How to Set and Reach Your Goals

A couple of years ago I bought a didgeridoo. You know, that Australian branch with a hole in it that produces a very earthy tone. I saw a picture once of an aboriginal playing this instrument while he was sitting on the red soil of the Australian outback. The scene looked great. There was a sunset at the background and I could imagine that he must have felt very close to earth. I wanted to experience that too.

With my didgeridoo, I thought I could. For a while I was determent to master the instrument. Then I stopped. I learned the basics but after seven years I still suck at playing it. Why did I stop? Because I could not push myself to the next level and playing in my room didn’t have anything thing to do with the romantic image I had in the first place. Maybe I will ever learn to play the didgeridoo really well. I don’t know. But for now, I failed to reach my goal.

Reaching goals is hard and often we fail. Why? There can be many reasons and most of the times it is the combination of all of them.  At the same time we need to set ourselves goals in order to grow or change. Without goals, self-improvement and designing your desired life is almost impossible.  So how do you succeed? How are you ever going to achieve what you want to achieve while there are so many obstacles on the road? I am not saying it is easy but of course you can! It is all about having the right motivation and setting the right goals. Let me explain.

reaching goals


In order to reach a goal, especially the bigger ones, you need to have the right motivation from the beginning till the end. But how do you do that? What is the right motivation and are there different kinds of motivation? Yes, there are! During your life you are doing things for many different reasons. Somtimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong.

If you do things for the right reason, you will probably succeed. If you are doing them for the wrong reasons, there is a big chance you are going to struggle, give up or get unhappy. This is because you are building up resistance. In your heart, you do not want to do it because you think it is pointless or you hate doing it.

First of all, we can have two different kind of motives to do things, known as intrinsic motives and extrinsic motives. Intrinsic motives are motives that come from your core. They are natural motives. Like the need for personal growth. Extrinsic motives are external motives. We think we need to do something in order to be happy, because society is telling us. Money and fame are good examples.

Although extrinsic motives are tempting, they rarely make us truly happy. Think of it, what does money actually mean? Nothing, it is just a piece of metal or paper! But it are the things you can do with it, that can have value. Like traveling, having great food, being able to read wonderful stories. Those are the things we are truly after. Never making money. Money can only be a tool and should never be a goal, just like many other illusive things in society. It is proven that Intrinsic motives lead to much better results.

Next to that, there are known to be at least four different kinds of motivations. It is different if you are doing something as a hobby than if you are doing something because your boss is telling you. Every kind of motivation is different and some have definitely a higher chance to success than others.

Intrinsic Motivation

We can speak of intrinsic motivation when you are doing something because you truly like doing it. It comes from the core of your heart. In this case it is easy to focus and to lose track of the rest of the world. Chances are very high that you are succeeding in what you are doing and therefore it is the ideal kind of motivation.

Identified Motivation

In this case, you are willing to do things because you think they are worth doing. You see the point. You do not necessarily have to like it but you are motivated because it leads to a higher goal. Chances of success are quite high because you accept it as a part of the bigger picture that just needs to be done.

External Motivation

Your motivation does not come from you but from someone else. You are doing things because another person is telling you. But you do not like doing it and you do not see the point. It does not make you happy and the results will probably be bad. This kind of motivation will never last for the long term.

Introjected Motivation

It is almost the same as external motivation but in this case, the motivation comes from inside. You do not like doing it, you do not see the point but you are doing things because you think you have to. The feeling of quilt can be a reason. Of course it is not a good kind of motivation and the results will probably be bad.

Maybe you already see the point I am going to make but before I do, I want to tell something about the different kinds of goals.


Of course, motivation does not go without a goal. When you are motivated, you are working towards a goal but also the kind of goal affects the degree of success. You can set yourself intrinsic goals and extrinsic.

Examples of intrinsic goals are personal growth, getting healthy and finding freedom. Examples of extrinsic goals are social status and money. It is proven that when you set yourself intrinsic goals, the results are much better than when you set extrinsic goals. Intrinsic goals lead to much more happiness and chances are much higher that you are going to achieve them.

That being said, I think we can focus on how we can use this on the road to a happy and fulfilling life.

Mekong River

How to set and reach your goals

Well, this is what we all want to know because we want to make ourselves proud and get to certain points in life. Now that we have learned about the different kinds of motivation and different kinds of goals, we can use it for the best.

When we look at our motivations, we clearly see that two kinds of motivations work positive and the other ones do not. Two things are necessary when it comes to motivation and success. You need to like what you are doing or/and you need to see the point of it. Personally, I think it is best to focus on the intrinsic and the identified motivations as much as you can. Try to get rid of the negative ones whenever you can. If you cannot, try to turn it in one of the positive motivations. If your boss is forcing you to do something, try to see the point of it or add a fun factor. But in your personal life when your time is yours, only focus on the positive motivations. In other words, always do things because you like doing them or because you think they are useful.

Intrinsic Goals vs. Extrinsic Goals

Now let us talk about the goals. So it is proven that intrinsic goals lead to more success and happiness than extrinsic goals but what does this mean? It means that before you start something, you need to ask yourself why you are going to do it. It means that your goals have to come from inside and not from outside.

When you decide to start jogging for example, do not do it because you want to look pretty but do it because you want to live healthy and happy life. Deep down inside, you do not really care what other people think of you so that motivation is not enough. Jogging is making an effort every time you do it and at a certain point you do not want to make that effort anymore because you are not doing it for yourself but for others. But deep inside, you do want to live a happy, healthy and energetic life and that leads to a positive motivation!       

Avoidance Goals vs. Approach Goals

And there is more when it comes to setting goals. Many people make the mistake of setting themselves avoidance goals instead of approach goals. It is not working because you are focussing on the wrong thing. You are trying NOT to do something and therefore, that something still plays a big role in your life. Every time you focus on NOT doing it, it gets a place in your mind.

When you try to stop smoking for example, it is going to be damn hard to stop while that cigarette is still in your mind all the time. And when you try to stop smoking, you acknowledge that there is still a chance that you are not going to succeed. Most likely you will fail. You also probably want to stop smoking because you want to be healthy. Well, let that be your focus and go all the way. Eat healthy, exercise and sleep well. Soon you are going to feel better and see the point of it. Maybe you even start liking it. Before you know, your lungs already hurt even by the thought of  a cigarette.

Have High Expectations

Another thing. Have high expectations before you start something. Think positive and know that no matter what, you are going to succeed. If something does not go the way you expected, see it as a part of the progress. Learn from it and treasure the experience. You know better now.

Do not measure yourself too much with others

Also, do not be frustrated because others already have better skills. Everything takes it time and you will get there at your own pace. As long as you practice and make an effort, you will reach your goal.

One step at a time

My last advice is to do things one step at a time. Do not focus on too many goals at the same time and do not aim too high. When you want to achieve a big goal that takes time and is difficult, break it into smaller steps. Make an overview and a plan. Figure out what you need to do to get there and start below the ladder. If a goal is too overwhelming you will probably get lost in the progress which leads to frustration and giving up on it.

Well, it is a very long post but I hope it helps you towards a happy and fulfilling life. If you have reached a goal and you would like to share it, please do. I am very interested in your success story.

Also, if you want some help about how to figure out what you really want in life and how to make the first steps towards a new life you can click here.

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