5 Proven Tips I’ve Learned for Effective Goal Setting in 2014

Nearly a year has come and gone and with it some “hits and misses” when it comes to reaching the goals I’ve set for myself this year.  Some were more realistic and achievable than others.  In this post, I’ll share with you via Google Hangouts some tips I’ve learned this year from tracking my goals and how you can use my experience to help further your goal-setting progress in the years ahead.

Watch the companion video to this article below


 To see when I first began tracking my goals in January of 2014, watch the video below or go to this corresponding article: Being a “Guitarpreneur” in 2014.


Note: This blog post is currently being expanded into a companion book (Book 3) in a series of books on the topic of Setting and Achieving Your Most Important Goals. Stay tuned to my Books Page for updates regarding the release of these books.

“Know yourself, know what you’re capable of doing, and then leverage everything you’ve got to go after goals with the fearless determination born of that knowledge.”

-David Farbman on Richard Branson, from The Hunt

Tip #1: Decide Which Goals Are Most Important To You And Stay The Course

When I set out to achieve my goals for 2014, I never realized how much they would end up changing throughout the year (more about this in Tip #3).

For the most part, I kept my eyes on the target of completing certain goals that were most important to me this year; mainly the completion and release of my Bluegrass Guitar Essentials course.

But as the months flew by and the year drew closer to an end, the vast amounts of work caused me to suffer burnout.  From the constant barrage of setbacks, to the continual reviewing and proofing of course content, and all the technical aspects of running the corresponding website, I had lost sight of what got me interested in creating the course in the first place: just playing guitar for the fun of it.

“You don’t have to wait until January 1st to begin setting goals and achieving them.”

Burnout wasn’t the only factor.  With other aspects of my business still in place (such as my Totally FREE Guitar Newsletter and my YouTube channel), my focus was constantly distracted and caught up in a game of tug-of-war to see which would win my attention: projects that came up on a whim or pre-determined goals I had set for myself last year as a reminder of the things I clearly wanted to achieve this year.

One of the best ways to ensure success in achieving your goals is to determine at the start of the new year—or whenever; you don’t have to wait until January 1st to begin setting goals and achieving them—what your most important goals will be and stay the course throughout the year, no matter what.

But you should also allow for some time off to avoid the physical and mental exertion and exhaustion you could potentially inflict on yourself due to burnout.  This “unobligated” time will allow you to recover physically and mentally, achieve greater focus, and come back to your goal or project with a renewed sense of vigor, creativity, and inspiration.

Tip #2: Have A System For Tracking Your Goals

Quite possibly one of the most effective tips I’ve discovered and applied in my goal setting this year was to have a recurring system of tracking my goals.  In one of my previous posts (from which the Guitarpreneur 2014 video above came from), I discuss the creation of what I call my F.O.C.U.S. and S.M.A.R.T. goals.

I decided early on that if I was serious about achieving my goals for this year, I would need a way to track them and thereby stay accountable to myself.  So I determined that I would revisit my F.O.C.U.S. and S.M.A.R.T. goal sheets once every quarter and update them accordingly to see how much I’d accomplished and what I’d learned in the process.

Click on the images below to see my F.O.C.U.S. and S.M.A.R.T. goals with quarterly revisions.

Click on the images below to see my newest F.O.C.U.S. Goals templates. Note: Clicking on the second template will take you to a new post which explains my newest updates and template for 2015.

FOCUS Goals Template (New)
FOCUS Goals Template (New)

FOCUS Goals Template Update 2015
FOCUS Goals Template Update 2015

Out of everything I’m stating in this blog post, I believe this tip is the single most important thing that has made it possible for me to stay faithful to goal-setting (and goal-keeping) this year.  Because of this, I will continue to revise, print, and update these sheets each year to ensure success in achieving my goals unless I find a more effective method of doing so.

“I decided early on that if I wanted to seriously achieve my goals for this year, I would need a way to track them and thereby stay accountable to myself.”

The “M” in S.M.A.R.T. stands for “Measurable” and means that the goals you set need to “quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.” (Wikipedia).  Simply put, if you want to see progress in your goals, you have to devise a system for tracking them.

Another great way to keep track of your goals is by using a personal planner. Check out this post for my recommendations for a great, new planner created to fit your passions.

Tip #3: Realize That Some Goals Are NOT Static

During the last quarter of this year while reviewing my FOCUS and SMART goals, I felt a strong pull to begin working on other projects (namely the creation of this blog and various writing projects including resurrecting an abandoned novel I’d almost completed in 2009).

This was mainly due to the large amounts of downtime in between creating the materials for Bluegrass Guitar Essentials (BGE) and proofing them several times when I received them back from my production team.  With all that spare time on my hands, I realized I didn’t just want to sit around and wait.

In my impatience, coupled with the aforementioned burnout, I realized that my goals were changing—and it wasn’t even the new year yet!  I initially felt like a failure because I no longer desired to dedicate my time specifically to BGE.  Here I was near the finish line, and all of a sudden I wanted to steal away that allotted time and give it to other projects.

“Some goals change, some goals rearrange, and (as happened to me) some goals appear out of nowhere and demand that you pay them attention.”

I felt like I was cheating on my current goals; that these new projects would only end up being a fling.  Even though I was determined in my mind that I would complete BGE no matter what, this didn’t seem to quell the self-inflicted doubts my subconscious insisted I be informed about.

