Goal Setting 102: How to Set and Monitor Goals

  1. Important life areas for goal setting
  2. What are YOUR goals? Setting long term, intermediate, and short-term goals
  3. Which of your priorities are most important?
  4. Measuring your progress: Setting Operational Goals
  5. The SMARTER approach to goal setting
  6. Applying the SMARTER formula to your goal setting
  7. Using apps to support your progress
  8. What does setting and monitoring goals have to do with the transpersonal and the sacred?

Important life areas for goal setting

While any goal can be pursued for a wide variety of reasons, some are pursued primarily for health, others for balance, while still others for transformation. 


Goals focusing on physical and mental health, such as exercising regularly, maintaining a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, or managing stress:

Health monitoring – check ups/apps



Changing or developing new habits

Eliminating addictions

Freedom from toxic scripting, drama, thinking


Greater assertiveness in relationships

Improved problem solving

Goals aiming to improve time management, organization skills, productivity, or work-life balance.

 Work/leisure balance 

 Goals related to career advancement, skill development, job satisfaction, or entrepreneurship.

 Goals concerning financial stability, savings, investments, debt reduction, or achieving specific financial milestones.

Vacation, Recreational goals 

Goals centered around pursuing creative outlets, hobbies, passions, or artistic endeavors.

Balancing self/others: Goals involving building and nurturing meaningful relationships with family, friends, colleagues, or community members.

Sexual balance and expression 

Balance between interior/exterior, consciousness/nature


Goals related to personal growth, such as learning new skills, improving self-confidence, or enhancing emotional intelligence.

Goals related to academic achievement, lifelong learning, pursuing higher education, or gaining new knowledge in specific areas of interest.

Goals focusing on giving back to the community, volunteering, supporting charitable causes, or making a positive impact on society.



  Goals related to setting intent: aligning your actions with personal values and beliefs

  Development into the transpersonal

  Expanded awareness of the sacred


What are YOUR goals? Setting long term, intermediate, and short-term goals

In each of the above areas, think about what you want your life to be like in five years. Why? If you  know how to set and follow goal setting for yourself you are much more likely to be able to do d so for your clients. 

For example, what will you be doing in terms of nutrition? What will be on your diet? What won’t? What will be your attitude toward food and eating? What will be your relationship to food and eating? 

Exercise: We all need stretching, cardio, and muscle strengthening if we want to slow down and stave off  the aging process. What do you want your routine to look like in five years?

Do you have any bad habits? Ha ha! We all do! Do you have any that you want to change, like procrastination or biting your nails? Do you have any habits that bug the hell out of your partner that would reduce nagging by changing, with little skin off your back? If so, what? What sorts of habits do you want gone in five (or less!) years, and what is your plan for eliminating them? What new habits do you want to develop?

What are your addictions? Before you can even think about eliminating them you first need to identify them. List yours and the intensity of your addiction: light, medium, or hard core. Don’t tackle your strongest  addictions first because they throw up the most resistance. Work on less entrenched ones first.

Do you experience toxic familial, social, and cultural scripting? If so, what is your contribution to it? Remember: you have control over what you do or say, not over what others do or say.

In what areas of interpersonal communication do you err toward either aggressiveness or passivity? How do you want to be dealing with each of those areas in five years?

Where do you have deficits in problem solving? What do you want to change about your problem solving ability? What do you want your problem solving to be like in five years? 

What sort of work do you want to be doing in five years? What do you want your attitude toward your work to be in five years? What will your professional goals be in five years?

What will your financial goals be for five years from now? Where do you want to be financially? What is your plan for getting there? What sort of attitude do you want to cultivate toward money? How important is how much money in your life? For example, having enough money for basic food and shelter is extremely important but having enough to travel or have a second home is far less important. What is the relationship between money and peace of mind? How much money and financial success do you require to have peace of mind? 

 What is your plan for how you want to be spending your leisure time in five years? How much time do you want to be spending on social media? Texting? Watching TV, movies, or social videos? What do you want to be doing during your leisure time?

What sorts of recreating will you be doing in five years? Will you be taking excursions to museums, films, musical performances, plays, operas? How often? 

