A realistic goal is based on knowing what you feel as well as what you think. Oh, you say, I know myself, let’s get on the next step. Surprisingly, feelings are often at odds with thoughts, since feelings take longer to make themselves known. For example, did you ever realize you were angry about something months after the event occurred? Did you ask yourself what you feared would happen if you let yourself know the truth? If so, you discovered your conscious mind overrode subconscious awareness, reflected by the inability to act on the anger you felt.

Pessimism Versus Optimism

Anger is not the only feeling you may suppress; you could also reject joy, the sense of wellbeing that comes from having faith in yourself and life in general. If previous hopes led to disappointment, you believe it is futile to set goals.

To become more optimistic about goals, notice the choices you make, and your reaction. When do you feel good about yourself? When do you ignore your feelings because of fear? Just observe without judgment, since being critical sends the feelings into hiding.

Additionally, goals you can reach are based on measurement, motivation and personal responsibility. If you failed to reach a goal in the past it was too vague, not what was best for you, or there were variables you could not control. The goal you can achieve is precise, fueled by genuine enthusiasm, and you and you alone are responsible for the outcome.


Let’s say your goal is to better health. Start by asking why you are not already in good health. What choices are you making that are harmful to the body? Overwork? Overeating? No exercise? Not enough sleep?

Perhaps your goal is to make more money. As with a health goal, be specific. How much money do you want, when do you need it, and how will you get the money? Will you cut overhead and increase your productivity? Then write the goal as follows: “I cut my expenses in the areas of ­­­_____________by $_____a month. To increase my income by $______a month I provide the following services.” Then write about what you will do and for whom.

Writing goals in language the subconscious will accept as true is the key to reaching your objectives. For instance, you may be wasting time watching television, surfing the Internet, emailing, socializing, or being entangled with family dramas. To change these habits preface your health and money goals with: “I am efficient; I make good use of my time.” It will take a while to lock in this behavior but, as written, this goal satisfies the other two criteria for realistic goals: internal motivation and personal responsibility.

Internal Motivation

A goal has to be internally motivated or you won’t sustain the effort it takes to get there. Even if you reach the goal, you won’t be satisfied with the results because it was based on external motivation, such as pleasing others.

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Originally published at thirdage.com on January 15, 2014.

Originally published at medium.com