How to Be Goal Centered (And Successfully Achieve Those Goals)

Why Goals? Why Now?

In this fast paced world (and with my even faster paced mind/inner dialogue), the creation and follow through of specific personal goals is the one of the few thing that grounds me to reality. In fact, you will hardly ever see me without a task list for the daily, weekly and monthly to-do’s. I am constantly jotting down places/people/things I want to explore, see, and even become more like. My iPhone is constantly updated with favorite quotes, bucket lists and more. I’m a well-oiled machine of productivity, self-exploration, and awareness.

But I wasn’t always this way. 

It’s been a multi-year (about 23 years, to be exact) journey to becoming a proficient goal-oriented person.  As someone who used to wander aimlessly through daily life (happy as can be, but still without a direction), I can attest to the peace of mind and soul that goal creation and completion brings my daily life. Perhaps you are reading this and although you’ve always understood why goals are important, you haven’t been able to successfully implement your goals. Perhaps you aren’t even convinced that setting goals are necessary–who has time to reflect and create something as arbitrary as “life goals” when there are deadlines to meet and people to see? Trust me, I get it because I have felt both sentiments in the past; but, now that I have become a goal-centered person, I haven’t been happier with myself and my life.

If you are not as goal-centered as you could be, I have written this post as a launching point that you might find helpful. You can start writing goals today. The process listed below allowed me to create goals that are NOT ONLY achievable and exciting, but ALSO genuine to the type of person I truly want to be. I hope you find it just as successful for you.

The Process

1. Create a list of your values

2. Create a list of things you want to be an “expert” on, or focus on.

3. *MOST IMPORTANT STEP* create goals that reflect the previous two lists.

There is a certain magic behind creating goals that reflect what you value and who you want to be, which makes all three steps crucial to successful goal-setting. Step 3 of this process can be as flexible as making weekly goals, seasonal goals, yearly goals and life goals. The trick is…. make sure your goals align with who you really are. You would be awed by how effortless what you strive for can be accomplished when it is actually something you intrinsically care for.

Year after year, do you find yourself making a goal to lose 10 pounds, yet year after year you forget to plan gym time in your schedule or make a healthy living style a part of your daily life? Chances are that “personal aesthetics” are not part of your values or who you want to be, and so you naturally prioritize more important things. 

Want to hike the Appalachian Trail, but the love for the outdoors isn’t one of the things you DEEPLY value? Then it’s not going to happen.

Perhaps you really want to be a well-versed reader, but your “to-read” list is a lot longer than your “have read” list. Take a critical look to see if reading is core to who you really are/want to be.

(*NOTE: the pursuit of who you are and will become definitely falls higher on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Please realize that where you are in life has a lot to do with whether you can reach goals such as “read 50 books a year.” This may be harder to do when you’re working 2 jobs to make ends meet. Your list of values and what you want to focus on can shift according to how stable your life is.)

We don’t just want to create goals, we want to COMPLETE them. But I’m going to push it one step further. We don’t just want to complete goals, we want our goals to help complete WHO we are. By making sure goals are aligned with your core, you can be a more productive, genuine and centered self. 

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”
― Albert Einstein

Personal Testimony

Here’s an example of goal creation I used for my “summer goal list.” (*NOTE: I had 8 weeks off this summer between finishing teaching and starting grad school, but I believe all goals can be met, regardless of time constraints.) 

List of my values:

  1. Inclusiveness
  2. Service
  3. Sense of family
  4. Friendship
  5. Positivity
  6. Empathy

Things I want to be focus on/be an expert about:

  1. Volunteering
  2. Outdoors/Active Lifestyle
  3. Puppies
  4. Books
  5. Travel
  6. Leadership
  7. Personal health/development (mental, academic, spiritual, etc)

LASTLY, Goals (to complete over the summer) that reflect who I am/want to be:

  1. Run my first 5k
  2. Run my first 5 mile race
  3. Register for an outdoors activity club
  4. Visit NYC for the first time (which also included visiting a long distance friend)
  5. See the ocean
  6. Donate clothes and shoes to Goodwill
  7. Read 10 books (fiction or non-fiction)
  8. Create photo album of my college years
  9. Write at least 10 handwritten letters of thoughts and thanks
  10. Run at least two times a week, every week
  11. Volunteer at least 12 hours
  12. Prepare for grad school (student affairs)
  13. Spend 4 out of the 8 weeks of summer with family

Happily, each of these goals were met(!!!), some of them were met more than once (saw two oceans, registered for a 10k, etc). And more importantly, each of these 12 goals can be tied back to at least one item on the previous two lists, which made them easy to follow through with. Remember my 30 by 30 list? I bet each of the items on my list can be connected back to my values or things I want to live my life for.

In Conclusion

We can all go through life without a clear set of goals, and still be happy. I did it for the majority of my life. But when goal-setting becomes a part of your life (and not just that thing you think about every now and then), you will realize that not only are you happy, but you are also growing yourself into a whole person who has a direction and a motive. Connect your goals to who you are (or want to be), and happiness will grow in light of that connection.

Who are you?

Who do you want to be?

What do you want out of life?



Remember, that life continues to shape you and change you, and you should make time to reflect on your inner growth whenever possible. Will I constantly re-evaluate my interests and passions? Yes. For the rest of my life? Yes. Just like I will constantly be writing and re-writing goals to complete and dreams to follow. Because when what you do matches who you are and who you want to be, none of this goal setting is a chore or work; it becomes a part of life–your life. And this life is too short to waste on not knowing what you want to create out of it.