Goal Setting 101: Overview

Competencies and Learning Objectives:

  1. What is a goal?
  2. Why is goal setting important?
  3. Categories of Goals
  4. How goals change at different stages of life
  5. What makes IDL goal setting different from many other approaches
  6. How to explain the importance of goal setting to your students and clients
  7. What is the relevance of goal setting to accessing the transpersonal and experiencing the sacredness of life? 

What is a “goal?” How is a goal different from an intention?


Goal setting is the first of the three Balancing Modules of the IDL Curriculum. That is because we set goals in order t bring balance into our lives. The goals that we have, whether consciously set or represented by what we actually do and don’t do in the course of a day, largely predict our future and define our identity.

Goals and intentions are related concepts but have distinct characteristics. A goal is a specific, measurable, and often time-bound objective that a person sets out to achieve. Goals are typically tangible and concrete outcomes that you are actively working toward. Goals often involve planning, strategizing, and taking specific actions to accomplish. Examples of goals include running a marathon, saving a certain amount of money, or completing a project by a deadline.

Intentions, something we will cover in the final module, are broader, related to your purpose, direction, or desired state of being. Intentions are about the underlying motivation, attitude, or mindset behind your actions and goals. They guide your behavior and decision-making but may not necessarily have a clear endpoint or measurable outcome. Examples of intentions include being present in the moment, practicing kindness, or cultivating gratitude in daily life. The IDL Statement of Intent, discussed in the last Module, is one example.

In essence, goals are specific targets that you aim to achieve, while intentions are the guiding principles or attitudes that inform your actions and decisions along the way. Goals are the “what” you want to accomplish, while intentions are the “why” or the deeper meaning behind your actions. Both are valuable in personal growth and achievement, but they serve different purposes and operate at different levels of specificity.

Why is goal setting important?

Setting goals provides clarity about what you want to achieve. It helps you identify specific outcomes you desire, which can guide your actions and decisions. Goals give you something to work towards, providing motivation and a sense of purpose. When you have clear objectives, you’re more likely to stay focused and committed to taking action. Goals allow you to measure your progress. By setting specific targets, you can track how far you’ve come and identify areas where you need to improve. Goals help you prioritize tasks and allocate resources effectively. They provide a roadmap for where you want to go, helping you stay focused on what’s most important. When you set goals, you’re more likely to hold yourself accountable for your actions. You have a benchmark against which you can assess your performance and make adjustments as needed. 

Pursuing goals often involves stepping outside your comfort zone and acquiring new skills. This process of growth and development can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem. Overall, goal setting is a powerful tool for personal and professional development, enabling you to turn your aspirations into reality.

How goals change at different stages of life

Your goals will evolve and change as you progress through different stages of your life, due to shifting priorities, experiences, and responsibilities. Goals during childhood and adolescence often revolve around personal growth, education, and exploration. Children may set goals related to academic achievement, making friends, pursuing hobbies, or discovering their interests and talents. IDL with young clients is likely to help to align life goals with underlying intention, making things like schoolwork and home chores more meaningful, purposeful, and authentic, and therefore more likely to be approached with motivation and perseverance.

In early adulthood, goals often focus on establishing independence, pursuing higher education, starting a career, and building relationships. Individuals may set goals related to finding a fulfilling job, developing financial stability, and forming meaningful connections. As you may have experienced, it is easy at this time of life to flounder in unfulfilling but financially necessary jobs, sacrificing life balance for financial security, and forming relationships that are less than meaningful and do not pass the tests of time. IDL with young adults is likely to place the pursuit of financial security within the broader framework of life balance and peace of mind. When young adults learn to share IDL with others they are more likely to find and form deep, meaningful, and lasting relationships.

During midlife, goals tend to shift towards career advancement, family planning, and even more concerns for financial security, particularly when issues of the welfare of children and the prospect of retirement appear on the horizon. At midlife, individuals are more likely to set goals related to maintaining health and well-being. IDL is important at this stage when adults are sorting out what priorities are most important for the second half of their lives, after kids have been raised and when it is easy to have life horizons lowered by family dramas, financial and health worries. IDL works to avoid the reduction of quality of life due to such very normal and understandable issues. 

As we enter later adulthood our goals are likely to center around retirement planning, maintaining health and vitality, and enjoying leisure activities. Goals often include staying physically active, spending time with family and friends, traveling, and pursuing lifelong passions or hobbies. However, in a full and meaningful life, this is a time when healthy minds turn increasingly to how we can give back in return for what we have enjoyed and learned in life. We ask, “What kind of lasting contribution can I make for future generations?” IDL is designed to help clients at this stage of life build lives that contextualize personal concerns and issues around a broader self-definition that transcends their own personal welfare.

In retirement and older age, goals tend to naturally focus on maintaining independence, staying connected with loved ones, and finding fulfillment in meaningful activities. Goals may include volunteering, mentoring, pursuing creative outlets, and leaving a legacy. For people at this stage of life, IDL can be of great help in putting loss and death into framings and perspectives that give them meaning that opens doors into greater connectivity with the sacred dimension of life. 

What makes IDL goal setting different from many other approaches

In traditional approaches to goal setting, life area are identified, various practices within those areas are specified that are designed to move one toward accomplishment in that life area, and then a plan for goal attainment, with monitoring, is developed. In such an approach, you choose the goals you want to work on.

