How super successful people set yearly goals and reach them

New year, new goals. The truth is, every day is an opportunity to set goals, but a brand new year offers the perfect moment to reflect and set your sights on what you want to accomplish next.

Not only do the most successful people understand this and use the start of a new year to set yearly objectives, but they also know how to do so in a way that will ensure maximum success. And they go beyond the good-old SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goal-setting principle.

Curious to ditch the traditional frameworks and truly understand how super successful people think about their goals — and live and breathe them? Here are nine guiding principles that will have you planning your year like a true leader while allowing you to look back on 2021 with pride.

They debrief

Super successful people don’t set goals blindly. They take time to think about challenges and opportunities. They gather data and insights. And before setting yearly goals, they look back at the year that just ended with curiosity.

They are honest with themselves and assess what went well, what could’ve gone better and what kind of learnings they’re taking with them moving forward. This allows them to improve their goal-setting process and execution year after year.

So before setting goals for the new year, make sure you haven’t missed out on the precious opportunity to garner nuggets of wisdom from the past. Even if — and especially — if it wasn’t such a great year and you’re eager to leave it behind (goodbye 2020!).

They think of the big picture

Highly successful people would never begin setting objectives without thinking of the big picture first. What is the big picture? Where you want to be in the long-term. What you value in your career and life.

If you work for a company, this is also about organizational goals. Aligning your career desires with the priorities of the organization is a recipe for success, so it’s important to understand where things are heading in order to make the right choices.

Super successful people know that understanding the bigger context is a critical step to choosing the right priorities. And now you can think like them too.

They use visualization

Countless thought leaders, celebrities, athletes, executives, and entrepreneurs use visualization to set goals and reach them. Studies have revealed that mental practices such as imagining yourself having accomplished your goals are almost as effective as taking action.

The mind is a powerful tool and the most successful people in the world leverage its abilities. So as you set goals for 2021, take a moment to visualize where you want to be next year at the exact same time. What will success look and feel like? What are you doing in that mental image? Tap into your imagination to get familiar with your hopes and dreams.

They create from possibility

Super successful people are not successful by luck or coincidence. They are successful because they decided that they would be — and they don’t let anything on the outside determine that for them.

When they set goals, they also know that it’s critical to create from a place of possibility and not constraints or limitations. Why? Because being too realistic and not bold enough out of fear can cause you to set very modest objectives and underachieve. And it can prevent you from being open to opportunities.

As you decide what you want to accomplish in the new year, ask yourself what you would do if anything was possible. You’ll start off from a much more empowered, creative state of mind.

They get clear on their goals

If you’ve debriefed, thought of the bigger picture and allowed yourself to be ambitious, you’re now ready to get clear on your goals in the same way a super successful person would.

Getting clear means writing your goals down. It’s also about knowing the difference between outcome and execution. Strong goals are results-based and supported by a plan. For example, let’s say that you want to get a new job. That’s your end result. Anything you do in the pursuit of getting a new job (updating your resume, applying for jobs, networking) is part of the execution.

For best results, get very clear on your desired outcomes. You will be able to plan, take action and identify key milestones towards the completion of your goals afterward.

They avoid stretching themselves thin

High achievers don’t try to do it all. They know they can’t, and that’s why they are so effective. They are geniuses at setting priorities and focusing on what’s most impactful. So you won’t catch them setting goals for the sake of setting goals or trying to do too many things at the same time.

Which areas of your life and career do you want to prioritize this year? Again, if you’ve reflected on the past year and thought of the bigger context, this will be easier to determine. Commit to three big goals max. Anything more will dilute your efforts.

They focus on domino goals

On that note, choosing to solely focus on a couple of big goals during the year means you have to choose wisely. If you want to think like a successful person, think about the impact. If achieved, are there goals on your list that would inevitably eliminate the need for all the other goals? Those are your domino goals.

For example, you might want to increase your income. You might also want to save enough money to buy your first home. Increasing your income is the domino goal in this case because if you achieve it, it will also support your savings objective.

They take consistent action

Yes, super successful people put a lot of thought behind what they decide to focus on during the year and why. But they also know that the road to failure is paved with good intentions.

Once they’ve identified their goals, they devise a plan. They break down their goals into smaller chunks and milestones. They reverse-engineer them into concrete actions. They commit to taking action every single day and aligning their behaviors with their ultimate desires.

They stay flexible

Being strategic is not about rigidity or overplanning. Uber successful people don’t have it all figured out. And they don’t wait to have it all figured out before making moves towards reaching their goals. They know that sometimes the next steps only reveal themselves through messy experimentation.

So flexibility is key — not only in terms of your plan but also your initial goals. Life is full of unpredictable events and sometimes you will have to pivot quickly to overcome an obstacle or seize an opportunity.