Goal Setting Series: Part 4- Write Your Goals-The How

If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, How Will You Know When You Get There?

Lewis Carroll

We evaluated the past, we dreamt of our future and we came up with goal ideas. 

It’s time to write our goals in detail and this is the juicy part you’ve been waiting for. Once you learn how to write one goal you will be able to write all goals. 

My favorite teachers in goal-setting are the late zig Ziglar, one of the most amazing motivational speakers who ever lived, and the author and entrepreneur I frequently mention here Michael Hyatt, reading “Your Best Year Ever” was indeed an eye-opener for me. And of course, Lara Casey whose work helped us get to this step. 

 I take no credit coming up with the goal-setting methodology in this blog post, some steps were quoted as they appeared in “the 7-step goal setting process” by Zig Ziglar and “Your Best Year Ever” by Michael Hyatt whose methodologies I combined here because I strongly believe they complete each other. I’ll also leave you few references at the end.  

Here are the Seven Steps of Goal Setting that I recommend: 

Please dedicate one page in your notebook for each goal to cover the seven steps. 


Zig Ziglar says: “If you don’t identify a target you will never hit it. When you identify a goal it means that you write it down and describe it clearly. Don’t set any vague targets. If you want to have specific success you must have specific targets.” 

In order to define a goal properly the goal needs to check 7 boxes and be a SMARTER goal. SMARTER is a twist from the usual SMART goals we have probably encountered in the workplace so instead of meaning Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-keyed, SMARTER stands for.: 

  • Specific: The goal needs to be clear, writing a vague goal is a way to hide from working on it. Unclear goals will waste your time and energy. A vague goal would be: “exercise more”, and the way to make it specific is “Go to the gym 3 times a week, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday“ Another fuzzy goal could be “improve my relationship with my parents” and we can make it specific by writing “Call my parents every day”. 

  • Measurable: A goal needs to have some criteria of achievement to know when we reach it. For example, “Lose some weight” is better than “get in shape” but “lose 6 Kilos” is a much better goal because we have made it measurable and makes success way more delicious. 

  • Actionable: The goal needs to start with a verb of action. “Be a better parent” is not an actionable goal.  “Spend evening quality time with each of my kids every day” is a goal you can actually track and will result in warmer connection with your kids. Whenever you start a goal with a Be verb, ask yourself what can you actually do to make this goal happen? 

  • Risky: If you know for sure that you’re going to achieve the goal that means you have set the bar too low and you are not stretching yourself enough. Setting a trivial goal is another way to hide in goal-setting process. The goal needs to make you feel uncomfortable a bit. If your initial goal was “improve your sales by 10%” why not make it “improve your sales by 30%” if your goal was to “Save 1500 JDs in 6 months” why not make it 3 months instead? A study showed that “difficult goals are far more likely to generate sustained enthusiasm and higher levels of performance.” Some ways to make the goal riskier is increasing the target and shortening the deadline. Also if you make the goal grandiose that would be another way to hide. It is a recipe for guaranteed failure in goal achievement. 
  • Time-Keyed:  The goal needs to have a deadline for achievement. If you don’t set a deadline for completing your goals you will not be able to be accountable to yourself, or anyone else. If you are not accountable for your goals you will not achieve them.  Not all deadlines need to be 31 Dec.  Hyatt says “Distant deadlines discourage action”. If you are setting annual goals make sure to spread them out so you have two to three priorities every quarter.  However, if your goal is a new habit you want to cultivate then then deadlines don’t make sense so the time frame related could be the frequency of the habit, for example you are going to meditate 10 minutes every morning at 5am.  

  • Exciting:  This attribute in SMARTER framework is my personal favorite. The goal needs to be exciting for YOU! This is the key difference between a project and a goal. Every Goal (achievement goal) is a project but not every project is a goal. We are all working on different projects at work for example, it’s when the outcome feels exciting that projects become goals.    Maybe the work needed to complete a goal is not exciting like the goal of decluttering the kids’ bedroom, but I bet that the outcome of an organized and clear bedroom is pretty exciting.

