10 Goal Setting Activities

Everyone fails at reaching their goals from time to time. Whether it was because something got in the way out of the blue, you weren’t dedicated enough, money was short, or any other reason, it happens to all of us. However, good goal-setting habits and activities might be able to help you improve your success rate.

What are goal-setting activities? Goal-setting activities are the small things you can do when identifying and choosing your goals to help put them into practice. Think stuff like writing post-it notes to remind yourself, setting smartphone reminders, and so on. There are a lot more useful goal-setting activities out there than just those, though!

In this article, our goal is to introduce you to a wide variety of effective goal-setting activities, help you identify some of the best goal-setting activities for you, and help you become more equipped to handle the next goals on your journey!

Why Goal Setting Activities?

You might be wondering why goal-setting activities are a requirement for you. In actuality, they’re not. If you’re competent at setting and achieving your own goals consistently, you might not need any extra activities to help you succeed. However, that doesn’t mean that these activities won’t help you anyway.

Goal-setting activities are meant to help you identify new goals, flesh out existing goals, and fully appreciate and prepare for what might be involved in any goal. Besides being useful for adults, they’re also particularly effective for children and teens who may need extra help in fleshing out their goals.

Some goal-setting activities might seem silly, especially if they’re designed for children. However, each activity we list in this article has a purpose and a benefit to it. Even if it feels silly when you’re doing it, it will help you in the long run!

SMARTer goals

The SMART system is an excellent guide to follow when you’re learning how to set practical goals. While not necessarily an activity – it’s more of a set of guidelines – we’ve included it here because it’s something you should always consult when setting future goals for yourself. The SMART system goes as follows:

  • Specific: make sure your goal is well-planned, narrow, and refers to only one thing at a time.
  • Measurable: your goal is most effective if it’s made up of quantifiable values, such as money.
  • Achievable: make sure your goal is feasible to achieve in the time you’ve allotted.
  • Relevant: your goal should be related to your dreams, career, or greater plans.
  • Time-bound: always plan to complete your goal within a specific time frame.

A SMART goal is much more effective than a normal goal because it requires careful planning, thought input, and dedication of resources. Since you know exactly what you’re getting into with a SMART goal, it’s much harder to fail because you didn’t plan correctly. You also have no excuses if you don’t make it – you’re the only one to blame!

Regardless of the other activities, we include in this article, you should always try to make your goals SMART goals as you’re setting them. Use our other activities to flesh out and articulate your goals, then use the SMART system to define them further!

Start Within

In order to set the best possible goals, you should start inside yourself. If you want to set goals that will hold your interest in the long-term and remain relevant in your life, then you need to dig deep and know what your dreams are first! In this section, we’ll teach you how to do just that.


Life is full of new discoveries; they’re around every corner. As such, we can never discover all there is to know about ourselves and others since we’re always changing, growing, and learning. However, knowing yourself better can often help you predict where your quirks and traits might lie. This is where discovering yourself comes in.

You can’t set reasonable goals for yourself if you don’t know yourself well. However, learning yourself inside and out involves more than just introspection. You’ll need to try new things and meet new people, too!

Your first goal should be to know yourself as much as possible. Learn things, do things, and research things that you’ve never done or thought about before, especially the things that interest you! Every so often, something that we’ve thought was a dream our whole lives turns out to be a bad fit for us. You’ll save time and effort if you can cross these things off the list early.

Discovering yourself isn’t something you can do overnight, so it’s all the more important that you tackle this part of the process first. The more things you try and people you meet, the more likely you are to discover good and bad fits for you and the more you’re likely to find out about yourself.

Skills and Weaknesses

As you discover yourself, make a note of what you find that you’re good and bad at. Each of us is born with innate strengths and weaknesses, and we acquire and cultivate different ones throughout our lives. Moreover, if we’re bad at something but passionate about it, we may have the desire to do it regardless, and we’ll become proficient at it along the way.

In our day and age, we don’t always have the opportunity to live on what we love (or even what we’re good at) at first. However, if you persevere at what you like, develop skills in it, and never give up, you may find that certain opportunities open themselves to you. There is always a demand for someone who’s a master of their craft, so if something truly inspires you, stick with it!

Below we’ve included a list of the most common, useful skills that will always come in handy somewhere, somehow.

  • Mindfulness: the ability to clear your head and focus on what’s happening in front of you
  • Negotiation: the ability to mediate an argument between parties peacefully
  • Delegation: the ability to pass less-important duties on to others so you can get more work done
  • Gratitude: people like you better when you show appreciation for what they do!
  • Graceful failure: successful people know that everyone fails from time to time, and failing gracefully is a skill that others will admire in you
  • Leadership: the ability to take the reins in an unsure situation is useful in virtually all work environments
  • Communication: the ability to tell others clearly what you want, need or mean

Dig Deep

If you want to set goals that speak to you and goals that will be effective over the long-term, you’ll need to know yourself first. For example, if you set a goal of hoping to become a pharmacist one day, but don’t know that pharmacy actually bores you to tears, then your goal isn’t likely to last very long. You’re much more likely to give up part way through, which is a waste of time and effort.

