How to Set Goals (And Achieve Them)

Courtesy: Morgan Stump

Goal setting can be incredibly empowering, however, can also be upsetting when you end up not reaching your goals. As an athlete, it was always pounded into my head that without a goal, you are living your life without purpose. In truth, my coaches were right. Every famous athlete, every successful doctor, every college graduate started out with a purpose in mind and set goals to achieve that purpose.

But what about those people who set goals and somehow always fall short? They have big dreams however are unable to reach them in some way shape or form. As a person who has fallen short multiple times, but has also has pulled through in other areas, I know what heartache and what reward it can bring. Below are 7 Ways to Set Achievable Goals and to Reach them.


The biggest mistake I see in athletes, college students, and even in everyday life, is that we as humans tend to dream big but fail to plan for those big dreams. For example, A small child when asked: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” May respond ” I want to be a doctor”. However, this child will not be able to complete that dream without first obtaining a high school degree, an undergraduate degree, and then a medical degree (or his/her Ph.D.) first. In order to be able to fulfill your goals, you want to have a plan and set miniature but obtainable goals over a period of time. For example, in weight loss, I want to be able to lose 5 pounds by the end of next month in order to reach my goal of losing 20 pounds by the end of the year. Setting these mini-goals along the way will help plan out your overall steps and will show you the progress that you are making over time. This is very important, as we as humans tend to want to quit if we are not seeing results. Having a plan and setting these miniature goals will help you stay on track and will reduce the risk of quitting your goal altogether.


In college athletics, I can always look at a team and determine if they are going to be successful or not. The reason being is that the athletes who listen to not only their goals but encourage others to share their goals with them, ultimately hold their teammates more accountable…making both them and their teammates more successful throughout the season. When you set a goal, encourage someone around you to listen to this goal and help you stay on track. This has been proven to create a better outcome for yourself because that friend/teammate/spouse can help you up when you fall and remind you of what you are trying to accomplish when you struggle to find the motivation. As well, this can help motivate and help better that friend/teammate/spouse in their goals as well. It’s a Win-Win Scenario.


Teddy Roosevelt once stated in his Strenuous Life Speech, <em>”It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.”

With failure always comes a learning opportunity. If you fall short of a goal, don’t quit! Take the lesson(s) you learned and use it to readjust your goals or readjust your final outcome. In swimming, I would always hear athletes talk about a bad meet and how they are scared that it will affect the seasons to come. My response? “A bad meet doesn’t mean a bad swimmer. A bad swim doesn’t mean that you are incapable of greatness, it just means that next time you race, you will be once step closer and one step wiser to achieving what you desire.”

If you fail, it is not the end, there are always new beginnings for every let down/disappointing moments. In the wise words of Dory, “JUST KEEP SWIMMING!”


This one is particularly tough, especially when you are not achieving your goals and those around you are. We as humans are programmed to compare ourselves with other people. In the gym, we compare our bodies to the person standing next to us. When we compete it is a lot easier to get into our heads about how “they look more fit” or “they are faster/better than me” than it is to stay in your head and say “I got this. Today I am going to succeed.” In turn, there are also days where we are by ourselves working hard for our goals and no one is there to compliment or give us validation that what we are doing is right. And it is on these days of the grind where our attitude and our commitment needs to outweigh those thoughts of negativity such as ” I am too tired”, ” I don’t feel well”, “Well, I will just work on it tomorrow…”, “I can’t do this” and replace all these thoughts with “I am a badass and each step I take (even if I fail sometimes) is a step towards achieving greatness”. Not only will this attitude reflect the type of person you are and what you strive to be, but it will also carry over to those around you who are trying to be successful.


It is one thing to have a goal and want to achieve it. It is another to let that goal dictate your happiness and your desire to continue. Be sure that whatever your goal is and whatever the steps to it may be, that you are taking time to appreciate the progress as well as to appreciate the hard work. I have seen many athletes think that they are never good enough even when they win a game/meet or they are going best times. The reason being is that they get so wrapped up into what their final goal is, that they refuse to look at how far they have come. This often leads to depression, anxiety, and leads to quitting due to the high amount of stress you are putting on yourself without providing any reward. So take a step back, see how far you’ve come and why you made this goal in the first place. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve accomplished and often that realization of how far you have come will push you to finish whatever it is that you have your heart set on.


Once we set a goal, it is often found that we lose sight of everything else around us. A standard example of this is a week all college students dread, Finals week. During Finals week students are so focused on getting all their grades just right, passing their exams, making sure their GPA doesn’t plummet…that they often tend to forget about some pretty important things such as.. sleep…hygiene… human kindness… the list goes on! Just like all those finals week zombies, we often tend to push out the things we as humans need most in order to achieve our goals. I encourage you to have an outlet, where you can escape and relax/enjoy yourself. This will not only benefit your well-being but will allow your body and mind some clarity before jumping back into your goals!


Don’t take a single moment for granted. One day you won’t be able to go to the gym. One day you won’t be able to compete, or to sit in a library with a group of friends studying your brains out, or to go to that extravagant place across the country- so enjoy every minute of it! Not every day is promised, but I guarantee at the end of it all you’re not going to remember the grueling workout sessions, you’re not going to remember sitting in the library for hours- You will remember the good times spent with teammates, the laughs with friends, the people you’ve met, and the goals you achieved and that my friend, makes it all worth it.

And Remember, “Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss you will be amongst the stars.”

About Morgan Stump

Morgan Stump is a student at the University of Arizona who had previously swam at Arizona State University. Her goals are to continue into a Master’s of Nursing after finishing her degree in Psychological Sciences–focusing on the behavioral health of athletes in her undergraduate research.


Leave a Reply

Notify of

1 Comment
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Great article. BTFD