Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

Mary’s Weekly Articles and Valuable Tools

Subscribe below and get Dr. Mary Kelly’s
weekly newsletter in your inbox.


 Life Resolutions: Creating and Setting Life Goals

What do you want to be when you grow up? What are you going to do to change the world? How are you pushing other people forward? What does success look like to you?

These are not New Year’s resolutions; these are life resolutions. Sometimes we resign ourselves to the unhappy conclusion that those childhood aspirations may not come true. How sad. Let’s revisit our life goals and reframe them in a way that delineates how we are going to achieve them.

Step 1 – Refine and Write Down Your Goals. You already know that writing your goals down increases the likelihood of achieving them, yet few people actually take that step. In Now…Build a Great Business, Mark Thompson and Brian Tracy reiterate the importance of writing down goals and using the three-P formula. They suggest that when you design your goals you record them in the Present tense (write as though you already accomplished it), make the goals Positive (not “I will quit smoking” but rather “I am a nonsmoker”), and make them Personal by using the word “I” (“I eat healthy food,” “I keep my desk organized,” or “I raise money for the homeless”).

To this I might also add that the goals should be both measurable and specific. “I eat two fresh vegetables every day” or “I exercise for five minutes every morning.” On a large scale, “I generate income for an orphanage in Bali on a yearly basis” or “I put a clean water well in Central Africa in 2011.”

Thompson and Tracy also remind us that once you have your goals list written down, your subconscious and superconscious minds start working on achieving them. This is why it is so important to write them down.

Step 2 – See Success. Don’t let other people’s limitations constrain your possibilities. When many people set goals, they limit themselves by resources, obstacles, and objections. Many times these negative perspectives come from other people. They believe the opinions of others telling them that they cannot achieve their goals. (“You cannot bring clean water to Central Africa.”) Then they quit before they even try.

Some of the saddest words ever heard are “I wish I had…” or “I could have…” Well, what is stopping you? Are these YOUR obstacles or other people’s displaced misgivings projected onto you? As Yoda said, “There is no try. There is only do.” My fabulous friend Loretta Milo ( reminds her coaching clients to eliminate the word “try” from their vocabulary. Trying isn’t doing. “Trying” is attempting, not succeeding.

To succeed, you need to start. That means doing. If you stop before you start, then you never even get the chance to achieve goals. Launch, jump, leap into your goals with complete confidence that you will achieve them. There are always going to be naysayers and dream-killers. Don’t give their pessimism any power over you.

Step 3 – One Step at a Time. Every goal is achieved by a series of steps working toward a target. To take that dream vacation, you start by doing research, reserving dates, booking tickets, and planning the desired excursions. The trip unfolds one day at a time and one step at time.

Take your goals and break them down into manageable steps. Then take those steps and break them down into smaller, more easily achieved baby steps.

For many people, the problem is knowing where to take those first steps. If you don’t know, get help. Find a coach or a consultant. Create a Wisdom Circle or find a Board of Advisors to help you. No one says you have to save the world by yourself.

Life resolutions happen when you make the decision to take action. The action occurs after examining your life and your opportunities, and resolving to make the most of the talents you have, the skills you developed, and the dreams that you choose.


  1. Cass Mullane

    Great tips, Mary. As a coach, I’m particularly fond of “trying isn’t doing” and of breaking down actions into small bites.

  2. Loretta Milo

    Yep….”Trying” is NOT productive!!!!
    Love it!
    Love you!

  3. Dan

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web-based application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
    Syncs with Evernote, and also comes with mobile-web, Android and iPhone apps.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *