December 28, 2019  

My 10 Step Formula For Goal Setting Success (Plus Free Goal Setting Worksheet)

Ready to set unstoppable goals this year? Follow this formula for Setting goals that you’ll actually stick to this year. And grab the free goal setting worksheet, too!


This week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is my favorite time of the entire year. I’m a firm believer that there’s nothing magical about January 1st and always preach that you can start new goals any day of the year, but there’s still something undeniably exciting about the promise of the fresh new year ahead.

I’ve always been pretty nerdy about goal setting and have gotten even nerdier in the past few years. I just LOVE having clearly defined goals in place. It helps me know what to focus on and how it plays into the bigger picture of my life.

I’ve written quite a bit about goal setting in the past but realized I haven’t taken the time to write a comprehensive blog post that sums up my entire goal-setting process. So with the start of a new year (and new decade?!) just days away, it seemed like an appropriate time to finally put all of my goal setting thoughts down in one spot!

I hope this post will help you set amazing, intentional, exciting goals this year. And even if you’re not reading this at the end of December, rest assured that there’s no wrong day to set goals – in fact, the best day to set goals is right NOW!




This post contains affiliate links. See my disclosure policy for details.

Free Printable Goal Setting Worksheet

Before we get into the specifics of my goal setting formula, I first want to share a little freebie with you!

This goal setting worksheet is perfect for planning out the specifics of a goal including why it’s important to you and the action steps you plan to take first.

Click here to download the printable worksheet and print out a copy for each of your goals! (It’s also editable if you prefer to type rather than print.)


10 steps to goal setting success

1. Reflect On The Current State Of Things

Before you begin planning the year or quarter ahead, take some time to reflect on how things are right now. Grab your favorite pen and journal it out.

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What did you learn?
  • What areas of your life do you want to change/improve?

2. Start With The Big Picture

Before you start committing to specific goals, let’s zoom out and look at the big picture. Imagine your life 10 years from now – what is it like? How does the best version of yourself act, look, and feel? What does a day in your life look like?

Go ahead and let your imagination wander while you dream about your best life 10 years from now. Journal your thoughts as they come until you have a detailed description of how your life looks 10 years from now.

Rachel Hollis details this big-picture thinking really well in her book, Girl Stop Apologizing. Her 10-10-1 method is an awesome way to think about the big picture in terms of 10 years, 10 dreams, and 1 goal. You can also get a really short overview of the 10-10-1 method here.

Further Reading: Girl Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis

Pssst…Don’t forget to download the free printable worksheet if you haven’t already.

3. Do A Massive Brain Dump

Now it’s time to zoom in and brainstorm goal ideas for the coming year (or quarter if you prefer setting 90-day goals). Turn on some fun music and do a big brain dump of everything that comes to mind when you think about goals for the year ahead. What do you want to work on? What are some goals that will help you get closer to that vision of yourself 10 years from now?

Allow yourself to brain dump freely until the ideas slow, then think through the categories below and see if anything else comes to mind.

  • Family
  • Relationships
  • Health
  • Household
  • Education
  • Work
  • Self Care
  • Personal Growth
  • Hobbies
  • Faith
  • Finances

Related: How To Declutter Your Mind & Increase Productivity With A Brain Dump


4. Look For Themes

Read back through all of the goal ideas you brainstormed in the last step and look for themes. Try to sort your ideas into loose themes so you can better evaluate them. Highlight, circle, or mark up your ideas as you identify themes.

5. Choose Your Top Goals

Now step back and look at all of the themes you identified. What goal ideas rose to the top? Are there specific areas of your life that you’re feeling really called to focus on this year? What themes came up over and over again?

Although there are likely a lot of important ideas in front of you, its important that you take the time to narrow them down. I recommend having no more than 8 goals, less really is more here. As much as you want to focus on #allthethings, you’ll see far more progress is you get laser-focused on a few goals.

As you’re considering which goals to focus on this year, here are some things to consider:

  • Does this goal align with where you want your life to be in 10 years?
  • Does this goal support the values and areas of your life that are most important to you?
  • Do you really want to achieve this goal, or does it simply “sound good” or seem like something others expect of you?

Remember that just because a goal doesn’t make the cut today, doesn’t mean it’s not important. You can always revisit it in the future!

Once you’ve identified your top goals, take some time to make them more specific. How will you know when you succeed? What is the specific outcome you want to achieve?

Example: “Paying off debt” is a goal idea while “Paying off my car loan and credit card ($4,500 total)” is a specific goal.