  • Relevant : This is the final attribute of a goal, it’s like a sanity check if the goal actually makes sense. Is the goal relevant to your season of life? Are you a mother with very young children and you want to launch your own business? Maybe you can push this goal for another couple of years so you would have the energy and time needed for a new business. Maybe your goal is “travel to 4 countries during the year” while you have another goal “Achieve all objectives at your new role at work”. These 2 goals might be conflicting, and you need to decide what’s more important.  The goal should be aligned with your season of your life, your other goals and your own big picture vision of yourself at age 80. 


We only do the things we want to do and are willing to do.

Zig Ziglar

This is your Key Motivations list which you will go back to when the excitement of starting a new goal fades away. We already said the goal should be exciting and in this step you define the WHY.  You need to specify what you will get by achieving the goal. This is very important to pump you up whenever you read it or if/when you forget why you are pursuing the goal. The reasons need to be personal and you need to connect with them both intellectually and emotionally. You need to be clear on your gains when you get the goal accomplished and what’s at stake if you don’t. It would be great if you could define who or what will be impacted in your life by this achievement. 


 If the goal was easy you would have done it already, no? This time you are going to list all the potential issues that might arise as you work towards your goal. They could be external obstacles or internal ones concerning your discipline and willpower. Zig Ziglar recommends asking a trusted friend who knows you well to help you finish this step.

Michael Hyatt also recommends preparing if/then scenarios for each anticipated obstacle. Example (if it rains, I’ll use a raincoat during my daily walk),  (if I am offered sweets I will say no, I don’t eat sweets anymore), (if people interrupt me during my deep work sessions, I’ll ask them to note the noise cancellation headset and come back later). 


“Knowledge gives us the power to accomplish things we would not otherwise be able to do, and skills give us the tools to take advantage of our knowledge. There is a direct relationship between knowing and doing, and successfully accomplishing your goals will require that powerful combination. “  

Write what you might need to learn to make your goal successful, what books to read and courses to take. You might consider improving some gaps you have in soft skills like patience, time management and discipline.  


“People do a better job when we have the help of others. They can help us with knowledge and skill and can offer valuable advice we need to be successful. So when you set your goals always consider the people and the groups you can work with that can help you be more successful. “ 

You might arrange a phone call with someone who accomplished a similar goal to help you get started or book a coach. 


This is the most critical step and it involves thinking through the details of how you will achieve your goal. While your goals should be in your discomfort zone, your next steps should be in your comfort zone. E.g. call someone, research this topic, pay course fees…etc.   

For my goal “launch podcast in March 2020” the plan of action was:

-write podcast introduction

-record podcast introduction

-ask Yarub Samirat for permission to use his music in my podcast

– listen to his album Ya Salam again to select the music piece

-edit the music piece with intro, write a trailer for podcast

-select a platform to host my podcast …and so on.


Define whether the action items you set are short term or long term, if short term; set a time to complete each task which will help you meet your goal deadline. Add the proper reminders on your calendar and task manager application.  

Final tip:

Make your goals visible so you can read them every day. You need to write the list of your identified goals (done in step 1) in one page which you can review every day. It’s best if you commit to review them in detail (esp. Key motivations) every week. 


You have spent time planning your life way more than most people around you. Be proud of yourself!

Now it’s time for action.

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 10 of my podcast:

References: The goal making canvas by Zig Ziglar and YT talk.

Goal Setting Series: Part 4- Write Your Goals-The How

Goal Setting Series: Part 3- Write Your Goals-The Why

“The reason we don’t set goals is that we’re afraid. We’re afraid of saying a goal out loud, even to ourselves, and certainly afraid of writing it down. We’re afraid of trying to achieve a goal and failing. And, surprisingly, we’re afraid of reaching our goals, because reaching them means our lives will change, and change is often at the center of our fear. “

Seth Godin

We all know that writing something makes it easily remembered. In this post I gathered for you some resources to convince you that writing your goals is very important for achieving them.

In Your Best Year Ever, Michael Hyatt shares the research done by Professor Gail Mathews who conducted a study that confirmed the power of writing down our goals.  

“She tracked 267 professionals from several different over 5 weeks by dividing them into five groups.  men and women from all over the world, and from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs, educators, healthcare professionals, artists, lawyers and bankers. 

