One practical way of setting goals is to use the SMART mnemonic.  While there are several variants, SMART usually stands for:

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Relevant

T = Time-bound


Specific – Set specific goals that are fairly detailed.  Do not set a goal to “lose weight”, set a goals to “lose 24 pounds.”  Goals that are specific help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do.  If a goal is too vague, it is hard to measure or determine if you are successful in reaching it. 


Measurable – Establish criteria for measuring the progress toward the attainment of each goal you set.  Do not set a goal to “run faster,” but rather set a goal to “run a mile in 6 minutes.”  If it is not measurable it will become almost impossible to tell if you are successful or to take the goal to the next level. 


Attainable – Set goals that you can attain.  If a goal is not attainable, you may lose motivation and fall short of your goal.  You may also lose some self-confidence. 


Relevant/Rewarding – Set goals that you will feel good about attaining or achieving that is relevant to your life.  Rewarding and relevant goals provide intrinsic motivation to achieve them.  If a goal is not rewarding or relevant you may loss the desire to achieve it.


Time-bound – set a date on when you plan to achieve your goal.  Do not set a goal to simply “lose 24 pounds,” set a goal to lose 24 pounds by November 1.”  Without a specific date for completion, you may lose your commitment to achieving it.