IDL asks, “How do we know those goals, as important and sensible as they may be, are in alignment with the priorities of our unique and authentic emerging potentials and life compass?” It is easy to set goals that are limited or that we are likely to outgrow. Perhaps they reflect a genuine passion of the moment or interest that is designed to please others or gain status, based on our own particular familial and socio-cultural scripting. Because such scripting is problematic, in that it may primarily reflect the preferences of others instead of what is authentic for us, we are very likely to lose motivation or otherwise outgrow such goals. 

IDL interviewing protocols access the priorities of multiple emerging potentials to see what goals are repeatedly prioritized and what recommendations are made regarding how to go about achieving them. Therefore, both goals and the path to their achievement are determined by not only consulting our preferences and the advice of outside experts, but also interviewed dream characters and the personifications of our life issues. This combination increases the likelihood that we will set goals that are meaningful, authentic, toward which we are motivated, and which will stand the tests of time. 

How to explain the importance of goal setting to your students and clients

When explaining the importance of goal setting to students and clients, it’s essential to tailor your approach to their specific needs and interests. Begin by explaining why goal setting is important. Emphasize that setting goals provides direction and purpose, helping your students focus their efforts on what truly matters to them. Outline the benefits of goal setting, such as increased motivation, clarity, and accountability. Use examples or stories to illustrate how setting and achieving goals can lead to success and personal growth. Next, connect goal setting to their personal experiences or aspirations. Ask questions to understand their goals and challenges, and then demonstrate how goal setting can help them overcome obstacles and achieve their desired outcomes. Offer practical tips for setting effective goals, such as making them specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Encourage them to break down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks and to track their progress regularly. Stress the importance of reflection and adaptation in the goal-setting process. Encourage your clients to regularly review their goals, celebrate their successes, and adjust their plans as needed based on their experiences and changing circumstances. Let them know that they’re not alone in their goal-setting journey. IDL does so by providing a team context for moving through the curriculum, help in goal setting, monitoring, and accountability. 

In addition, encourage your clients to seek support from friends, family, or peers. Emphasize the importance of accountability and encourage them to hold themselves accountable for their actions and progress. Finally, inspire and motivate them to take action toward their goals. Share stories of individuals who have achieved success through goal setting, and remind them that they have the potential to accomplish great things when they set their minds to it. This is where daily identification or “becoming” those interviewed perspectives that personify these goals is an important aid in embodying goals, so that those goals become part of who we are, rather than something foreign that we are attempting to graft onto ourselves. 

What is the relevance of goal setting to accessing the transpersonal and experiencing the sacredness of life? 

Even if you have goals of accessing the transpersonal and experiencing the sacredness of life, what does that mean? Many times we thwart our own goal attainment by not being clear on what our goal is meant to accomplish. For example, many people want to increase the spiritual dimension of their life. But what does that mean in practice? Increasing feelings associated with spirituality? Attaining a pinnacle of enlightenment? Accessing a “spiritual” state? If so, which one is it? Achieving a more pure life or a more moral one? 

When your objectives are clear, you are more likely to align your actions with their values and aspirations. This alignment can create space for experiences that transcend the personal and connect with deeper aspects of existence. Pursuing meaningful goals can lead to experiences that expand your consciousness beyond the confines of the ego. As you strive towards your goals, you may encounter challenges that prompt self-reflection, growth, and a shift in perspective. This process can open the door to transpersonal experiences by transcending limited beliefs and identities.

Goal setting often involves reflecting on one’s values, passions, and aspirations. By identifying goals that resonate with your sense of purpose, you can tap into a deeper connection with emerging potentials and realities greater than yourself. This connection may be experienced as a sense of alignment with a higher purpose or divine guidance, fostering a sacred outlook on life.

One purpose of IDL goal setting is for it to be integrated with transformational practices such as meditation, pranayama, and the setting of intent. These practices are meant to support you in clarifying your goals, cultivating inner harmony, and accessing states of consciousness conducive to transpersonal experiences.

Monitoring your progress toward your goals can cultivate a sense of gratitude and reverence for the journey of growth and transformation. Recognizing and celebrating achievements along the way can foster an appreciation for the sacredness inherent in every moment of life. This practice of mindfulness can deepen your connection with the transpersonal aspects of existence.

Assignments and Homework 


  1. Write down your answers to the following questions. 
  2. Share your answers with your other study team members.
  3. Discuss.
  4. Submit your written answers.

How important has goal setting been for you in your life?

What has been your track record? That is, what goals have you achieved and what goals have you set but changed or not achieved?

How good are your family members and friends at setting goals and achieving them? What sorts of examples for goal setting have they set for you? 


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:

Goals for Professional Development:



In the IDL video curricula, watch:

IDL Goal Setting 1: What is Integral Deep Listening Goal Setting?

How IDL Goal Setting differs from other approaches. 



Check for study questions and/or create some of your own.


At a minimum, do one interview a week, getting experience with both dream and life issue protocols.

One week, interview yourself.

One week, interview a subject. It can be a fellow team member, a family member, friend, or client.

One week, be interviewed by someone else. 

Submit your written interviews to your supervising team member. To have your interviews automatically created for you, use the on-line interviewing format on this site.

Setting Intent:

What do you want to take away from this unit to improve your life?

For more information, contact joseph.dillard@gmail.com. While IDL does not accept advertising or sponsored postings, we gratefully accept donations of your time, expertise, or financial support.