To stop my inner voices from pounding me into the ground with the sledgehammer of guilt, I had to come to terms with an important fact: some goals are not static.  Some goals change, some goals rearrange, and (as happened to me) some goals appear out of nowhere and demand that you pay them attention.  This is where allowing flexibility and margin in your life is a HUGE key to successfully achieving your goals.

So don’t beat yourself over the head with guilt if you find your goals changing throughout the year.  Understand that your goals are yours, they will grow as you grow, and you have a right to change them if your current goals aren’t in line with your new self that’s arrived as a result of all you’ve learned throughout the year.  Setting goals is a process; it’s the journey and the destination that matters.

Tip #4: You Can Start Over If You Fail To Meet Your Goals

This next tip is one that I’m sure will ease a lot of tension and anxiety you may have if you’ve failed to meet some of your goals throughout the year.  In my case, as well as in many other people’s, the main goal I kept failing at this year was weight loss.

Since getting serious about losing weight back in April of this year, I started a strength and training class at my local recreational complex.  I also ordered a CalorieKing Calorie Fat, & Carb Counter and began counting calories.

After weeks of my weight loss plateauing at 15 lbs., I decided it was time to step up my game and join an additional class.  This one was called “Insanity.”  You can guess my apprehension at the name of this new class, but I gave it a try, and it’s lasted up until this November which is the annual time of year I go deer hunting and therefore end up too exhausted from the early morning hours of hunting to go work out.

Now, eight months later, I’ve still only lost 20 lbs.  20 lbs. in eight months.  Discouraging to say the least, but if I’d never written down the goal of losing weight and tracked my results (Tip #2), I would have never achieved the goal of losing any weight whatsoever—much less 20 lbs.!

The point is that even though I have to weigh in the morning as I type this and I know I’ve busted my calorie budget for the week and will probably gain a couple of pounds instead of losing them, I’ll try again next week.  And the next.  And the next.  Until I reach my goal of becoming 100 lbs. lighter.  Right now, a personal victory (getting below the 300 lb. mark) is just within my reach if I tighten up my caloric “spending habits” and start over again if I fail tomorrow.

The question you need to be asking yourself is this: “Are you willing to start over again even if it means from scratch?”  If not, you haven’t been reading this blog post very carefully.  Everything I’ve mentioned up to this point has been to prepare you for failure—dare I say inevitable failure.

“If I’d never written down the goal of losing weight and tracked my results, I would have never achieved the goal of losing any weight whatsoever—much less 20 lbs.!”

Because you will fail if you ever plan on successfully achieving your goals.  Why?  Because nobody’s perfect.  Everyone makes mistakes.

But it’s the achievers who get back up on the horse and ride it again after it’s bucked him or her off.

It’s the achievers who, regardless if they’ve taken a wrong turn or not, ask for directions along the way because they know they’ve tried to do it on their own and can’t.

And it’s the achievers, those people who are successful at completing and meeting their goals, who make up their minds that no matter what happens they’re going to see their goals through until the end, even if other goals manifest themselves along the way (see Tip #3).

That’s the stuff dreams, goals, and true success are made of.

Tip #5: Finish What You Started

The final tip I’ll leave you with deals with stubborn persistence.  Even though I started out to finish Bluegrass Guitar Essentials completely (Download and DVD versions), I constantly found myself struggling to meet my self-imposed deadlines; mostly due to circumstances beyond my control.

What I know now that I didn’t know then is that, in the beginning at least, corrections and setbacks are necessary on projects because your team is just starting to learn your style and personal tastes in how you like to do things.  This is just part of what it takes to develop a successful team of professionals.

They (your team) are learning as you learn, and at first the education is expensive—at least on your part—but what you’re actually paying for is the training of your team, which will pay off well above what you have to pay out initially.  And really, when you think about it, doesn’t every successful company pay their employees for training so that they’ll know how to repeatedly do a good job thereafter?

Regardless of the many missed deadlines (first my goal was to finish BGE in May, then July, then September, October, November, and now—cross my fingers and toes—December), what matters most is that I’m way past the halfway point (which I reached in June) and can see the light of victory at the end of the tunnel!

“What I know now that I didn’t know then is that, in the beginning at least, corrections and setbacks are necessary on projects because your team is just starting to learn your style and personal tastes in how you like to do things.”

As this fifth and final tip states above, you must finish what you started; you must remain committed to seeing your project through until the bittersweet end—whether it be a new training course like Bluegrass Guitar Essentials, writing a novel, creating a blog (like this one), or whatever.

I say bittersweet because all the struggles and setbacks are the bitter part; the final product is the sweet part—and oh, how sweet it is to see your very own finished creation in your hands.

To sum things up, here’s the takeaway from all this: If it’s still important to you and continues to have a prominent place in your life after reviewing your goals every quarter, then chances are it’s worth pursuing to the end.  So don’t let anyone or anything stop you from achieving your goals this year and every year afterwards—not even yourself.



James Woosley’s Simple Strategic Plan for Your Business.Simple Strategic Plan for your Business - James Woosley

This is another amazing resource I’ve used and kept track of throughout this year.  With six pages of questions and ideas to answer and create, it’s not for the faint of heart, but it will give you plenty of insights into who you really want to be for yourself and for your customers.

I myself have decided to just stick with my FOCUS and SMART goals instead of having to fill in all the information from the above document again each year.  My FOCUS and SMART goal sheets are very similar to the details and aspects of this bonus resource, so I see no need in repeating everything again.  Plus, it’s just easier to keep track of without becoming so overwhelming, thus defeating the purpose of all the hard work in achieving my goals.

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Question: What goal setting strategies have you used this year?  Have they worked?  Leave a comment below and tell us all about it.