Goal setting allows you to map out a plan for your success. Traditional goal setting practice indicates following the SMART rule. In other words, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely.

Specific. Be clear about the goals you wish to accomplish. Don't just say I'm going to lose weight, but rather be specific about how much weight you want to lose and how you will make it happen. To clearly define your goals, ask such questions as: What is my real goal? Why do I want to achieve this goal? How will I accomplish this goal?

Measurable. Define how you will measure the success of achieving your goals in quantitative terms. A goal that is measurable will help you assess if you are on track toward successfully accomplishing your ultimate goal. Break your ultimate goal into smaller goals. For example, if your ultimate goal is to lose 50 pounds in a year, break up the total pounds you want to lose for the year into weekly manageable pounds. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you can set a smaller goal of losing a pound a week. Therefore, if you are realizing a pound a week, you are on target toward successfully achieving your ultimate goal of 50 pounds in a year. One of the biggest reasons to establish smaller goals is that these little successes will help keep you motivated toward achieving the bigger goal.

Attainable. Your goals must be realistic. Setting unrealistic goals only leads to frustration and ultimately you will quit trying. You are truly setting yourself up for failure if you are setting unrealistic goals as well as wasting your time in trying to achieve something that is unattainable. For example, someone with a goal of losing 100 pounds in one month is definitely being unrealistic. It is not that losing 100 pounds is unrealistic, it is the timeframe of one month within which you want to lose the weight that is unrealistic. Someone who wishes to lose 100 pounds in a safe manner will definitely need to plan on more than a month to lose the weight. If your goal is to lose a significant amount of weight, it is advisable to talk with your physician about a realistic plan.

Relevant. Are the goals you wish to achieve aligned with your values and beliefs? Is this truly a goal you wish to achieve? Oftentimes people fail at achieving their goals because it is not what they really want. Not only is it important to have realistic goals, but it is also important to have goals that you truly want to accomplish. Don't just make goals to impress other people or to live the dreams someone else may have for you. The goals you set for yourself must be the goals you want for yourself. If you are not passionate and committed to your goals, you are less likely to be motivated toward realizing them.

Timely. Develop a realistic time frame for which you wish to realize your goals. Don't have open-ended goals. Your goals need a completion date. For example, don't say that you will lose weight without an establish target date. Establishing a target date will push you to continue working toward your goals.

Now that you know how to successfully set SMART goals for yourself, here are a few strategies to keep you on track in achieving your goals.

1. Write goals down along with an action plan. There's a saying, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Writing goals down will help you to clearly establish what it is you want to accomplish. Planning will provide you with a clear direction of where you're going and how you will get there. When developing a plan, keep in mind that some of the best and well intentioned plans may be interrupted. So, how do you keep on track? Plan ahead. Think of the obstacles you may be faced with as you move forward with your goals. If you plan ahead of time, the better prepared you will be in handling interruptions and remaining on track. Not only should you write your goals down, but keep them in front of you. Each morning when you awake, your goals should be in a place that is visible to you. Seeing your goals each day is a reminder of where you are in the completion of them. Keep a copy of your goals on your computer; therefore, if you need to make adjustments, you can easily do so. You may also want to print out several copies to keep in the places you occupy most often.

2. Find an accountability partner. The more difficult your goal, the more important it is to have someone who will motivate you toward successfully accomplishing your goal. Find someone who won't accept or tolerate excuses from you. You may want to find an accountability partner with similar goals. Therefore, if your goal is to lose weight, find someone with the same goal who you can exercise with. This is a good way to generate some healthy competition and a great motivator.

3. Visualize yourself successfully achieving your goals. Picture yourself having accomplished your goal. For example, if your goal is to buy your first house, see yourself signing the contract and closing on the house, getting the keys from your real estate agent and opening the front door to your new home with those keys.

4. Keep your eyes on the prize. Reward yourself for the little successes; however, never become discouraged by any setbacks. There are enough people in this world who are negative and discouraging, you don't need to do it to yourself. It's easy to give up, so keep your eyes on the prize and continue working toward your ultimate goal. If you have to make some adjustments to your original targets, it's okay. What is most important is that you continue moving forward toward the success of your ultimate goal. In other words, don't give up. Continue to visualize yourself accomplishing your goal and how rewarding it will be when you are successful. You can do it! Believe in yourself and never let anything or anyone stop you. You'll be happy you did.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Deitra C. Payne is President & CEO of C. Payne Consulting & Training, LLC, a professional services business specializing in consulting, training and coaching and dedicated to the success of its clients through empowerment. She is also a motivational speaker, success coach and author. On Monday, July 28, 2008, Dr. Payne launched her global community for women website called Women & HOPE at www.womenandhope.com. It is all about empowering women for success with a renewed spirit. It is Women Helping Others Propel to Excellence.