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Putting Goals Into Action

A DREAM written down with a date becomes a GOAL
A goal broken down into steps becomes a PLAN
A plan backed by ACTION becomes REALITY

First Things First

To put goals into action, you need to identify your goals. I encourage you to make a list of priorities for yourself in the next 3-6 months, year, and 3 years. What is important to you and what do you intend on experiencing in the next 3 (or more) years of your life? Those are BIG questions, but those answers are inside of you.

Get clear about what you want and write them down. List your main goal and then your subgoals, or the steps you need to take to achieve them. 

Once you’ve set your goals and subgoals the next step is to put your goals into action. It’s likely that having your goals broken down into smaller steps, or subgoals, will make it a lot easier for you to achieve your goals in the long-run.

Develop a Plan of Action

Write a step-by-step plan for achieving your subgoals, and ultimately your main goal. This includes planning deadlines for each subgoal and writing down all the “nitty-gritty” small things you can do today, tomorrow, and later on this week in order to achieve your goal and subgoals.

Case study: Liam’s plan of action

My goal: To be a competent soccer player within one year.

How I will benefit from achieving this goal?

  • I love soccer. I will enjoy it.
  • It will help me stay fit.
  • It’s sociable, and something I can do with my friends.
  • It’s a skill, and mastering it would give me a sense of achievement.

Subgoals (specific steps to achieve this goal), plus target dates for each step

  • Ask mom and dad to pay for new cleats as part of my birthday present. Target date: tonight.
  • Join a local soccer team. Target date: by Tuesday, May 2.
  • Practice with Dan (my brother) who is good at soccer, and get him to give me some tips. Target date: regularly, starting May 4.
  • Play at least three times a week (at least two afternoons after school, and once on the weekend). Target date: Starting May 24.

The nitty-gritty (things I need to do this week)


  • Talk to mom and dad about cleats.
  • Talk to Dan about practicing with him.


  • Call the local team coach and find out about membership.


  • Sign up for the team by Friday of next week.
  • Tell Nick and Steve that I want to join them when they play pick up games on Mondays and Fridays once I’ve got my cleats.

Give it a try

Choose something that you would like to achieve. Describe it as a specific goal, and include a deadline for its achievement. Then describe the benefits that you will gain, your subgoals and the steps you need to take this week in order to work towards your goal. You can do this by filling in the spaces next to the following headings:

Plan of action

  • My goal;
  • How I will benefit from achieving this goal?
  • Subgoals (specific steps to achieve this goal) PLUS target dates for each step;
  • The nitty-gritty (things I need to do this week).

Identify the Obstacles

Once you’ve defined your goals and worked out subgoals and a plan of action, you’re well on your way. But keep in mind that it’s not always smooth sailing from here.

Sometimes, in spite of the best intentions and thorough planning, obstacles get in the way. Obstacles are the things that can stop you from getting what you want. They can be practical problems like lack of time, or psychological blocks, like fear of failure.

Here are some practical problems you might face:

  • Not having enough time
  • Not having enough money
  • Not having enough knowledge or skills
  • Stress and fatigue
  • Parents or friends who don’t approve of your goal

Potential psychological blockages: 

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of disapproval or rejection
  • Lack of confidence in your ability to succeed
  • Frustration
  • Lack of motivation
  • Short attention span
  • Lack of well-defined goal

Obstacles don’t necessarily stop you from achieving your goals, but they present a roadblock. They challenge you to devise strategies to overcome them.

It’s often helpful to anticipate any obstacles that are likely to arise while you are working toward your goals, and to plan out how you can deal with them.

As an example, let’s take a look at how Casey planned to overcome her obstacles in relation to regular exercise.

Casey’s goal: To exercise at least five times a week.

Casey’s plan for overcoming the obstacles

Possible obstacle: I’ll get bored.

Strategies to overcome the obstacle:

  • Vary my exercise. (For example, try different running routes; run sometimes on the sand at the beach; take an aerobics class at the gym, etc.)
  • Talk to Dad and Sasha about training together in the mornings.
  • Listen to good music while training.

Try it out

List all of the possible obstacles that might get In the way of achieving your goal, and strategies that you can use to overcome them.

  • My goal
  • My plan for overcoming the obstacles
  • Possible obstacles
  • Strategies to overcome them

Attaining Your Goals

Focus on the Rewards

You might feel motivated if you focus on rewards rather than the pain involved in achieving your goals. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to write down all the benefits you hope to gain.

Try to think laterally when you write your list. Besides the direct benefits of getting what you want, you might also feel the additional satisfaction of being in control, which can increase your self-worth and self-confidence.

Visualize Success

Many people know the benefits of visualizing their goals—it’s a technique that many elite athletes use. Focusing on the image of swimming, or running or winning in front of a cheering crowd helps many athletes stay motivated while they’re in training. In a similar way, you can create an image of the things that you want to achieve and use it for inspiration.

Other Tips

Be flexible. There’s never just one way to achieve something. Have multiple options in mind to achieve your goals. It’s important not to put all your eggs into one basket. Investigate and plan other ways to get to where you want to get, whether it’s a college degree, job or vacation.

Get support. It’s important to reach out and get support from others who can help you achieve your goals. This could be practical support from teachers or coaches, or moral support, from those like friends and family.

Try it out

Setting goals can keep you focused and motivated, and can increase your chances of getting the things you want. You can set goals for different areas of your life, such as your career, lifestyle, friendships, attitudes, interests and health.

In order to achieve your goals, you’ll need to clearly define what you want; set subgoals that you’ll need to achieve along the way, and follow through a step-by-step plan of action.

Perhaps people fail to achieve goals because various obstacles get in the way. Obstacles can be psychological (like boredom or a lack of motivation) or they can be practical problems (like not having enough time, money or support). When setting goals, it’s important to consider the potential obstacles and work out a plan to overcome them.

What are some goals you’re working towards? Share with us below!


Information for this article was provided by:
  • Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond, Foundation for Life Sciences, 2005
Acknowledgements: This article was originally written by youth and staff for

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1 thought on “Putting Goals Into Action”

  1. Celeste T Peer supporter Wraparound program

    Im working on helping as many people recognize that they matter! Black lives matter! I want every one I see to know that they are worthy of love, hope and happiness- that includes YOU!!-
    Pass it on!

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