Tips For Goal Setting

A Complete Goal Setting Tips and Guide for Personal Success

Tips For Goal Setting

Last Updated on November 4, 2021

Right now, you could eat a donut, book a trip to Tahiti, and tell your boss to buzz off. However, you don’t do these things because at some level, you understand the value of self-control and delayed gratification.

Delayed gratification means saying “no” to something you want in the moment in exchange for a greater benefit or reward later. It involves putting off pleasure, especially when indulging in that pleasure would have adverse consequences down the road.

But how do experts define “delayed gratification,” and more importantly, how can you use it to improve your self-control and become more productive?

What Is Delayed Gratification?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines “delay of gratification” as:

“the act of resisting an impulse to take an immediately available reward in the hope of obtaining a more-valued reward in the future.”

Let’s break that definition into two parts. First, delayed gratification requires us to resist an immediate urge. Second, it is moderated by beliefs and so requires that we have reason to believe we’ll gain something if we do.

Situations that fulfill only a single part of that definition do not call for delayed gratification. There’s no reason to resist the impulse to run from an angry tiger, nor is there reason to put off a momentary pleasure that’s adaptive or healthy, such as laughing at a friend’s funny story.

The concept of delayed gratification is best known in association with psychologist Walter Mischel’s marshmallow test.

In the 1960s, a Stanford psychologist named Walter Mischel set up an experiment. He placed a marshmallow in front of children between the ages of 3 and 5 before he left the room.

Although they could eat the treat at any time, Mischel’s team told the children they’d earn even more treats if they waited to eat the marshmallow until the researchers returned.

What did Mischel discover?

The young children who showed a tendency to delay gratification and wait longer to eat the marshmallow fared better in life. Compared to the kids who ate it right away, they earned better grades in schools, were more ly to go to college, enjoyed greater self-confidence, and were less ly to struggle with drug problems later in life.

You can learn more about that landmark experiments Mischel’s team did in this TED Talk with Joachim De Posada:

That’s the power of delayed gratification, but it’s not just important for children. Adults who practice delayed gratification are better able to achieve what they want in life.

Examples of Delayed Gratification

In both personal and professional life, delayed gratification is a smart strategy.

Say you’re starting a business. You know it’s going to be a lot of work, and you have a limited budget. You could hire the best talent now, get the best technology, and rent a sleek office to work . Or you could start small, use your existing computer, and set up shop in your basement until you’re bringing in enough revenue to cover office rent.

You’ll be less stressed if you spend the money upfront. On the other hand, you know you’ll need that money for product development. By practicing delayed gratification, you put yourself in a better position for the future.

However, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to benefit from delayed gratification. For instance, picture what you’ll eat for lunch this afternoon: You could go out to your favorite fast-food restaurant, or you could eat that salad you packed for lunch.

Yes, fast food is inexpensive, and yes, you could always eat your salad another day. But dining out adds up, and your salad won’t be as fresh if you wait to eat it tomorrow. You also know that you’ll feel better this afternoon if you eat vegetables rather than a burger and fries.

The most important step in delayed gratification is thinking through the consequences of your choices. Learn to control your impulses, and you’ll be not just healthier and happier, but more productive.

Why Delayed Gratification Is Essential

The ability to delay gratification reveals emotional intelligence, and this can take you a long way in life. As the old quote goes,

“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.”

Genuine, lasting success and satisfaction only come as a result of putting in the right kind of work first.

It’s easy enough to dream up what you want your life to look and feel , but it’s entirely different to create a mental framework and then execute when and where you need to.

Benefits of Delayed Gratification

Without question, it’s amazing to get something you want immediately. But if this is the case, why should you still practice delayed gratification? Here’s a look at its benefits.

It can make you achieve your health goals

One of the best ways you can improve your health is through practicing proper nutrition. However, this can’t be achieved in just a day. You need to practice delayed gratification to keep yourself from getting delicious yet unhealthy treats all the time so your body can feel better in the long run.

It will enable you to acquire new skills

Delaying satisfaction is no easy feat. In the process, you’ll feel dissatisfied, and even jealous of other people. However, most skills cannot be learned in a short span of time. When you practice delayed gratification instead of giving up, you can master more skills that will help you in your professional and personal life.

It sets you up for financial security

What is your ultimate financial goal? Do you want to save up for a house? Or maybe you want to build your emergency fund? Whatever it is, practicing instant gratification constantly will get you nowhere. When you constantly spend money instead of aligning your financial habits with your goals, you’ll end up with money problems.

