in mind from the beginning.

The experience of effectiveness and sense of mastery are self-validating and generate energy. Consistently creating a new experience changes both your mind and brain. (More on the latter next issue.)

DAVID KRUEGER, M.D. is CEO of MentorPath, an executive coaching
practice tailored to the needs of coaches, entrepreneurs and healing professionals.
He is Mentor and Training Coach at Coach Training Alliance.
He is author of 11 books on success, money, work and