5 tips for effective goal setting.

Jason Brien.

      When people have experienced trauma, depression or are just in a slump and motivation is hard to come by, the biggest mistake they make when trying to set goals is not recognising their current state. When people do not acknowledge their current state, and how their current state may be influencing their mindset and decision making, they tend to be overconfident and set unrealistic goals. It is important to start small when setting goals and to aim for lots of small successes to build up confidence. When I am working with clients, it can be challenging to help them to understand the importance of starting small and the importance of avoiding failures. A useful analogy that I use to help my clients gain perspective is as follows; 

Imagine that there is a three horse race that you want to place a bet on. The first horse has won 100% of every race it has ever competed in. The second horse has won 20% of every race it has ever competed in and the third horse currently has 2 broken legs.       

When my clients don’t recognise their current state, their goal setting is equivalent to betting $100 on the horse with 2 broken legs. They are pretty much guaranteed to fail. This horse racing analogy helps my clients to recognise why betting on the horse with the best odds (setting small and achievable goals) will dramatically improve their confidence and success. 

So to help you further improve your chances of goal setting, here are Reforming Trauma Coaching’s 5 tips to effective goal setting;

1. Believe in the process: It is important to have not only faith in yourself but faith in the goal setting process as a whole.  

2. Set SMART goals: Using the SMART goal setting acronym will improve your chances of achieving your goals. The SMART acronym stands for;                    





Time bound

3. Put it in writing: Putting your goals in writing helps you to look at what you want to achieve more objectively than subjectively. It takes the quick goal you think of whilst doing your shopping and quickly forget and makes it more solid. It also takes a degree of commitment to actually spend the time to sit down and write out what goal you want to set.   

4. Find support: It is important to find people that you can turn to for support when setting and achieving your goals. Having a trusted family member or friend remind you of your goal when you’re struggling can be the difference between achieving your goal and getting frustrated and giving up completely. 

5. Stay strong and committed: It takes a lot of grit and commitment to see your goals through until the end. Staying the course also shows great strength of character when you ultimately achieve your goal and you will feel much more empowered, in control and confident as a result.  


Bjerke, M. B., & Renger, R. (2017). Being smart about writing SMART objectives. Evaluation and program planning, 61, 125-127. 

Shaw, R. L., Pattison, H. M., Holland, C., & Cooke, R. (2015). Be SMART: examining the experience of implementing the NHS Health Check in UK primary care. BMC Family Practice, 16(1), 1.