It can help you at work

Delayed gratification is immensely helpful when it comes to your career. For instance, if you want to get promoted, you can’t possibly expect your boss to promote you or give you a raise after doing one good task. It takes months and years of delayed gratification to develop and improve your skills so you can become a good leader.

How to Master Delayed Gratification for Productivity

Delayed gratification is a great way to optimize your productivity, but before you find out ho w to do this, you first need to understand the concept of delayed gratification more.

To convince yourself to put in a little extra work now for a better outcome down the road, practice the following.

1. Know Your Goals

Without a reason to delay gratification, you’ll struggle to do it. Think through which long term goals you want to achieve and what you can do to get there. It could be:


Have you always wanted to run a marathon? If so, you’ll need to train for it. Although it’s tempting to sit on your couch and watch television, delayed gratification is what gets you to lace up your sneakers.


Nearly 90% of Millennials say they would to own their own home, but two-thirds of them will need to spend two decades saving up for it. Putting a little money away each month — despite the fact that you’d rather spend it on vacations or dinners out — is a matter of delayed gratification.


No employer is going to hand you your dream job simply because you want it; you have to work for it. Spending four years going to college, attending tedious seminars, and practicing your craft in your free time are all examples of delayed gratification.


Friendships are not formed in a minute. If you want more friends or deeper friendships, you’ll need to invest in them. Delayed gratification might lead you to take a connection out to lunch, learn more about a shared interest, or volunteer for a cause he or she cares about.


When you’re frustrated with a family member, you might be tempted to snap at him/her. How do you resist that temptation? Delayed gratification. When you love a person, you owe them your patience.


The big questions of life can only be answered with self-reflection and study. Looking deeply into yours elf or reading religious texts can be uncomfortable. The reason you do them anyway is delayed gratification: You know you’ll be happier once you build out your belief set.

2. Think Through “What If” Scenarios

Typically, the best decision becomes clear when you look down the road. One of the oldest and best tools for doing this is called a decision tree. Decision trees allow you to visualize the follow-on effects of each choice. You can see a very basic example of a decision tree below.

Say your car breaks down. Should you repair it, or should you buy a new one? In a decision tree, you might start with cost: Can you make a down payment without taking out a loan? If not, you might decide against buying a new car.

But should you go for a temporary fix, such as adding oil every week to a leaking engine, or a permanent one, replacing an engine gasket?

Delayed gratification is a good guide at both levels. You put yourself in the best position to save money by not just keeping your car, but also by opting for the less expensive solution.

3. Use Tools to Take Away Temptations

Delayed gratification is particularly important when you have a job to do. Sure, it might be more fun to scroll through than make that next sales call, but you can’t afford to waste your workday.

Technology can get in the way, but it can also keep you on task. You can actually block apps and set limits for yourself. Not only can keeping yourself from accessing between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. make you more productive, but it can help you enjoy your evening social media time more.

4. Get an Accountability Partner

If you’re married, you and your partner probably share your finances. Why not leverage that partnership to make delayed gratification easier?

Start by setting ground rules. What expenses, exactly, are you worried about? Do you tend to shop for random gadgets when you’re stressed?

If so, decide when it’s appropriate to purchase gadgets and when it’s not. Agree on consequences in case you slip up, and ask your partner to hold you accountable. Perhaps you’ll make up for unnecessary purchases by not going out to eat that week.

You can find an accountability partner in almost any context. At work, you have colleagues. If you go to church, you sit next to someone who can encourage you to attend sermons.

5. Reward Yourself for Following Through

Inherent to delayed gratification is some benefit you earn by doing the hard work upfront. If you struggle with delayed gratification, you can make it easier by giving yourself a little something extra.

You don’t have to use time-consuming or monetary rewards. You could simply watch a movie, play an online game, or go on a hike.

Why Is Delayed Gratification So Hard?

When you take Mischel’s marshmallow experiment into consideration, it may seem easy to practice delayed gratification and ego control since the only reward involved is a marshmallow.

Unfortunately, this could not be mirrored in all aspects of real life. People love working towards things that are certain, and this is exactly what makes delayed gratification so challenging.

Freudian psychoanalysis suggests that people instinctively seek pleasure to avoid pain so they can satisfy their biological and physical needs. According to Sigmund Freud, this principle is the driving force behind the id, which is the most basic part of every human being. Considering this, pleasure is vital for survival.

