the ultimate guide to setting your goals. woman standing on boxes with first place medal

The Ultimate Guide to Setting (and Achieving) Your Goals!

the ultimate guide to setting your goals. woman standing on boxes with first place medal

Have you set a goal recently that hasn’t come to fruition? Or are you just getting started in evaluating areas in need of improvement in your life?


Many of us periodically evaluate our careers, relationships, financial situations, and skill sets, looking for areas in need of change or improvement. To help make these changes a success, we set goals.


Unfortunately, the goals we set, though well-intended, are often short-lived. Harvard Graduate School of Education professors Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Keegan attribute the unsuccessful fulfillment of the goals we set not to lack of willpower, but rather, to lack of emotional immunity, specifically to feelings of disappointment and shame.


It can be especially difficult for women to set goals and stick to them due to the various roadblocks we experience in our personal and professional lives. However, building your emotional immune system can help increase the likelihood of achieving your goal.


Using Lahey and Keenan’s four-step framework for setting goals and overcoming obstacles, we’ll be taking a deep dive into identifying ways that you can increase your emotional immunity and making your goals a reality!


  1. Identify Your Goal


Identify an opportunity in your life for positive change and write it down. Beside your goal, list 3 – 5 actions that will help you achieve your goal.


Ex: Goal: I would like to apply to, attend, and graduate from a top MBA program

  • Study three hours per day for the GMAT
  • Take three to five GMAT practice tests
  • Write application essays


  1. Call Out Counterproductive Behavior


Is there anything in your life that is distracting you from your goal or obstructing your path? In this section, identify the behaviors that are knocking you off course.



  • Spending too much time reading/learning about things that don’t directly support my attending graduate school
  • Researching employment opportunities/the job market
  • Spending two to three hours per day on average on my phone


  1. Confront Counterproductive Behavior & Expose Competing Commitments


This is where things get interesting. Ask yourself how you’d feel if you did the opposite of the behaviors you listed in Step 2.


First, identify fears or worries that come to mind.

  • If I don’t learn about advancements in technology or the latest in-demand skill sets, I will fall behind my peers, fail to meet my career expectations, and be seen as a failure
  • If I don’t have a strong understanding of the current job market and suddenly decide to shift courses, I will not find a suitable employer or opportunity
  • If I spend more time studying but do poorly on the test, I will have wasted all of my time


Second, expose your competing commitments.

  • I am committed to being seen as successful in my career
  • I am committed to having job security and stability
  • I am committed to using my time productively


  1. Challenge Your Big Assumptions


Now that you have begun to unveil the competing commitments that are keeping you from achieving your goal, identify the covert internalized beliefs that you must overcome using “if, then” statements.


  • If I don’t continue to learn the latest skills and information, then I will be seen as failure
  • If I don’t consistently look at career advancement opportunities, then I will lose security and stability
  • If I don’t do well on the test, then the time I spent studying will have been unproductive


Once you’ve identified your own internal beliefs that stop you from achieving your goal, you’ve strengthened your emotional immunity. Now you can more easily overcome obstacles when they occur.


Next time you’re feeling discouraged or off-track, use this exercise to realign your behavior and prioritize your goal.


Learn more from Leanna in her podcast episode Queen of Assertiveness.


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