Do you see how “paying off debt” is very vague? If that’s your goal, are you successful if you pay off the $120 balance on your Target Red Card? According to your vague goal, you could say you hit your goal by paying off that debt.

But when you’re more specific about which debt and the total amount you want to pay off, you have a clear finish line and can focus your efforts on hitting that goal.


6. Identify Your Why

Once you’ve written down your specific goals for the year or quarter, take a few minutes to think about why each goal truly matters to you. It’s not really just about paying down debt for debt’s sake, is it? Maybe you want to move to a bigger house next year and getting rid of that monthly car payment will make it possible to afford a larger mortgage.

When things get tough and you lose focus or want to give up on your goals, your why is what will remind you why this goal matters.

7. Create An Action Plan

A goal is meaningless unless it is tied to a concrete action plan. Creating an action plan gives you specific tasks to do that will help you get from point A to point B.

Brainstorm the action steps you could take to meet your goal and then circle the ones you plan to do first. Knowing what your first move will be is really motivating!

Related: The Powersheets Goal Planner is a great way to create and track your action plans!

8. Focus On Habits & Systems

Writing goals down on paper is a start, but in order to make serious progress, you’re going to need to get focused and find a way to build action steps into your daily life.

I’ve failed to recognize the importance of this step in the past and it always results in me ending the year wondering why I made such little progress. What I’ve learned is that the key to making progress is to focus on creating habits and systems.

So back to the paying off debt example, you could set up a portion of your paychecks to go directly to loan payments so you’re automatically making progress. That’s a great system to put in place. As for a habit, what if you began ordering groceries online each Sunday night so you can avoid impulse purchases?

When thinking about ideas for habits that will get me closer to my goals, I find it helpful to think of it in terms of “what would a _____ person do?” (aka what would a healthy/financially responsible/exceptional wife/great student do?)

The book Atomic Habits is an amazing deep dive into forming lasting habits and how those impact our long-term goals far more than short-term bursts of focus ever will.

Further Reading: Atomic Habits by James Clear


9. Build In Accountability

Goals have a much higher likelihood of success when there’s built-in accountability! Think of ways you can add some sort of accountability to each and every goal.

Here are some examples to get you thinking:

  • Give your spouse permission to check in on your progress every evening at dinner.
  • Ask your sister or a friend to text you about your progress once a week.
  • Schedule a babysitter to come over for a couple of hours at the same time every single week so you always have time for your goal built into your calendar.
  • Hire a personal trainer or a gym that offers one-on-one training sessions (this is the main reason I joined Burn Boot Camp earlier this year).
  • Find a Facebook group about your goal topic and commit to participating in the conversations and sharing your progress.
  • Sign up for lessons or a class so you have a scheduled time to do the work and an instructor to guide you.
  • Find a friend that wants to complete the same goal and do it together! Whether you live down the street or across the country, if you’re both working toward the same end goal it will be easy and fun to do this together.
  • Commit to sharing a progress update on Instagram every day or every week.
  • Coaches aren’t just for sports – you can hire business coaches, life coaches, and so many specialty coaches to help you on your journey.

Psst…Don’t forget to download the free printable worksheet if you haven’t already.

10. Do Regular Check-Ins

Goals should be regularly evaluated and you should never feel like they’re set in stone–they’re YOUR goals! This is a step that is often overlooked but is so important to goal setting success.

Goal check-ins are a chance to review your goals, revise them if necessary, check-in on your progress, and determine your next action steps.

I wrote a whole blog post about how to do goal check-ins which includes a free goal check-in worksheet.

Related: Tired Of Failing At Your Goals? Why Goal Check-Ins Are Vital To Success (Plus Free Goal Setting Worksheet)


Do you have any goal setting tips that have worked well for you? This is the process that I’ve found to work the best but I’d love to hear what else you’d add!

Don’t forget to download the free printable worksheet if you haven’t already!

Looking for more goal-setting articles? Check out these past blog posts:

  1. 14 Goal-Setting Mistakes You’re (Likely) Making
  2. Powersheets 101: How To Cultivate Intentional Goals This Year
  3. Tired Of Failing At Your Goals? Why Goal Check-Ins Are Vital To Success (Plus Free Goal Setting Worksheet)
  4. Free Printable Savings Goal Tracker + Ways To Make Extra Money
  5. Why You Should Have 90-Day Goals (And A Goal Setting Worksheet)
  6. Creating A 10-Minute Morning Journaling Routine For Self Reflection And Goal Setting

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a working mom juggling two young kids, a corporate job, and all that goes into managing a home. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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