What sorts of trips and vacations will you be taking? How often? How will they fit into your life? How will they affect your life? What will be their purpose?

How will you be expressing your creativity? What sorts of hobbies will you have? How often will you do them? How much time will you spend on them? What part will they play in your overall life satisfaction? 

What will be your goals in five years that aim to improve your time management, organization skills, productivity, or work-life balance? What is your plan for improving each of these? 

Regarding your interpersonal relationships, do you have any chronic problems with your partner, family, relatives, co-workers, friends, or children? What is your plan for dealing with them? Considering that we have little to no control over the attitudes or behaviors of others, how do you want those relationships to look in five years? In other words, what, if anything, do you want to do or not do differently in relationship to their particular attitudes and behaviors?

What do you want your relationship to sex be in five years? Is there anything about it that you want/need to change? If so, what? What is your plan to bring that change about?

How about your balance between your interior life – your feelings, thoughts, aspirations, sensations, physical symptoms and pains, and your exterior life – your relationships with others, nature, “reality”? How can you improve upon it? What do you want it to look like in five years?  

What do you want your meditational practice to be like in five years?

How about pranayama? Perhaps you haven’t given it much thought. Using your breath as a centering, meditational tool is a new concept for many.

How about your intention, the purpose for why you do what you do, from where or what you derive meaning in your life – how would you like it to be in five years? What sort of relationship do you want to have with it? Unconscious and assumed? Conscious but not defined, or conscious, defined, and part of your daily practice? In our final Module I make a case for this last option.

Put some thought into these questions and write down your answers, which is an exercise intended to help you define your goals clearly, which makes it more likely that you can evaluate their feasibility, as well as design realistic steps toward their fulfillment. 

Once you have done your longer term goals, think about the sub-goals, or the steps necessary to get you from where you currently are in your life to where you want to be.

Go back over each of them, asking yourself, to accomplish these five year goals, what needs to happen this week? What will be different in a month? In six months? 

Which of your priorities are most important?

Now go back over your list and give each a priority rating:

1: Very important

2: Moderately important

3. Less important

The reason to do so is that we only have so much time, and we are going to either set priorities consciously, or they will occur out of our awareness. Prioritization that occurs “naturally” is likely to be due to factors like scripting, comfort, and habit rather than due to our sense of who we want to be in five years. We will sleepwalk through life, moving toward goals that are not our own .

Once you have prioritized your goals, see if the ones you listed as “most important” are too many to be manageable or not. Consider what you might be unnecessarily be neglecting in other goals. How do you make time and space for your moderately and less important goals? How do you achieve balance among these different priorities and in the time and effort you expend in their attainment? 

Measuring your progress: Setting Operational Goals

Operational goals are specific, measurable objectives that are set to guide your day-to-day activities. Coaching goals are typically focused on improving efficiency, productivity, and performance in various operational areas as well as learning to get out of our own way. Operational goals are closely aligned with your intentions and help to translate your priorities into actionable tasks and targets. Personal operational goals are the meat and potatoes of traditional coaching. Examples include:

Time Management:

Goal: Improve time management skills to increase productivity.

Action Plan: Implement the Pomodoro Technique, which means to alternate focused work sessions with frequent short breaks to promote sustained concentration and stave off mental fatigue. Set specific time blocks for tasks, and prioritize tasks based on importance and urgency.

Health and Fitness:

Goal: Maintain a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating nutritious meals.

Action Plan: Exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week, meal prep healthy lunches for work, and limit sugary snacks to once a week.

Professional Development:

Goal: Enhance skills and knowledge in a specific area related to career advancement.

Action Plan: Enroll in an online course or attend workshops related to the desired skill, allocate time each week for self-study and practice, and seek mentorship or guidance from experts in the field.

Financial Management:

Goal: Save a specific amount of money each month and reduce unnecessary expenses.

Action Plan: Create a budget outlining monthly income and expenses, set aside a portion of income for savings or investments, track spending habits, and avoid impulse purchases.

Communication Skills:

Goal: Improve communication skills to enhance interpersonal relationships and collaboration.

Action Plan: Practice active listening during conversations, participate in public speaking events or join a Toastmasters club, seek feedback from peers and supervisors, and read books or take courses on effective communication.

Organization and Clutter Management:

Goal: Declutter and organize living and workspace for improved efficiency and mental clarity.

Action Plan: Dedicate time each week to declutter different areas of the home or office, implement organizational systems such as filing cabinets or digital file organization, and regularly reassess possessions to determine what to keep, donate, or discard.

Personal Development:

Goal: Cultivate a positive mindset and work on personal growth.

Action Plan: Practice gratitude daily by journaling or reflecting on positive aspects of life, engage in activities that promote self-reflection and mindfulness such as meditation or yoga, and set aside time for hobbies and interests that bring joy and fulfillment.

The SMARTER approach to goal setting

“SMARTER” goals are:

  • S: Specific
  • M: Measurable or meaningful
  • A: Attainable/achievable
  • R: Realistic/relevant
  • T: Time-bound
  • E: Evaluated
  • R: Revised

We have already visited this concept in the Interviewing module and so you are already familiar with its elements and how to implement them to support your application of those interview recommendations you choose to work on. Here we want to look at how to help your clients set SMARTER goals regarding the challenges and life issues that they bring to you.

Specific: Goals should be clear, specific, and well-defined. They answer the questions: What exactly do you want to achieve? Who is involved? Where will it happen? Why is it important? The more specific your goal is, the clearer the path to achieving it becomes.

Measurable: Goals should be quantifiable, allowing progress to be tracked and measured objectively. This involves defining concrete criteria for success and establishing milestones to gauge progress along the way. How would another person know anything has changed? What would be different? Measuring progress helps to stay on track and provides motivation as milestones are achieved.

Achievable: Goals should be realistic and attainable within the given resources, time frame, and constraints. While it’s important to set ambitious goals that stretch your capabilities, they should also be within the realm of possibility. Assess your current skills, resources, and circumstances to ensure that the goal is achievable.

Relevant: Goals should be relevant and aligned with your overall objectives, values, and priorities. They should contribute to your personal or life mission and address areas of importance. Ensure that the goal is meaningful and relevant to your broader aspirations and objectives.

Time-Bound: Goals should have a specific timeframe or deadline for completion. This creates a sense of urgency and helps to maintain focus and momentum. Establishing deadlines also enables you to prioritize tasks and allocate resources effectively to achieve the goal within the specified time frame.

Evaluate: Monitor your performance, assessing outcomes, and making adjustments as needed to stay on track. Evaluation helps to identify potential obstacles or challenges and allows for course correction to ensure goal attainment.

Reassess: Re-evaluate your goal periodically. As circumstances change or new information becomes available, it’s essential to revisit the goal to ensure it remains relevant and aligned with your objectives. Reassessing the goal allows for adjustments to be made as needed to stay aligned with your evolving priorities.

For example, if your New Year’s resolution is to manage your stress better, here’s how you’d structure your SMARTER goal:

Specific: I will manage my stress by practicing meditation using a tool such as the Calm App or Naming or pranayama.

Measurable or meaningful: I will meditate once a week on Sundays using the Calm App for at least three minutes. Meditating is something I find value in as it helps to manage my stress.

Attainable/achievable: Using the Calm App is easy because I can pull it up on my phone quickly. Meditating once a week is a reasonable amount given my schedule.

Realistic/relevant: I feel confident that I can keep up with this meditation plan because it is only once a week and for a short amount of time. It is relevant to my goal of managing stress.

Time bound: I will meditate every Sunday for the month of January.

Evaluate: At the end of January, I will reflect on my progress.

Revise: If I find that I can’t commit to this goal, I will change it and try a different plan in February.

Applying the SMARTER formula to your goal setting

As with the recommendations from interviews that you chose to implement, review the goals you have set for yourself. Are they specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound? Use team member mutual accountability to keep you on track. 

Using apps to support your progress

Here are strengths and limitations of some currently popular apps. As the on-line marketplace is constantly changing, these may either have been updated or replaced, so I recommend you do some research on what is currently available. However, this list may give you some ideas about what to look for:

Todoist is a versatile task management app that allows you to set goals, create tasks, and organize them into projects. It offers features like recurring tasks, reminders, and collaboration options. While it’s great for managing tasks, it may lack some of the advanced goal-setting features found in dedicated goal-setting apps.

