How to set goals: choose the approach that fits you best

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You might have heard this joke about the two types of people – those who separate people into two types and those who don’t.

If we may expand on this a bit – there are those who prefer to do their homework first and those who’d rather dive in head on.

Here we offer these two approaches to objectives – from vision to steps and vice versa, from steps to vision. Have a look and then it will be all up to you which of the two would be closer to your heart.

The torturous “How Do I Get Started?”

It’s only human to have the above question bugging you since you want to hit the ground running. As a first timer in goal setting you aim at flawless start and quick advance.

Maybe you’re a goal newbie. Or perhaps you’ve already had your feet wet with some other systems for achieving goals and ours is more to your liking. Either way, there is this first piece of advice:

Get into it right away!

“How do I do that?” is the pertinent question here.

“This way” vs “That way”

Do you first sit down and write a vision for every single aspect of ​​your life and only then  you carefully formulate 90-day goals and the corresponding steps?

Or, while trusting your gut instinct you make one first step and then you proceed specifying the next set of targets till a vision crystalizes?

These are the two fundamentally different options in front of you. The best part is that they don’t preclude each other – in fact they are very much complementary.

There is no right and wrong way, only what works for you. And for us …

“Trial and error”

Our interest in the subject dates back over 15 years. All along we were trying to set goals for different periods. We tried a bunch of different systems before we decided to develop our own.

In 2012 we laid the foundations for “GoalBuddy”. At first we went through all sorts of sharp turns and tight loops, e.g. from one task per month to 3 year targets… Only when we settled on the more balanced and productive principles of our system we felt ready to share it with the rest of the world.

We say all of this to emphasize how we’ve changed course on a number of occasions. We love “trying and erring” until we get what works best.

It took only a first step to get it rolling

Or at least it used to be so. We are both men of action. In the very beginning as well as during the whole process of building up our system, our modus operandi was that steps were leading us to the vision. First we would try something being guided only by a hunch, then we would have fixed it on the fly, and finally, after a while things would start falling into their places.

These days it is quite the opposite – we do concept first, steps second.

But enough about us. Let’s take a closer look now at both methods.

I.  The analytical “From Vision to Steps”

There is no argument whatsoever – this is the better systemized and logically coherent of the two.

Here’s it is how it is done:

First you outline long-term visions about those things in your life you consider paramount. Then you spend 2-3 hours going over it till it is crystal clear and motivational enough. Finally, you devise the strategies which are your 90-day goals. Then you get the larger perspective revealed to you and work on it can begin.


The vision clarity is foremost. There is no way we can understate what a formidable force it is. Both confidence and focus are the derivatives of it without which you won’t know where exactly you are heading.

This brings up another plus – it eliminates the risk of wasting time and effort toiling in the wrong direction.

The main advantage of the structured approach is that there is no waste of energy, i.e. not a single action of yours is unrelated to the goal – they are all only about the vision.


Unfortunately, it takes time, discipline, and much more to be 100% sure what you’re looking to get for yourself. There is little in the busy daily routine that would allow for such a task. Not to mention you don’t have at hand the right tools. Before you spell out your understanding and expectations of the future you’ll have to recognize and specify your limiting beliefs and then get as deep as possible in the answer of the “Why?” question. Since that process is neither straightforward nor easy you can fall quite behind your schedule.

There is yet another and much bigger issue with this strategy, namely getting stuck. Since the action is last it is quite possible that you simply can’t get yourself do anything for weeks or even months. You find yourself in a vicious cycle of arranging and rearranging your vision and will never be able to draw the bottom line and finalize it.

It’s a problem if you don’t have support. Let’s talk now about the place of your Goal Buddy here.

Your Buddy’s role

This approach works best when you already have the position filled in.

Their support is a prerequisite for you being always cautious and fully prepared. It’s much easier to have someone next to you. Besides, they will be a voice of wisdom and cool making sure you won’t procrastinate or keep postponing the first step as well as any other subsequent ones.

Is it this approach for you?

It’s for you if the following conditions are met:

  • Previous experience with goals;
  • Objectives are already set;
  • You have a Buddy.

In that case you are very close to building a vision because you are fully aware of your dream and your efforts will be purposeful. That’s how you’ll get across the finish line.

Did we guess right? Did you pick up a notebook to write down how you see yourself in 20 years? But wait! Keep reading for a few more pages and learn about the alternative before you come to any conclusion.

II. The empirical “From Steps to Vision”

That’s how it works.

At first you might have this somewhat vague notion of what your desires are and how to get them fulfilled. You shouldn’t dwell too much on the idea. Just make the first step right away. You kick it off and you do that based on your current resources, knowledge and experience. Week after week, with all the “trials and errors” a specific objective will start taking shape and eventually will fully form. It becomes apparent that it is your thing.

Why this method?

The upside is that you kick off right away without over-thinking your plans and reasons. Even with the first small progress you gain confidence and motivation for what is ahead. There is also this exceptional feeling that you are in charge with your own destiny.

The main advantage of starting immediately is the enormous amount of energy it generates.

A very good question arises though. Why would we suggest this at all in a system for setting and achieving goals which is otherwise quite streamlined and perfectly organized?

In the process of implementing this approach a self-organizing occurs – a system with the elements “steps, goals, vision” emerges. This is how it all happens:

System within the system

As you move forward in small successive strides you will start wondering what’s the bigger picture like. There is a natural inner need to look a bit further in the future and set targets – namely, the 90-day goals. And pretty soon the question “Why am I doing all this?” will be forced on you.

While working this second method you will inevitably create circumstances and their very development will impose a system on it all. Your efforts might be a bit chancy and chaotic at first but later it will morph into some strategy which, in turn, will ensure that you understand what you are aiming at.

The system is self-organizing in the process of working towards the goal.


The downside here is also obvious.

Too many trials and errors can take too much time. At some point you may realize that you’ve been doing things for a while with no real need for them or that the some other things could have been done faster, more efficiently, or completely differently.

Besides, when you have no clear-cut idea from the very beginning you become more hesitant and nothing comes as easy as when confidence is high. Yes, you hit the ground running but then doubt will inevitably creep in. After a while and if the bigger picture doesn’t fully form in your head then you will be less sure how to proceed. It is likely that you will fall into the trap of overthinking it and that’s a drag on anything you do. Therefore, the phenomenon “analysis-paralysis” is not uncommon in this approach as well.

Your Buddy’s role

If you choose to employ this method then the smart thing to do is this – have your initial weekly steps related to the structuring of your work. For example, finding a “brother-in-arms” must be your first order of the day. Then together you could go on getting into the habit of reviewing the weekly steps, setting up 90-day goals, and so forth.

Is this approach for you?

This will work only if all of these are true:

  • Goal setting is a new thing for you;
  • You are dying to do something that’s been on your mind for a long time;
  • There is no fully formed objective and you expect it to appear only as you progress;
  • No Goal Buddy of yours yet.

If all of them are valid then you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty!

It’s high time!

Here comes the moment of truth.

Now you know all that you need for an informed decision.

Are you going to make time for your vision today and follow it as a guiding light?

Or you’ll simply jump in both feet and let your actions work out the best reason why?

Whichever of the two you decide on be sure to follow the rules of our system. You do that and your progress will be as inevitable as exceeding your expectations.

See you soon!

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