People make thousands of decisions per day. However, it’s hard to work towards something where the promised rewards cannot be obtained in 4 weeks, 4 months, or even 40 years.

Additionally, the preferences of people are malleable. What you want to work for today may mean very little for you in a week’s time. But although no one is perfect enough to resist all the temptation of instant gratification, the ability to wait and practice impulse control to pursue a long term reward is no doubt an integral part of success.

Final Thoughts

Delayed gratification should not get in the way of self-care. By giving yourself small treats here and there, you can control yourself when it’s tempting to indulge in something you know you should not.

Mastering the ability to delay gratification is difficult, but you can do it. Use these tips to put aside temptation, which can make you happier, healthier, and more productive. And when in doubt, don’t eat the marshmallow.

Featured photo credit: Aron Visuals via


19 Weird Goal-Setting Tips That Actually Work

Tips For Goal Setting

If you’re anything me, you try to be a skeptical Grinch about all things New Year. Technically, it’s a new year and a new decade every single day (it will always be one year or 10 years later than this day one year or 10 years ago).

But, also if you’re me, you might still begrudgingly succumb to the call to use January as a time to reflect, reset, angst a lot, and maybe even make some goals for the new year.

If you’re using this time of year to create goals for yourself, the internet has unsurprisingly stepped in to provide you with weird but effective goal-setting tips.

Sometimes, it's the oddest life hacks that can help you the most, and figuring out how to accomplish your dreams is no exception.

It's important to go after your goals in ways that feel authentic to you, and sometimes the generic advice just doesn't work for everyone.

Turning to more unconventional ways of thinking about your goals might be exactly what you need to get more from your life than you thought you could. These 19 strange but helpful strategies might just be off-beat enough to upgrade you from goal-setting to goal-crushing.

Eat A Frog

Meaghan Skinner Photography/Moment/Getty Images

OK, don’t literally eat a frog. But according to Entrepreneur, Mark Twain once said, «If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first.» The point here is: accomplish the day’s most urgent tasks first, even if they're the most unpleasant.

Tell Your Enemies

Maybe you're not a superhero with a literal nemesis, but if you let it casually slip to your judgey uncle, for example, that you're going to finish that novel by July, you've got to achieve your goal and finish it, right? If actually telling someone is too anxiety-inducing, create an enemy in your head and accomplish your goal for the self-satisfaction of proving people wrong, Psychology Today advises.

Embrace Your Fear Of Success

According to science, your fear of success might actually be stronger than your fear of failure.

«If I get this promotion, so much more will be expected of me,» or «If this book gets published, no one will read it anyway,» or «If I tell her I love her, it might be good now but will just hurt more later.

» Engaging with those fears of success — starting by acknowledging them and facing them for what they are — can give you a more mindful and productive relationship with your goals.

Don't Be SMART

A lot of conventional advice tells you to make sure you have SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

That's pretty good advice, but your goals don't have to be SMART to work well. SMART goals don't always work in an environment that gives no room for mistakes and free-wheeling exploration.

You can abandon the model and make up your own individualized system, past successes, as you go.

Be Too Ambitious

If you're prone to being super ambitious, goals set using Objectives and Keys Results (OKRs) can be super helpful for you.

By focusing on your long-term objectives, you can create «stretch goals,» aka goals you know you can't actually accomplish. This science-backed goal strategy uses the idea that you'll shoot for the most distant star.

Even though you won't get all the way there, you'll still achieve much more than you would if you'd been less ambitious.

Kill Your Deadlines

mikroman6/Moment/Getty Images

Instead of focusing on hard deadlines, focus on an incremental schedule of tasks. These scheduled bite-sized chunks can prevent getting overwhelmed by that looming deadline on your calendar.

If you love deadlines, you can still kill them: If your boss gives you a May 20 deadline, make your own «deadline» May 10.

That way, you'll be more ly to be done early, even if hiccups arise (which they always seem to do).

Think Smaller, Not Bigger

Forget for a moment about your big goal, which might ultimately be something you can't control anyway (you can put in all the work, but you can't physically control whether you get promoted).

Instead, focus on a series of small goals that you can control. Breaking your big dreams down into things you can cross off a checklist can help you feel you're making progress, because you will be.

Interview Yourself

Interview yourself with Reddit's list of goal-setting questions, featuring gems «Who do you want to be?,» «Who do you admire or even envy?,» and «Was there a time when you really enjoyed what you were doing?» These questions can reveal a lot about why you're doing something, and this knowledge and sense of purpose can keep you going when things get rough.