Strides is specifically designed for goal tracking and habit formation. It offers various goal types (e.g., habit, target, average) and provides visual progress tracking through charts and graphs. Some users find its interface a bit complex, and it may take time to fully utilize its features.

GoalsOnTrack is a comprehensive goal-setting app that allows you to set SMART goals, track progress, and break goals down into smaller tasks. It offers features like vision board creation, time tracking, and journaling.The interface may feel outdated to some users, and the learning curve for utilizing all its features can be steep.

Habitica gamifies goal setting and habit formation by turning your tasks and goals into a role-playing game. It offers a fun and engaging way to stay motivated and accountable. While it’s effective for habit-building, it may not be suitable for tracking long-term or complex goals.

Coach.me combines goal tracking with coaching services, allowing users to receive guidance and support from certified coaches. It offers a community aspect where users can share their progress and connect with others. The coaching services come at a cost, which may not be feasible for all users. Additionally, the app’s interface could be more intuitive.

Evernote is a note-taking app that can be adapted for goal setting and organization. It allows users to create detailed notes, set reminders, and attach files, making it useful for planning and tracking goals. While flexible, Evernote may lack some of the specialized goal-setting features found in dedicated apps, and it may feel overwhelming for users who prefer simpler interfaces.

Mindful Goals focuses on setting intentions and mindfulness practices to achieve goals. It encourages users to align their actions with their values and provides tools for reflection and self-awareness. It may not suit users looking for traditional goal-setting features like progress tracking or task management.

What does setting and monitoring goals have to do with the transpersonal and the sacred?

The transpersonal perspective encompasses experiences and phenomena beyond your individual personality or identity. Setting and working towards goals is a means of transcending your personal limitations and expanding your awareness beyond the self. It can involve goals related to transpersonal development, self-realization, or connecting with higher aspects of existence.

Alignment with Purpose: From a sacred or spiritual standpoint, setting and monitoring goals can be viewed as aligning yourself with a higher purpose or divine plan. You can set goals that are in line with your life compass, seeking to fulfill your calling or contribute to a greater good. 

Manifestation and Co-creation: Setting goals supports the manifestation of desired outcomes. From this perspective, the act of setting goals is a form of co-creation with the universe or the sacred nature of life. Monitoring progress keeps you engaged in this process, allowing you to adjust your actions and intentions as needed to align with your desired outcomes.

Integration of Mind, Body, and Spirit: Setting and monitoring goals can promote holistic well-being by addressing not only physical and mental aspects but also spiritual needs. Goals related to health, relationships, career, and personal growth can all contribute to a sense of wholeness and alignment with your life compass.

Sacred Ritual and Ceremony: The process of setting your goals can be accompanied by sacred rituals or ceremonies. These rituals can imbue the goal-setting process with deeper meaning and significance, connecting it to spiritual practices and beliefs. Monitoring progress may also involve rituals or practices aimed at maintaining spiritual alignment and honoring the sacred nature of the goals.

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 have your goals and priorities changed over the years? What used to be high priorities for you that aren’t any more? What changed?

How do you think your life would be different today if you had accessed the priorities of your life compass when you were young?


Under “Essays and Interviews,”  read:

Goals for Personal Development



In the IDL video curricula, watch:

IDL Goal Setting 2: Setting Your Goals

In this, the second of our series on IDL goal setting, I’ll explain a number of various different life areas for goal setting and how to set long, medium, and short-term life goals for each of these areas. We can then interview emerging potentials to see if our priorities are the same as theirs.

IDL Goal Setting 3: How to Measure Your Progress

In this, the third video of this series on goal setting, I’ll share how to measure your progress so that you will be able to tell if what you are is actually moving you toward your goals, how to modify your goals, and how to get the support and accountability we all need stay on track.
It’s important to know how to set “operational,” or measurable goals, so you can know if what you are doing (or refraining from doing!) is actually moving you toward your goals or is wasted energy and time.
This approach is best summed up in the five dimensions of the SMART formula: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.


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?

How would you like it to influence your dreams tonight?

How can you format that as a statement of intention to read over to remind yourself, before you go to sleep, to incubate in your dreams tonight?

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.