How to Reverse Engineer a Goal

Every January, people talk about goal setting, creating a vision board, and setting New Year’s resolutions. But too often, those goals fizzle out by February—am I right?

(I know it’s happened to me more often than I care to admit.)

However, over the years, I’ve found a few ways to make my goals actually come to fruition. Here are my best goal setting tips:

woman writing goal setting tips in a notebook

Start with the end goal in mind.

No matter what your goal is, you should start with the end in mind. Where is it you want to go? What is it you want to do or accomplish? What change do you want to make?

If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’ve arrived?

Perhaps your goal is to run a 5k. Or you want to declutter that guest bedroom. Or maybe you want to finally take that vacation we all need after 2020 and 2021.

Name your goal and what it will look like when you’ve attained it.

Determine a timeline for your goal.

One of the keys to following through with a goal (or at least making follow-through more likely) is to determine a timeline for your goal. Is it in three months, six months, a year? Is it something you want to do in the next month?

Figure out your timeline for your goal.

Take the example of running a 5k: Let’s say you have a race picked out that’s happening in six months.

With that date in mind, you know that you have six months to train, condition, and prepare yourself.

Break up tasks week by week.

It’s overwhelming for anyone to try to make changes all at once. It’s the reason most people give up on their goals. They go too hard, too fast, wear themselves out, and lose steam. They throw in the proverbial towel.

So, if we continue with the 5k goal example, you can create a week-by-week training plan. Week one, you go for walks. Then, in week two, you start to alternate walking with increments of running for twenty seconds. Next, during week three you increase those running increments by ten seconds. And on and on until you arrive at race day. (Note, I’m not a runner, so please don’t take my running advice!)

The same goes for something like taking a vacation. You’ve determined you want to take a vacation in August. That gives you eight months to plan and save money. If you break that up week by week, you can give yourself one small task each week. 

That may look like:

  • Setting a travel budget
  • Researching vacation destinations within that budget
  • Setting up automatic savings transfers
  • Choosing a hotel
  • Looking at flights
  • Booking flights and hotel

And the list goes on. By breaking it down into small tasks, you’re not overwhelmed by having to do all the things all at once. You can complete your task for the day or week and give yourself a big checkmark for a job well done.

Set reminders and deadlines for your goals.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a lot going on each day. Whether it’s work, the kids, the house, the activities, groceries, dental appointments, etc., there’s A LOT to juggle.

One of the reasons goals get left behind is because we may start strong with a plan, but the mental load of life is heavy. We can’t expect ourselves to remember it all, all the time.

An easy way to help yourself stick to your goals is to set reminders on your phone and create deadlines for tasks that need to be done in a timely manner.

You wouldn’t miss an appointment you set with the doctor, so give yourself that same level of priority and make an appointment with yourself to take a step towards your goal.

Review and reassess your goals regularly.

Next, it’s important to review your goals regularly so that you can recalibrate them when necessary. 

A goal you set for yourself in January may need a new deadline. 

Your vacation destination may need to change. 

Maybe you hit a goal sooner than expected.

Reviewing and reassessing your goals helps you to adjust your plan when needed. 

Celebrate when you hit your goal(s)!

When you hit your goal(s) you should definitely celebrate!

Whether that’s toasting mai tais on the beach during that long-awaited vacation or getting a new pair of running shoes after completing your 5k, give yourself a high five for making it happen.

Following through with a goal is a big deal!

One of my favorite goal-setting tools is PowerSheets available in the Cultivate What Matters shop.

Looking for other goal setting posts?

6 Tips for Setting Goals and Sticking to Them

“Ridiculous” Goals + Creating a Vision Board

Catie Wood
Catie is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, went to college in San Diego, and moved to North Texas after getting married in 2009. They have lived in Collin County since 2017 and welcomed their son to the world in 2018. She likes to call herself a "naptime entrepreneur" working during her toddler's naps as a personal branding photographer - creating visual content and branded images for creative entrepreneurs and small business owners. In her limited spare time, you'll find her reading a mix of fiction, parenting, and business books, daydreaming about traveling to Europe, giving some attention to their dachshund named Kevin, and watching classics on Disney+ with her husband.