Count Backward

You can use simple numbers to help you visualize your goals and make them into actions. Starting with five, come up with a goal you have for five years from now.

Move down to four: What do you want to have accomplished four months from now? Three weeks? Two days? One day, one hour, this minute? How do these activities relate to each other? This number-goal-puzzle can give you clarity when everything else is unsteady.

Chase Rejection

The idea of chasing rejection is this: If your goal is to get a new job within the next few months, you've got to accept that you can't control whether jobs hire you.

But you can control how many applications you send out, and how well you put your applications together.

Set a goal to collect X number of rejections and be proud that they each mean you're still working hard and refusing to give up.

Lie To Yourself

Placebos can actually be very effective, even when you know you're playing yourself.

Drinking decaf coffee can make you feel more alert, just breaking up a set of 10 reps in the gym by counting 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5 instead of the traditional 1 through 10 can help make the set feel shorter.

Similarly, if you tell yourself, «Just one more email,» you may well find yourself placebo-ing your way through your goals for the day.


Towfiqu Photography/Moment/Getty Images

Time to break out the colored pencils and highlighters. Draw a literal map of your goals or draw a blank calendar for yourself.

Every day you accomplish something that will get you closer to your goal (even if it's super small) , draw something on that day.

You'll get a visual representation of your progress, and it'll be a great way to congratulate yourself with a little bit of fun.

Procrastinate More

Yep, you read it right. If you want to achieve your goals, you might want to procrastinate more often.

Why? Because generally speaking, procrastinating can be a form of protecting yourself from whatever stress you're scared to encounter.

You might notice that you procrastinate when you haven't been giving yourself enough love, so make sure you're giving yourself that care you deserve. It'll only bring you closer to your goals.

Sing In The Shower

Exercise isn't the only thing that releases happy-making endorphins.

Singing releases endorphins, too, and if you find yourself needing that extra boost of joy and energy to keep going with your goals, try bouncing around the house using your pen as a microphone.

Or you can keep it old school and belt it in the shower. It'll help focus your brain and reset your body so you're ready to take on the tough tasks that come with achieving your fanciest goals.

Get Scared

Make a list of everything you're afraid of instead of everything you're excited about, Ideas.Ted recommends.

What are the scary obstacles you might face as you strive for your goals? Write them down, as explicitly as you want, being as honest as you can.

You can cross them off as you conquer them, or you can symbolically rip the list up before you start your project. You can even stay afraid of those things, and constantly congratulate yourself for chasing your dreams anyway.

Give Yourself Less Time To Work

If you working under pressure, limit the amount of time you give yourself to complete a task. If you have a whole day to work on that paper, only give yourself two hours.

Set a visible timer to help yourself stay on task. The less time you have to work, the more your brain will tell itself to focus. The clock is ticking, after all.

And then you can spend the rest of your day playing NBA 2k18.

Make Joy Your Goal

Zackary Drucker/The Gender Spectrum Collection

How many times have you made a list of goals and gotten stressed and anxious instead of excited? Don't forget, though, that goals should be about joy, too.

What will give you joy? Both in the product and the process? How can you make happiness a central part of each of your goals? When your joy becomes an inextricable part of your dreams, you're more ly to love both the destination and the journey.


Setting goals can be terrifying, and working toward them can be infuriating and frustrating. You might combat self-doubt mixed with intermittent confidence. That roller coaster of goals is intense, but you're not on it alone. And with these goal-setting hacks, you're well on your way to living in the fullest, most delightful way you can.

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The Ultimate Goal Setting Process: 7 Steps to Creating Better Goals

Tips For Goal Setting

Reading time: about 6 min

Posted by: Lucid Content Team

Do you set the same New Year’s resolutions every year? Do you recommit to the same goal, promising yourself that you’ll finally finish it?

If you answered yes, know that you’re not alone. Many people are stuck in the same cycle of setting goals, forgetting about them or failing to complete them, and then setting the same goals again with a renewed (but temporary) resolve to meet those goals.

But you can break the cycle. Continue reading to learn about the goal setting process and get the most your business, your team, and yourself.

What is goal setting?

Some people may have trouble sticking to goals because they don’t distinguish their goals from more casual, everyday self-improvement efforts. Just because you decide to start running every day doesn’t necessarily make that a conscious goal. So let’s revisit what goal setting means.

