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The Science of Goal Setting: How to Turn Dreams into Reality

goal planning

Have you ever wondered why some individuals effortlessly achieve their goals while others struggle to make progress?

The answer lies in the science of goal setting. Setting and planning goals goes beyond mere wishful thinking or jotting down a list of desired accomplishments—it is a strategic process that involves comprehending the psychology behind motivation and behavior. The captivating realm of goal setting employs scientific principles if you want to transform your dreams into reality.

I've never been a fan of New Year's resolutions which tend to fade quickly. It's not that I don't appreciate the idea of setting intentions and striving for personal growth. On the contrary, I believe in the power of goal planning and continuous self-improvement. However, I've come to realize that waiting for a specific date to make resolutions seems arbitrary and limiting when we are just as capable of striving all year long.

For me, setting goals shouldn't be confined to the beginning of a new year. Instead of reserving setting goals for the start of the year, I choose to embrace a mindset of goals setting consistently. I believe in the value of seizing the present moment and taking deliberate action toward what I want to achieve. This approach allows me to stay adaptable and responsive to ever-changing circumstances and priorities in my life. It is a positive and self-growth mindset I instill in my coaching clients that helps maintain an ongoing commitment to their personal growth and self-improvement all year, not just when a new year rings through.

Moreover, setting goals throughout the year encourages me to reflect on my progress and reassess my aspirations regularly. It enables me to recalibrate my focus, adjust my strategies, and make necessary course corrections along the way. This flexibility and adaptability are tools that help me in navigating the twists and turns of life and staying aligned with my evolving dreams.

Let's dive into how I establish the foundation for goal setting, both in my personal life and within my womens life coaching practice.

Setting goals is the first step toward turning your dreams into reality

Goal setting is about defining your objectives, while goal planning involves mapping out the journey to achieve those objectives in a more detailed and strategic manner. Both are integral parts of achieving success and realizing your aspirations.

Goals provide focus, direction, and motivation, giving you a clear sense of purpose and a roadmap to follow. Without goal planning, you may find yourself drifting aimlessly, unsure of what you truly want to achieve. By setting goals, you give yourself something to strive for and a reason to stay committed and disciplined.

Leaning how to achieve your goals provide a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, giving you a boost of self-confidence, reinforcing the belief that you are capable of achieving great things.

If done right, setting and planning goals helps you to measure your progress and track your success, providing a sense of accountability and driving you to push further. However, not all goals are created equal. It is important to set goals that are meaningful and aligned with your values and aspirations, otherwise, there is a high chance we won't stick with the process. Goals that don't align with our core values or setting arbitrary or vague goals can lead to frustration and a lack of motivation.

What is the Science Behind Goal Setting?

Goal setting is more than just jotting down your aspirations. It requires a profound comprehension of human psychology and behavior. Numerous studies have demonstrated that setting goals heightens motivation, boosts performance, and confidence, and enhances overall well-being.

So, what is the science behind goal setting?

One concept is the power of intrinsic motivation. By setting goals that hold personal significance, you tap into your inner drive and passion, fueling motivation and commitment. Intrinsic motivation thrives on factors like autonomy, mastery, and purpose, which are vital for long-term goal pursuit.

Another significant aspect of goal setting is self-efficacy. It refers to your belief in your own ability to succeed. When you possess high self-efficacy, you are more likely to establish challenging goals and persist in the face of obstacles. Building self-efficacy involves setting attainable goals, breaking them down into smaller tasks, and gradually increasing difficulty as you progress. I like to call this stage taking baby steps.

Getting a teensy bit better with every baby step reinforces the goals you desire to achieve. Conversely, if you fall short of your goals, it is important to learn from the experience, make necessary adjustments, and avoid discouragement. This stage is all part of the goal planning journey.

Let's now explore some practical strategies that will aid you in effectively setting and achieving your goals.