She divided the participants into groups, according to who wrote down their goals and dreams, and who didn’t..

Matthews discovered that the simple act of writing one’s goals boosted achievement by 42%. “

Who of us wouldn’t like more chances of goals achievement? Writing them does that.”

But why is this the case? 

Let’s talk about writing longhand and what scientific studies tell us:  

Study after study shows you will remember things better when you write them down. Typically, subjects for these types of studies are students taking notes in class.  

“Mueller and Oppenheimer (who conducted this study) postulate that taking notes by hand requires different types of cognitive processing than taking notes on a laptop, and these different processes have consequences for learning.  Writing by hand is slower and more cumbersome than typing, and students cannot possibly write down every word in a lecture.  Instead, they listen, digest, and summarize so that they can succinctly capture the essence of the information.  Thus, taking notes by hand forces the brain to engage in some heavy “mental lifting,” and these efforts foster comprehension and retention.  By contrast, when typing students can easily produce a written record of the lecture without processing its meaning, as faster typing speeds allow students to transcribe a lecture word for word without devoting much thought to the content. “

and this study:

“Writing things down happens on two levels: external storage and encoding. External storage is easy to explain: you’re storing the information contained in your goal in a location (e.g. a piece of paper) that is very easy to access and review at any time. You could post that paper in your office, on your refrigerator, etc. It doesn’t take a neuroscientist to know you will remember something much better if you’re staring at a visual cue (aka reminder) every single day. 

But there’s another deeper phenomenon happening: encoding. Encoding is the biological process by which the things we perceive travel to our brain’s hippocampus where they’re analyzed. From there, decisions are made about what gets stored in our long-term memory and, in turn, what gets discarded. Writing improves that encoding process. In other words, when you write it down it has a much greater chance of being remembered. 

Neuropsychologists have identified the “generation effect” which basically says individuals demonstrate better memory for material they’ve generated themselves than for material they’ve merely read. It’s a nice edge to have and, when you write down your goal, you get to access the “generation effect” twice: first, when you generate the goal (create a picture in your mind), and second, when you write it down because you’re essentially reprocessing or regenerating that image. You have to rethink your mental picture, put it on the paper, place objects, scale them, think about their spatial relations, draw facial expressions, etc. There’s a lot of cognitive processing taking place right there.”

And Finally, once more in “Your Best Year Ever” , Hyatt makes a compelling case to go ahead and write our goals due to the following reasons:

1. It forces you to clarify what you want. Clarity is a precondition for writing.

2. Writing down goals helps you overcome resistance.

3. It motivates you to take action.

4. It filters other opportunities. Establishing your priorities up front equips you to intentionally avoid what some call “shiny object syndrome.”  

5. It enables you to see—and celebrate—your progress. Written goals can serve like mile markers on a highway. They enable you to see how far you have come and how far you need to go. They also provide an opportunity for celebration when you attain them.  

Ready to write your goals? Dedicate a notebook for your goals and start now. This doesn’t have to be perfect, make a mess now.

Next post, you will learn how exactly to write our goals in a way that helps you achieve them.

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 9 of my podcast:

Goal Setting Series: Part 3- Write Your Goals-The Why

Goal Setting Series: Part 2- Dream about the future.

After reflecting on the past we need to look forward. But wait. Hold off your goal setting eager soul for just a bit. We are going to write our goals next time. Today, we are looking forward, way forward. We are dreaming about our future. We are doing that because we need more clues to know what really matters to us. Matters enough to transform into goals that we can write in detail next time.

In her PowerSheets, Lara Casey encourages us to think about our future in the big picture. If we determine what matters most to us in the big picture we will work harder to achieve it, we will get back up from setbacks faster and keep going.

Step 1:

You can uncover your most important life mission by asking:

Where do you want to be at the age of 80?

Make 2 lists.

What will matter to you most at the age of 80?

What will not matter to you at the age of 80?

Some of my personal answers when I did this exercise were:

What will matter most to me: strong loving relationships, good health, work legacy, exploring the beauty of the world, abundance, wisdom.

What will not matter: complaining, FOMO (fear of missing out on online lives of other), owning the latest gadgets, kids’ tantrums, how I look in photos, comments and likes received on my posts, number of followers.