Goal setting is a purposeful and explicit process that starts with identifying a new objective, skill, or project you want to achieve. Then, you make a plan for achieving it, and you work to complete it. 

Instead of just running with no particular purpose, a true goal would be more along the lines of starting a training program to complete a specific race, say a Thanksgiving Day half marathon, which requires much more careful planning, motivation, and discipline. 

Why is goal setting important?

When you set goals, you take control of your life’s—or your work’s—direction.Goals provide you with focus. The decisions you make and actions you take should bring you closer to achieving those goals. 

Setting goals keeps you moving, increases your happiness, and significantly benefits your organization. When you set goals, you create a vision of what your life or your business could look . Then you start pushing yourself and your team to get the best results possible.

Learn how the Lucidchart team sets and tracks goals through a system called OKRs.

Read more

Proposed by industrial-organizational psychologist Edwin Locke, goal-setting theory recommends how to set the most effective kinds of goals. Locke found that employees perform better and are more motivated to complete goals if those goals are difficult. 

In other words, you can’t cheat. The easier the goal, the less you’ll work to achieve it. If you set hard (but not impossible) goals, you’ll actually put in the highest level of effort.

This article goes into detail on the other important aspects of Locke’s theory, setting realistic goals and being self-motivated. Keep reading to get the most your personal goals or have your employees be effective when setting their own.  

How to set goals in 7 steps

If goals are so important, why do we fail to achieve them? Because we don’t plan the steps to get there.

A goal setting process forces you to think about the journey (in other words, how you’re going to complete your tasks) instead of just the end destination. Take a look at the steps below to get started.

1. Think about the results you want to see

Before you set a goal, take a closer look at what you’re trying to achieve and ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Is this goal something you truly want? 
  • Is it important enough to pour hours of time and effort into it? 

If you’re not willing to put in the time, it may not be worth pursuing.

If you create a long list of goals to pursue all at the same time, you may have a difficult time achieving any of them. Instead, use the questions above to determine which goals matter the most to you right now, and then focus on those few.

2. Create SMART goals

Once you’ve zeroed in on what you actually want, ensure your goal meets the SMART criteria:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

The most important part of SMART goal setting is to make your goal specific so you can clearly track your progress and know whether you met the goal. The more specific you can be with your goal, the higher the chance you’ll complete it.

For example, many people set goals to lose weight, but they don’t always decide how much weight they want to lose and when they want to accomplish this goal. A specific goal would be “I want to lose 25 pounds by the Fourth of July.” This goal provides an exact amount of weight to lose and an end date to do it by.

3. Write your goals down

When you write your goals down, they become real and tangible instead of a vague idea that resides only in your mind. Once you’ve written your goals down, keep them somewhere visible––put personal goals up on your mirror or near your computer screen, put team goals up on the walls next to everyone’s desks, and include company goals in internal presentations. 

This tactic reminds you to keep working on your goals daily. As you're writing down your goals, use a positive tone so you stay excited about completing them.

4. Create an action plan

Many people decide on a goal but never create an action plan to determine how exactly they will meet that goal. Your action plan should include the overall goal you’re trying to meet and all the steps you need to take to get there.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your action plan. Go back to your elementary school days, and get creative. Write out your goal using crayons, markers, or colored pencils, for example. According to Forbes, creating an action plan this way activates a different part of your brain and cements the goals in your mind.

As part of your action plan, use a timeline maker to help visualize roles, tasks, milestones, and deadlines to achieve your goal. Once you’ve set those dates, try to stick to them as closely as possible. A timeline creates a sense of urgency, which in turn motivates you to stay on schedule and finish your goal.

Timeline Template (Click on image to modify online)

Now that you’ve planned everything out, it’s time to take action. You didn’t go through all that work just to forget about your goal. Every step that you take should lead to another until you finish your goal.

7. Re-evaluate and assess your progress

You need to keep your motivation strong to complete your goal. Consider scheduling a weekly evaluation, which could include measuring your progress and checking your schedule. Once you see how close the finish line is, you’ll feel more motivated to push through to the end. If you're a little behind schedule, make necessary adjustments and keep going.

Start setting goals

The process of setting goals makes you succeed faster and more efficiently. It can fuel your ambition and help you achieve tangible results. A goal setting process will help you determine how to set goals that are specific, timely, and realistic.

Create a clear roadmap for reaching your development goals with the performance development planning process.

Learn how


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