Setting SMART Goals

This one seems to be all over the internet these days, but only if you are looking for it. I have to admit it wasn't until only about 8 years ago that I had even heard of SMART. So, if you haven't heard it yet, you're welcome. And if you have, well a little review always helps.

When it comes to goal setting, the SMART framework is a widely recognized and effective approach. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Let's break down each component:


Make your goals clear, well-defined, and specific. For example, instead of setting a vague goal like "lose weight," make it more specific by saying, "lose 10 pounds in 2 months."


When goal planning, ensure your goals are measurable, allowing you to track your progress and know when you've achieved them. For instance, instead of setting a goal like "get better at guitar," make it measurable by saying, "practice guitar for 1 hour every day for 3 months."


Set goals that are realistic and attainable. Avoid setting overly ambitious goals that may lead to frustration and disappointment. Aim for goals that stretch you but are still within reach.


Align your goals with your values, aspirations, and long-term vision. Ensure your goals are meaningful to you, and contribute to your overall growth and fulfillment.


Establish specific timeframes for goal completion. Setting deadlines creates a sense of urgency, helping you stay focused and accountable.

Breaking Down Goals Into Smaller Tasks

Sometimes starting something like narrowing down your goal can be a daunting task. It's not like we don't know what we want, but defining it, and narrowing it down can be challenging. That is why the help of free online tools and resources can really encourage a clearer path toward any outcome. Check out my free online tools and resources on my website that will help get you started with your goal planning aspirations.

Then once you have set your goals, you are ready to break them down into smaller, manageable tasks. This approach not only reduces the feeling of overwhelm but also provides a clear plan of action. And I love this step because getting ready for action is where all the magic happens!

Here's how you can break down your goals effectively into small chunks so that it's not overwhelming to take on.

Identify the main steps:

First, you want to start by identifying the key steps or milestones that will lead you to your goal. For example, if your goal is to start a business, the main steps could include market research, business planning, funding, and product/service launch.

Break down each step:

With your goal plan, take each main step and break it down further into smaller tasks. This makes them more manageable and gives you a sense of progress. For instance, under market research, tasks can include identifying the target market, conducting surveys, and analyzing competitors.

Prioritize tasks:

Prioritize your tasks based on importance and urgency. This keeps you focused and ensures progress. Utilize tools like to-do lists or project management software to track tasks and deadlines effectively.

Take consistent action:

Once you have broken down your goals, you really must start to take consistent action. Create a schedule that allocates time for each task and stick to it. Consistency is vital for achieving your goals.

If this is all starting to make sense with you thus far, just wait until you dive deeper in my free goal planning guide: From Dreams to Reality eBook. An entire eBook resource packed with a ton of how-to's and fillable exercises to get you started.

Jump in if you are feeling the calling to gently begin.

goal setting ebook

Visualizing and Affirming Goals

And what would a goal be if it wasn't already full of life inside your mind, constantly evolving and shaping your desires? Visualization and positive affirmations are powerful techniques for manifesting goals and transforming your mindset in the context of goal setting.

Visualization involves creating detailed mental images of achieving your goals, engaging all your senses. By vividly experiencing your desired outcome, you program your subconscious mind and align your thoughts and actions with your goals.

Practicing positive affirmations reinforces your belief in yourself and your ability to succeed in setting goals. By repeating affirmations that are aligned with your goals, you rewire your subconscious mind and eliminate self-doubt and limiting beliefs.

Overcoming Obstacles and Staying Motivated

Obstacles and setbacks are an inevitable part of goal setting. To overcome them and stay motivated, it is important to adopt effective strategies. Embracing challenges is a key mindset to cultivate. Instead of viewing obstacles as roadblocks, see them as opportunities for growth and learning. By approaching setbacks with resilience and perseverance, you can refine your approach and become stronger.

Seeking support is another important aspect. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, mentors or life coach who believes in you and your goals. They can provide encouragement, guidance, and accountability when you face challenges. Don't hesitate to ask for help when you need it. Remember, you don't have to go through your goal planning journey alone.