This question adds a sense of purpose to your goals and what you do every day. Does your to-do list today or this week serve your big picture vision of yourself? Do they match at all?

We need to be also be super clear on why we want to make this big picture happen. If our how does not work our why will help us find another how.  

Add a few points stating why it is important for your big picture to become a reality for you. This would be aligned with your values and creating feelings of joy and satisfaction that you lived the life you wanted.

For example: my why for strong relationships is that powerful connections make feel alive and my heart full.

Have you noticed how your goals are getting clearer now? Your evaluation of the past and your big picture dreams are helping your heart know what it is your need to get started on.

Now for a very inspiring part.

Step 2:

What themes did you discover?

Spend some time reviewing all your answers from part 1 and the big picture answers.  You will notice recurring themes of areas that make you your heart sing and areas that need serious work to be back on track. Use a marker or a highlighter to circle or star those areas and then summarize them in few sentences.

This step took me around 30 minutes to do when I first did it. Some themes that popped up were:

Meaningful connections with family and friends. Slowing down. Self-Care. Spiritual practice commitment. Moving my body. Seeking new experiences. More fun. Go back to writing. Keep teaching.

Step 3:

Transform themes into goal ideas.

It’s time to transform those themes into goal ideas that you can start working on now. They emerged as themes for a reason. They are probably those dreams that felt most important to you in the big picture and maybe those that had the lowest ratings in your life audit.  Notice that maybe there is a lot to work on and that might feel a little overwhelming. This is why we worked on selecting what matters most to you. Goal ideas are easier to define after going all through the previous exercises. We’re only writing ideas and we will get into structured goal setting next post.

Some of my goal ideas:

Theme: teach moreà Goal idea: launch a podcast, revive my blog.

Theme: Spiritual practice commitmentà Goal idea: commit to the habit of meditation.

Step 4:

What are you saying No to?

What are you saying Yes to?

Lists are fun to do so now we are going to make 2 new lists of things we will say no to that hold us  back from being our best selves and say yes to things that expand our happiness and joy. These things could be inner thoughts/beliefs, habits/behaviors, things/possessions and type of people/relationships that we need to release and say no to in the next year/season or keep and embrace and say yes to more often. 

Personal examples:

No to: eating after 7pm, buying without replacing, sleeping less than 6 hours, meaningless outings

Yes to: planning family meals, finishing what I start, power naps.

Step 5:

Choose your word of the year

This word will inspire you when you are down, sharpen your focus, and will remind you of what is important.

How to come up with your word of the year?

Your answers to all the previous exercises will guide you, it could be a verb, an adjective or even a small phrase. What do you want to do/be/have MORE of this year?

You can google “word of the year ideas” and see what comes up and other people’s choices, it is so much fun.

Reminder: You can change your word of the year whenever you want, it does not have to be perfect and it is not final!

Write your word of the year on card and place it somewhere prominent that you will see every day.

My word of the year 2019 was Teach

My word of the year 2020 is Clarity.

Ready to learn how to set your goals in detail?  

Share photos of your goal setting notebooks with me in the comments or on my social media accounts. It is especially important to write down your goals in pen and paper, and I will tell you why in the next post.

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 8 of my podcast: 

Goal Setting Series: Part 2- Dream about the future.

Goal Setting Series: Part 1-Reflect on the Past

We practice goal setting all the time in business settings. If you’re an employee you usually receive your goals every year or every six months, which would align with the strategic goals of the company.  At the end of the semester you review your achievements with your boss against the defined goals, you discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why.  

However, we usually coast through our personal lives, letting things happen to us and reacting as necessary. We are not charting our own paths to where we want to go. We are walking pre-defined paths for us. That’s why our days and years look a lot like each other. We are not living goal-oriented lives, we are not living on purpose.  This gap in goal setting between our work life and personal life was an insight that clicked for me in a conversation with a business leader and a mentor I’m lucky to have met called Iman Mutlaq. I’ll be always grateful for helping me notice this.  

It’s true, many of us set new year’s resolutions, but resolutions without a plan are not goals, they are only hopes and aspirations, that’s why they fail by mid-February.  

