How to Set Realistic Goals: 12 Steps

Table of contents:

How to Set Realistic Goals: 12 Steps
How to Set Realistic Goals: 12 Steps

Everyone wants to achieve certain goals in life. In addition to getting what you want, you will have self-respect, feel happy, and live a prosperous life if you have goals and succeed in achieving them. This can be realized if you are able to set realistic goals. Realistic goals make you more motivating than goals that exceed your capabilities.


Part 1 of 3: Getting Inspired to Set Goals

Set Realistic Goals Step 1
Set Realistic Goals Step 1

Step 1. Think about the goals you want to achieve

The first step to setting goals is to determine what you want. In general, people already know what they want, such as achieving happiness, having good health, prosperity, or improving relationships with a partner. You only need to formulate a desire by determining the purpose of life.

  • Start by defining a definition. If you want to feel happy, define what happiness means to you. What is a happy life like? What do you need to feel happy?
  • For now, you can define goals in general terms. For example, if happiness means having a fulfilling career, “find a job that suits you” may be a general goal.
  • You can define more than one goal, long term and short term and write them all down.
Set Realistic Goals Step 2
Set Realistic Goals Step 2

Step 2. Define specific goals

In order to set realistic goals, you must set goals specifically. That way, you can clearly know what you need to do to achieve it. Specific goals are also more motivating and easier to achieve than ambiguous goals.

  • Define specific goals based on the general goals that you have set.
  • For example, if you want to start a new, more fulfilling career, at this stage, you have to decide what job you are most passionate about, for example: wanting to become a professional musician. These are general goals that you need to develop into more specific goals. What music do you like? What or what musical instruments will you be playing? Do you want a solo career? Would you rather join a musical group or an orchestra?
Set Realistic Goals Step 3
Set Realistic Goals Step 3

Step 3. Look for information

If you don't know how to get there yet, look for information to get an idea of how big of a challenge you have to face. The more you know, the better. While looking for information, answer the following questions:

  • What skills should I learn?
  • Should I change my lifestyle? If so, what needs to be changed?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How long should I try?
Set Realistic Goals Step 4
Set Realistic Goals Step 4

Step 4. Determine how to achieve the goal

In order to set realistic goals, you must know how to achieve them properly. For that, you must break down the goal into several parts or steps.

  • Breaking the goal down into a number of goals will make it easier to develop an action plan. Write down each step you will take.
  • For example, if your goal is to become a professional classical pianist in an orchestra, break this goal down into steps. The first step is to buy a piano if you don't have one because you have to be good at playing the piano. For that, you should learn to play the piano and understand music theory by taking music courses or colleges. The next step, apply for a job to become an orchestra player. This means you will need to take one or more auditions. In order to become a professional musician in an orchestra, you may have to move out of town.

Part 2 of 3: Understanding How to Set Realistic Goals

Set Realistic Goals Step 5
Set Realistic Goals Step 5

Step 1. Assess your commitment

Once you have an idea about how to reach your goal, determine if you are committed enough to make it happen because you will need to put in the time and effort to make your goal a reality.

  • You have to be fully committed if you want to achieve goals that are challenging or require a lot of effort. Less important goals make you less likely to be eager to achieve them.
  • If you are less committed to achieving your goals, your goals may be unrealistic. This means you have to change or set a new goal to which you are willing to commit.
  • Continuing the example of being a professional pianist, if you cannot commit to moving out of town and there is no professional orchestra in your city, this means you will have to change your career goals.
  • If you define multiple goals, rank them based on their importance. You will find it difficult if you want to achieve several goals at once. Do it one by one starting from the most important goal.
Set Realistic Goals Step 6
Set Realistic Goals Step 6

Step 2. Consider your limitations

Many may say that you can achieve anything you want with effort. In many ways, this statement is true. However, your goals will become unrealistic in the presence of limitations. Therefore, reconsider whether you have set a reasonable goal.

  • Limitations can occur in various forms, for example financial conditions or physical conditions. While there are limitations that can be overcome, there are also those that are so difficult that you may need to change or reconsider your goals.
  • We still use the example of the goal of being a pianist. If you have physical limitations that prevent your hands from functioning properly, this goal will be more difficult to achieve. Even if you can overcome this problem through intense physical therapy or years of practice, your goal will still be impossible to achieve, not just more difficult. Keep this example in mind when considering whether your goals are realistic enough.
  • Write down your limitations to give a complete picture of the obstacles that are holding you back.
Set Realistic Goals Step 7
Set Realistic Goals Step 7

Step 3. Determine the external constraints

In addition to your own limitations, sometimes, you also have to overcome external obstacles. You have to take into account external constraints as these usually get out of control and make it difficult to achieve your goals.

  • For example, you need to think about a few things about the piano music school you are going to attend. How hard is it to get into this school? How likely are you to be accepted? What if you are not accepted? Are there other options?
  • You can't anticipate all the obstacles that will occur, but you can think about them and write them down to consider whether your goals are realistic enough.
  • This method is also useful if you decide you still want to achieve it. By making anticipation, you are ready to overcome obstacles if they do occur.
Set Realistic Goals Step 8
Set Realistic Goals Step 8

Step 4. Change your goals if needed

After careful consideration, determine whether your goals are realistic enough. If so, try to make it happen. If not, make changes.

  • If your goal is unrealistic, you have two options: change it to make it achievable or cancel it and then set a new goal.
  • If a career as a professional pianist isn't a realistic goal and you'd like to have a career in another, more exciting field, reconsider your goal. Think of another profession that makes you happy.
  • Remember that you don't have to give up your desire to be a pianist. If you still want to be a pianist, change your plan to learn to play the piano as a hobby because this goal is easier to achieve and more realistic for you and better suited to your current situation.

Part 3 of 3: Achieving Goals

Set Realistic Goals Step 9
Set Realistic Goals Step 9

Step 1. Make a plan

After setting realistic goals, start making detailed plans to achieve them.

  • Now, you can make a plan easily because you have written all the steps and possible obstacles. The most important part of your plan is done.
  • The next step, you need to define a more specific step. For example, if you want to enroll in a music school, write the steps for submitting an application in your plan. You may need to get letters of recommendation, write essays, fill out forms, and/or audition. All of these things you should include in the plan.
  • Each step should be specifically defined so you know that a particular step has been completed.
  • In addition, also prepare a contingency plan to deal with the obstacles that you have anticipated. If you don't get accepted to the school you want the most, will you apply to another school? Or, apply again to the same school while trying harder to prepare?
  • Formulate goals/goals between measurable and deadlines. For example: “I will save 20% of my weekly income for 12 months to buy a piano on …”
Set Realistic Goals Step 10
Set Realistic Goals Step 10

Step 2. Create a work schedule

Many people achieve their goals because they have a specific work schedule that makes it easier for them to monitor progress and be persistent.

For example, you want to save some money to buy a piano for 6 months, start taking courses in the seventh month, master the basic techniques of playing the piano in the tenth month, and so on

Set Realistic Goals Step 11
Set Realistic Goals Step 11

Step 3. Get to work

After making a detailed plan, set a date to start work and go for it! The only way to achieve the goal is to provide the time and effort needed.

Setting a specific date at least a few days in advance allows you to anticipate and be more motivated when the appointed day arrives

Set Realistic Goals Step 12
Set Realistic Goals Step 12

Step 4. Make a progress note

Once you start work, keep track of your progress using a journal, phone app, or regular calendar.

  • Keeping track of your progress makes you feel responsible for meeting deadlines.
  • Plus, it helps you track your progress so you're motivated to keep making progress.


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