Learning how to be mindful and maintaining a positive mindset is essential throughout the goal-setting process. Stay focused on the progress you have made rather than dwelling on setbacks. Celebrate the small wins along the way and remind yourself of your capabilities and strengths. Positive thinking can keep you motivated and resilient, enabling you to overcome obstacles with a determined mindset.

By implementing these strategies and staying committed to your goals, you can navigate obstacles, stay motivated, and ultimately achieve your desired outcomes. Remember to acknowledge and reward yourself for your achievements along the journey.

Celebrating and Rewarding Achievements

Celebrating your accomplishments is a vital part of the goal-setting process. It provides a sense of fulfillment, reinforces positive behavior, and keeps you motivated to strive for further success. Here are effective ways to celebrate and reward your achievements:

Take a moment to acknowledge your progress. Reflect on how far you've come and recognize the effort and dedication you've invested in reaching your goals. Give yourself credit for the milestones achieved and the obstacles overcome.

Celebrating your WINS is a big deal! It tells your brain that you succeeded and that you can succeed again. It helps keep your eye on the prize and gives you that extra nudge forward we all need from time to time.

Treat yourself as a reward for your milestones or goal attainment. Consider indulging in something meaningful and aligned with your values. It could be a small personal treat or a special purchase that brings you joy and fuels further success.

Reviewing and Reassessing is Part of Goal Planning

Embarking on a goal-setting journey is exciting especially at first but it doesn't end with simply setting your sights on the prize. To truly make your dreams to reality, you must embrace the transformative process of reviewing and reassessing your goals. It's like giving your aspirations a refreshing burst of energy.

By reflecting on your progress and celebrating the milestones you've achieved, this moment of basking in the glow of your accomplishments acknowledges the determination and effort you've poured into making them happen.

So allow yourself to savor the taste of success. You've earned it!

As you reflect, consider whether your goals are still aligned with your current values and aspirations. Life is ever-changing, and it's important to ensure that your goals evolve alongside you. Are they still igniting the fire within you? Do they resonate deeply with the person you've become?

Often times a client will come to be with one goal and leave with another, or two. It just goes to show that what we think we want may not always be what we end up desiring or finding meaning in the end.

When we explore the goals that have propelled us forward, we equally end up identifying other areas that we could benefit from fine-tuning. Don't be afraid to experiment with new methods or seek guidance from a life coach or mentor who can provide a fresh perspective.


With newfound insights, it's time to set your sights on new targets. Push yourself to reach greater heights, challenge your own limits, and step into uncharted territories. By infusing your goal-setting process with regular review and reassessment, you breathe life into your ambitions. It's the spark that keeps your dreams alive.

Making Your Dreams a Reality

In conclusion, transforming your dreams to reality requires more than merely attempting to manifest them through wishing and hoping, although that can certainly be one aspect of the strategic process grounded in the science of motivation and behavior.

While the journey to achieving your goals may present challenges, setbacks, and moments of doubt, remember to maintain a growth mindset and employ effective strategies. By harnessing the power of goal setting, adopting the right mindset, and staying resilient, you can overcome obstacles that come your way and stay motivated on your path to success.

Today is the day to take that important first step. To begin your goal planning journey, start by setting meaningful, specific goals that align with your aspirations and values. Embrace the scientific principles of goal setting and unleash your full potential. Remember to cultivate a clear plan, maintain a positive mindset, and commit to taking consistent action.

Believe in yourself and your abilities, knowing that setbacks are temporary and part of the journey. Stay focused witj your goal planning, seek accountability support from those who believe in your potential, and celebrate every milestone you reach along the way. With dedication, determination, and a supportive mindset, you can transform your dreams to reality, vibrant ones you derserve. I know because I am living proof and have seen it hundreds of times.

Vanessa Marie

Vanessa Marie North 

Transformational Life Coach

Hamilton life coach
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