5 Rules for Setting Achievable Goals


What is your purpose? Why do you do what you do? We all have plans, things we want to achieve but often they are vague, nebulous things that we want to happen “some day”. When was the last time you actually thought about making these dreams a reality? When did you actually take a moment to think about doing these things for yourself?

Teaching is a very demanding job and it is very easy to fall into the trap of doing only what is necessary to survive. When this happens you are doing a disservice to both yourself and your school. Survival mode isn’t rewarding, it isn’t enjoyable and it isn’t motivating.

Instead of surviving, think about growing, think about what really matters to you. You’ll be happier, you’ll achieve more and your practice will improve, a positive for you, your school and the community that you serve.

Start by following these simple rules for setting achievable goals.

Set Goals that motivate you

Write down why this goal is valuable and important to you. How would you convince others that it was a worthwhile endeavour ? If what you are doing isn’t important to you, why are you doing it?

Set SMART goals 

You probably know the anacronym, but you do you actually apply it? Most people don’t.

Specific – Your goal must be clear and well-defined, take your dream goal and turn it into statement that isn’t vague, or nebulous. What do you want to achieve, precisely, exactly, specifically? 

Measurable – Without a way to measure it, how do you know what you have achieved? Don’t just stick numbers on something, those numbers have to mean something. 

Attainable – Not too hard, not too easy. You don’t want to demoralise yourself, nor feel a sense of underachievement. You are aiming for the sweet spot of challenging and satisfying.

Relevant – make sure all your goals are aligned with what you want to do with your life, your wider purpose, your personal why. If your goal isn’t consistent with the other things you are trying to achieve, it either becomes a distraction from your main purpose, or it doesn’t get done.

Timed – Your goals must have a deadline; this creates urgency and sets a date for the achievement and the resulting celebration.

Write them down 

The physical act of writing a goal down makes it real and tangible. There is no excuse for forgetting it. Make sure that they are framed as intentions. “I will…” not “I would like…” Avoid get out clauses, if you want to increase something be specific. If your goal is to increase the number of children who enjoy reading, then increasing the number by 1 child has achieved the goal, this is a get out clause. Instead be specific, how many children will report that that they enjoy reading? Baseline and then work out a challenging and satisfying target.

Writing them down allows you to plan with actions. Post your goals where you will see them every day as a reminder of what you want to achieve. I use a vision board and I write daily goals on my whiteboard. Others use journals, or kanban boards (such as Trello)

Make an action plan 

Write down the individual steps that you will take to achieve your goal. If your goal will take a year to achieve, you can break this down into specific actions for each month, week and or day. Cross off each step as you achieve it and your goal become visibly closer. 


Goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep you on track, add them to you calendar.

Tell someone about your goals, meet with them regularly so that they hold you accountable for those smaller steps that you take towards your bigger goal. 

Achieving your goals requires action. Without actions, they aren’t goals, they are dreams. in the words of Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

Your first step can be taken today. What are you going to do?