This is why it’s so important to look deeply inside yourself. This means looking at your fears, regrets, and guilts, too. Deep self-analysis can be difficult and even painful, but you’ll find yourself with increased clarity to show for it. We recommend setting aside periods of time for reflection and meditation and even potentially spending time with a therapist, in order to get the most out of your deep-diving.

Learning yourself is also an ongoing process, as we mentioned before. One period of deep introspection will get you far, especially if you’ve never tried it before, but we recommend turning this into a habit, too. Weekly sessions can be supremely helpful if you can get into the habit, and they can provide much peace and clarity into an already stress-filled life.

Find the Value

While it’s great to follow your dreams and passions, you should also give some thought to following what’s economical. Unless you were born into money, you’ll probably need to find a job in something profitable when you’re young, at least until you find the means or skills to turn your passions into your living.

Turning your biggest dreams into reality will come with time. Until then, you should turn your talents into your livelihood. Search through your skills, passions, and ideas to find what might be a good interim or permanent career path for you. This is what “finding the value” means.

If you’re dedicated to your dreams, you’ll eventually make them a reality, even if only as a hobby. However, you’ll need to have something to fund those dreams and hobbies, too. Consider the following:

  • If you’re a talented writer, but don’t have designs on writing a book, consider blogging or writing for others for a career or side job
  • If you love to create arts and crafts, consider selling high-quality creations online as a source of income
  • If you’re charismatic and well-spoken, consider work as a motivational speaker
  • If you love to garden, consider growing and selling high-quality vegetables at harvest to supplement your income

The above passions aren’t even necessarily careers or livable sources of income, but they’re examples of people putting their skills or passions to work to progress towards the rest of their dreams. Even if your goals seem unreachable now, as long as you work your way towards them through solutions like the above, you will eventually make it!

Follow Up

Once you feel like you’ve learned yourself inside and out, it’s time to put your new findings into action! In this section, we’ve included a variety of activities you can do to help you master the art of effective, successful goal-setting.

Write It Down

The quickest, easiest thing you can do to help you achieve your goals is writing them down. Seems too easy, right? Well, believe it or not, writing goals down makes people, on average, over forty percent more likely to achieve them.

To start, we recommend setting aside some time to make a master list of all the things you’d like to achieve in your life. Include your deepest, most precious goals, your most far-fetched dreams, and even ideas with a very low likelihood of happening. Anything you might ever want to achieve, you should include in this master list.

You should then follow up on this every week by adding more to the list. Keep it in a notebook, if you must. Every time new inspiration strikes you or an old goal falls out of your favor, record it in your notebook. Turn it onto a “goal journal” of sorts. Doing this is a great way to learn yourself better. You’ll have a greater understanding of the inner workings of your mind, your dreams and skills, and what makes you tick.

Tell a Friend

Believing that you can and will do something plays an enormous role in staying loyal to your goals. Just like writing your goals down holds you accountable to them, telling someone else what you’re working on can inspire you to stick to it.

Having a friend in-the-know is a little different, though, because you’re not the only one accountable when you fail to reach your goals. If you fail, you risk disapproval or punishment from that friend (assuming you set something up in advance). You can even ask the friend to withhold a privilege or luxury from you if you fail to reach your goals repeatedly.

However, with this approach, you need to have a trustworthy friend who is willing and able to hold you accountable to your goals. Someone who you’re not close enough to or someone who’s very busy may not have the time or inclination to attend to you. Additionally, someone who might want to help might not be strict enough to hold you accountable, either.

As long as you’re selective with who you ask to help you, though, asking a friend or family member for assistance, especially if you’re a social, gregarious individual, can be an extremely effective approach.

Work Backward

When we make our goals, we often pick something that we’ve always wanted to have. For example, if you never had a dog growing up, you might set a goal to adopt one in the next few months when you find that you have the money and time to do so. However, this isn’t necessarily the most effective method to set your goals, nor is it the most exhaustive.

Instead of doing the above, try working backward to isolate your goals. Think of how you want to be in the future – imagine your living situation, your house, your finances, your family, everything! Now, think about what you’ll have to do to get to that point. You should make that vision of the future your ultimate “master goal” of sorts, and any goals leading up to it are like stepping stones.

Writing your backward goals out in a tiered style is helpful for this purpose, too. Take a look at our example below:

  • Master goal: to live comfortably in a house worth $250,000 with a husband and two children by the time I’m 35 years old
    • To do that, I need to earn X more per year before taxes
      • I need to look into being promoted or look into higher-paying job opportunities within the next five years
    • I also need to start actively dating in order to find a mate
      • I need to create dating profiles on various sites if I want to start dating within the next few months

The above examples show you how one might go about creating some backward goals. From the master goal above, we were able to deduce two goals: earning higher pay, and creating dating profiles. You can work in much the same way to isolate smaller goals from your big goals, as this method is an excellent way to break your most significant goals into smaller, more manageable steps.