Lucky for you, I have good news. Goal setting can be done anytime. You can do it at the beginning of each year, on your birthday, every month,  every quarter or whenever you decide to pursue something new. As Lara Casey always says: “There is nothing magical about  January 1st“.  

In this series I will share with you what I have learned about goal setting from my favorite authors on the subject Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey. 

This Post is part 1 of 4.  

Goal Setting Starts in the Past.  

Your past has only one value, learning from it. Reviewing your past will help you design the right goals for you. If you start goal setting with reviewing the past you’re more likely to set meaningful goals that you will invest time and effort to achieve. 

First: Do a Life Audit 

Our lives are multi-faceted as Michael Hyatt asserts. Our lives are not just our careers or health or families. These life domains are all connected. When we’re not doing well in one domain of our life we can feel it impacting the satisfaction we have in other areas. 

We start the life audit by rating the key life areas on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 means you are not satisfied and want to see a big change there, and 10 means you’re happy with how you’re showing up in this domain. While at it, write a few words about the reason you selected the score for each domain. State facts and how you feel, honesty is key here because opportunity for improvement starts taking shape now, the lowest scores indicate the bigger opportunity to make a change.  

Life domains are differently grouped depending on the writer, you can add categories or remove those that don’t apply to you. Feel free to make your own life categories that work for your unique life. 

The categories I recommend are: 

  • Health: How you feel about your body. 
  • Mental/Emotional: How you feel about your psychological well-being. 
  • Relationships: How you feel about your relationship to: 
    • Spouse/Significant other 
    • Friends
    • Family
  • Finances: Your personal or family’s financial situation 
  • Work: Your job, your 9-5, and side projects.  
  • Spiritual Growth: You connection to God. 
  • Learning: Your educational development. 
  • Personal Environment: Your home and work environment.  
  • Fun & Recreation: Your hobbies, playtime, relaxation, and adventure experiences.  
  • Service & Contribution: how you serve the world/ volunteer work. 

You can also take an assessment I really like by Michael Hyatt to assess how you are generally doing in life’s different domains by answering a series of helpful questions. Make sure to save your answers so you can go back to them after a while. I guarantee you will see improvements after you commit to setting goals in areas where your satisfaction was the lowest.  

SecondEvaluate your past. 

Select how far you’d like to go in your past, 6 months, one year, 3 years? Answer accordingly.  

I assumed you want to go back one year and wrote the tips accordingly: 

  • Start with the positive: While our human tendency is to remember the negative first, it is recommended to start with the good. This will help us have energy to complete the past exercise. Write a list of the wonderful things that happened to you. What are you most proud of? What worked well last year? A few ways to remember:
    •  You can consult your family and friends to remind you of your highlights 
    • You can check your social media posts to remember  
    • You can go through your camera roll. 
    • You can check your calendar or planner. 
    • You can check your goals from last time, celebrate what’s done. 
    • You can check your past financial statements, this will remind you of you priorities and events. 
  • Name the challenges: Write a list answering questions like what did not work this past year? What disappointments or regrets did you experience? What goals you wanted to achieve but did not? What were some blocks you faced? What achievements you wanted to be acknowledged for but were not? It is hard to write our answers here. But power through it. This list will guide your focus when you set your goals, your challenges are your biggest opportunities for improvements.  
  • Distill the lessons: What did the positive and the negative from the past year teach you? Make them into short sentences of wisdom that you can repeat over and over to yourself.  

Third:  State what you are grateful for. 

  • Gratitude time: Write the names of people who helped you during this past year. Find a way to thank them for specific things they did for you or ways they stood by you. Feeling gratitude is one thing, expressing it to those who caused it is such an another level. They will be so surprised, and you are going to make someone’s day.  

Bonus Step 

  • Identify your hidden opportunity. the opportunity principle, which states feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointments are strongest where the chances for corrective action are clearest. Consider your setbacks this past year, brainstorm how they might point you toward your next opportunity.  

Now you are ready to move on to the next step of goal setting which is: dreaming about the future. 

New post coming up soon. 

I’m deeply grateful for Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey for all what they taught me about Goal Setting that I have shared in this blog post.  

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 7 of my podcast: 

Goal Setting Series: Part 1-Reflect on the Past