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Whether you're a musician, athlete, student, or business owner, goal-setting is a necessity to make progress. Goals should always be written down and placed in a visible area where you can review them regularly. This serves as a great reminder of what your goal is, where you are within reaching that goal, and what you need to do to achieve that goal. Apart from having clear, written goals, we only have mere ideas and impulses, which immediately lose purpose and motivation. Many people have creative minds and imaginations, but never reach their goals because they fail at this first step. Others fail to reach their goals because they blame their external environment. For instance, some will put the blame on their parents not motivating them, and others will put the blame on their upbringing. These external circumstances are completely irrelevant to setting goals. Having a clear and written goal, followed by an action plan to achieve it and self-discipline to maintain focus, are the key ingredients one needs to attain his/her goals.

In this resource, we will take a fresh look at the S.M.A.R.T. goals definition. You will learn very practical and applicable ways of achieving your goals through this definition. We will then discuss the necessity of self-discipline, and conclude with a series of questions to ask yourself in the process of goal-setting. These are not deep philosophical, theoretical concepts that are over our heads; they are basic principles to follow that will assure successful goal-setting and productivity in our lives.



Specify your goal and what you'll do to achieve it. Be clear and concise. A goal such as, "Being a better person" is vague and has no specification. However, a goal such as, "To boost my letter grade from a C to an A by increasing my studying time to two hours a day" is a specific goal, because you're clear on the goal and the action step to achieving it. Be clear on what your goal is and what specifically you will do in reaching it.


This is similar to being specific in goal-setting. When setting a goal, determine how it will be measured relative to your current situation. For example, where are you presently, and where will you be in the future? What things will you do to get there? An example of a measurable goal can be: "To increase my average class percentage from a 75% to an 85%, I will increase my study time and commitment to class."

Attainable – Think big in setting goals. The larger the goal is, the more motivated you will be in achieving it. One of the best ways of making a goal attainable is to identify something you enjoy doing. The more you enjoy it, the more attainable it will be. You will press on, regardless of trials and circumstances, because your heart is in to what you're doing. Another great facet of attaining your goal is learning from past mistakes. Learn from missed opportunities and mistakes you made. What did you do wrong and what will you do differently? Learning from past failures brings wisdom, progression, and ultimately, makes a goal attainable.



While it is important to think big, we must also be reasonable. Many people never reach their goals, because they are unrealistic. They set goals too high and don't have the capacity and enablement in achieving them. Be honest with yourself. Make sure the goal you set is within your means and ability. Furthermore, make sure the goal is within the parameters of your talents and strengths. For instance, what good would it be if I said I would like to become a professional baseball player within a month? Baseball is not my interest or talent. On the contrary, if my goal was to learn a unique four-way independence beat within a month, this is reasonable and realistic as it's within my strength and talent. Lastly, being realistic in goal-setting will encourage and motivate you, because it is attainable. In other words, you are setting a goal within your talent, so this will motivate you in the process of achieving it!



All Pro Running Back, Adrian Peterson, tore his ACL in a meaningless game in December of 2011. Many thought his career was on the decline and some thought it was over! However, Peterson was determined to start the 2012 season. Not only did he start, but he became the Most Valuable Player of the NFL and was just 9 yards short of breaking the all-time record for rushing yards! What was the solution to his success? There is no doubt that he has an amazing talent, work ethic, and physique for his position, but how did he recover so quickly? One of the solutions was devising timely goals. He set himself certain goals to attain within a time span. He worked hard and stayed on track in achieving each goal before conquering the next one. I share this story because it is a wonderful example of a person setting goals within a time frame, reaching them, and achieving his ultimate goal of making a full recovery before the start of the season. Our goals must also be like this. If you have a goal that is time consuming, break it down into segments and give yourself a window of time in attaining each segment. Do not proceed to the next segment until the current segment is completed. Be very clear, specifying a time frame you will achieve your goal.

This is a practical and viable guideline that will ensure anyone of reaching their goals. But why is it that so many people never end up achieving their goals? Many get off to start strong, but never finish what they started. Others set a goal and are faithful in achieving it, but get side-tracked by other goals and needs. Others simply lose motivation, because there is too much procrastination between the setting of a goal and the working of a goal. The one vital ingredient we need to assure a completion of all our goals is self-discipline. Cultivating a life of self-discipline is the essential component and bridge that will connect us from the beginning to the completion of the goal. Self-discipline is the ability to focus, eliminating all distractions. It is acting on work ethic, concentration, resilience, and vision, rather than on impulse and emotion. Too often, people allow their emotions and impulses to get the most of them and end up procrastinating their goal. For example, when there is a free opportunity to work on a goal, they will have an impulse to put on a movie, watch a sports game, or hang out with friends. Thus, the desire and discipline of achieving that goal greatly diminishes. There is a cost to self-discipline. There is a high degree of sacrifice. Any individual you speak to who has been successful in their field has a life of self-discipline. They gave up many things their emotions compelled them to do. Whether it's refusing to watch a sports game, waste time on facebook, or hang out with friends, being sacrificial is paralleled to self-discipline. Successful people in their fields are organized, manage their time effectively, and continuously stay on task. How can we cultivate a life of self-discipline? It can certainly be acquired and developed. It does not take some naturally gifted person to possess it. This is a skill that is developed over time by developing a life of good habits. One of the best Christian Bible expository preacher and teacher of our time, John MacArthur, gives us the answer. In his book, Called to Lead, he stresses the importance of starting with the small things in life. For example, clean your room. Organize your office. Get in the habit of putting to-do lists together. Read, volunteer, or do things that are edifying. Avoid entertainment (e.g., excessive television, social media, etc.). Be on time. Finish what you started. Follow through with what you say. Practice self-denial. For instance, the next time you have a desire to eat a banana split ice cream, say no and order ice tea. I am paraphrasing some of these small steps, but MacArthur's point is that when we begin self-discipline in the mundane things of life, this will pour out in the more significant things in our lives. As you can see, self-discipline has nothing to do with natural talent; it is a skill that is developed with persistence. This skill will subsequently lead to being a victor in goal-setting!



  • Why do I want to reach this goal?

  • What are the things in my life that are detrimental to developing self-discipline?

  • What are areas in my life I need to develop so I can stay on task in completing my goal?

  • Is there another person who successfully reached my goal? If so, what did he/she do in reaching it?

  • Will my goal negatively affect other people's lives? In other words, will I be so immersed to the point of neglecting other important areas of my life? If so, what can I do to find balance?

  • What is my motive in reaching this goal? Is it for my own pride to impress others, or is it to make an impact toward others?

  • How will this goal enhance my overall skills in my craft?

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