The Tech Edge

In our constantly-changing technological world, there is almost always an easier, quicker way to do something! This applies to goal-setting and keeping, too. There are hundreds of apps and online resources available for tracking and managing the goals that you set. If you’re a tech-savvy individual, this may be an excellent option for you.

Here’s a list of some apps that might help you with your goal-setting and management.

The above are apps for general use, habits, and goals, but there are several available for more specialized purposes like money tracking, fitness tracking, and diet tracking, among other things. Even something as simple as setting calendar alerts or weekly alarms can help you with managing your goals and activities. Take advantage of all the convenient opportunities that technology provides for you!

Make a Bucket List

Making a bucket list fulfills some of the same goals as working backward does, but results in slightly different means. For a bucket list, you’re picking several things that you’d like to experience or accomplish before you die, so you often end up with much more than you would with the other method.

The above makes the bucket list approach useful for a variety of reasons, even though we recommend trying both exercises at some point. The bucket list method is especially helpful for adding in more goals once you’ve finished the backward method.

An average person’s bucket list might look like this:

  • Go skydiving
  • Road trip across the US
  • Try a new food every week
  • Make one million dollars
  • Invent something

The beauty of this exercise is that a regular bucket list is exceedingly easy to turn into a list of goals. In most cases, all you need to do is add on quantifiers to the goals – i.e., how long they will take, when you’d like to get them done, or how much they might cost. If you’ve been finding that you don’t have enough goals to know yourself well, then this is an excellent exercise for you.

Dream Big

Dream big! Nothing is holding you back from achieving your goals but yourself. You may be required to put some time and effort in to achieve what you most want, but you are just as capable as your neighbor of doing so.  Just because your biggest dreams seem impossible or difficult is no reason to give up on them!

Some of the most famous, successful people in the world were the ones who followed their dreams when they seemed impossible. Although you may or may not end up famous like them, that doesn’t mean you can’t do the same thing! If you refuse to or are afraid to dream big, then you regret it later in life, you will only have yourself to blame.

Try one of these two scenarios to help you dream big: imagine that you’ve won one million dollars, or that you have only one month to live. What would you do with your money if you had more than you could possibly spend? What would you do with your time if you only had limited time left on this Earth?

Plot It Out

If you end up with a jumble of goals and ideas, a great way to make sense of them is to plot them out. Similar to the backward method we described before, this involves drawing out your goals, but connecting and branching them based on their priority, how they relate, and how easy they are to accomplish.

For an activity like this, we recommend using a chart of some kind and drawing it out. There are resources available online to help you with this, but we find that it feels more memorable if you draw it out (and that way, you can keep the papers on hand for when you need inspiration or help). Drawing a chart or diagram may seem overly simple, but you might be surprised by how much it can help your mental process.

Some charts you may have heard of that might be used for this purpose are Venn diagrams, spider charts, and bubble diagrams. All of these can be helpful for different scenarios. Kids might even find joy in physically mapping out the charts on the floor and placing their strengths, weaknesses, and goals into the charts themselves.

The Obstacle Course

While making your lists of goals and dreams, there are certain things you’ll need to keep at the forefront of your mind: your fears and roadblocks. If you don’t know what’s stopping you, you won’t be able to move past it and reach your goals. This is where the introspection that you did earlier comes into play.

Whenever you plan and set goals, you need to keep your own setbacks in mind. Whenever you can, you should be looking to overcome these obstacles through your goals, but when this isn’t possible, make sure they don’t get in your way. You’ll find that this process ends up being like an obstacle course of sorts.

An excellent idea for kids is to turn this obstacle course into an actual obstacle course! You can have them create a board game based on these fears and goals, or make a real, physical obstacle course for them to go through. This is great for classroom settings for teachers or at home for parents, when an adult might need to teach children about the interplay between fears and goals.


More than anything else, you need to believe that you can achieve your goals. If you don’t believe in yourself, you will fall short of your goals every single time. Confidence and belief will take you far, and as they say, you should “fake it ‘till you make it.”

None of the activities we suggest in this guide will get you anywhere if you don’t believe that they’ll work for you. Regardless of what the reasons behind your hesitance are – whether it’s because you don’t want to change, you believe you can’t change, or you’re afraid to change – it will manifest in your inability to achieve what you want to achieve. You’ll need to change this mindset first to get anything done.

This is why our earlier steps are so necessary! Believing in yourself is just as important as knowing and discovering yourself – in fact, you will most likely learn yourself better as you search for the reasons why you don’t believe in yourself.

If you don’t believe in yourself, you may have a long way to go before you can achieve your dreams. Depending on what you’ve experienced, it can be a long, hard road to recovery. Fortunately, recovery is possible, and it’s made all the easier by the inspiration that you can develop from defining your deepest, most joyful dreams.

Belief and dreams go hand in hand. If you don’t believe in your dreams, you will not achieve them, and if you don’t dream big, you won’t believe that you can do great things. If you have trouble believing in yourself and chasing your dreams, we recommend employing the help of a professional to help you sort through things. The road to healing is tough but worth it. After all, your dreams are waiting for you!

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