Three Part Series: Build A Personal Foundation for Success

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Part 3 of 3: Set Powerful Goals

by Jen Verharen


Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? – Mary Oliver, from the poem “The Summer Day”

Set Powerful Goals
Photo courtesy Jen Verharen

There are many reasons we don’t set goals — fear of failure, fear of success, fear of commitment, lack of interest, not knowing what we want, discouragement, or feeling that setting goals doesn’t work. If you can claim any of these, you may be missing out on something that could make your life richer, help you live a big dream, and bring you joy along the way.

People who set and achieve goals feel accomplished, empowered and live regret-free lives. They tend to have more to offer others and they’re less likely to be bitter or resentful. A world filled with these people is one I want to live in!

There are two distinctions that keep goal setting from being discouraging and frustrating:

  1. Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset

If you have a growth mindset you’re constantly looking for opportunities to learn and grow. You view criticism and failure as headlights, showing you the way. You perceive yourself as always learning and do not see yourself as defined by your current abilities or results.

If you have a fixed mindset, you think failure is the result of a fixed circumstance that you don’t have the power to change. You’ll keep making the same mistakes and getting the same results because you believe you’re a victim of your circumstances, other people, your genes, your environment, or bad luck.

  1. Being Internally Directed vs. Externally Directed

If you’re internally directed, you act according to your own values and ideas about success. You utilize feedback from others but you don’t let it guide you. You’re clear about your values and what’s important to you. You stay true to yourself so that you may better serve others and the world.

If you’re externally directed, you set goals based on societal values or what you think others want from you. You feel chronically dissatisfied. Accomplishing goals might leave you feeling empty. 

Getting Started

Write down several goals for different areas of your life. If you find yourself hesitant to claim a particular goal, remember that the important thing is to claim something and head in a direction —create movement and commit. The goal-setting process is creative and adaptable but it does not catch fire until you claim a goal.

All right! Now you get to work each of your goals through my powerful goal checklist:

  1. State goals in past or present tense.

Use language that takes your goal out of the future and lands it in the present. Most people state their goals in the future: I will run a marathon in December. Instead, state it as if it has already happened: By December, I have run a marathon.

  1. Include a measurable result and an intention.

Each goal should remind you why it’s important and tell you how you’ll know when you’ve accomplished it. These are two distinct components. “I climb Mt. Everest this year (measurable result) and I overcome my fear of heights, become fit, and fulfill a life-long dream (intention).”

  1. Make goals concise and use powerful descriptive language.
  2. Do not plan.

Strategies come after goals. Working out four days a week is not a goal; it’s a strategy. Being fit enough to do a 20-mile hike is a goal. If you missed two workouts last week, it doesn’t mean you have failed to accomplish your goal. It simply means you need to change your strategy.

  1. Make sure your goal is within your control and reflects your own desires.
  2. Your goal should make you feel excited and nervous.

It should be just outside your comfort zone. If your goal doesn’t scare you or give you butterflies, it’s not worth making.

  1. Avoid using words like lose, gain, more and better.

Most people who decide to lose weight never do. Do you want to lose weight or do you want to weigh 130 pounds, feel fabulous in your skinny jeans and be able to touch your toes? Do you want to be a better rider or sit the trot beautifully and ride a second level dressage test with balance and harmony?

  1. Attach a time frame.
  2. Share your goals with like-minded people who support you.
  3. Be willing to change and update your goals as necessary. Life is change!

When you’re done, your goals should be so exciting they give you butterflies!

Want a partner to help you achieve your goals? Join me for Take The Reins: A Goal Setting & Empowerment Project For Riders at This is a totally unique, affordable program designed to help you set and achieve your most important goals.


Originally Published May 2017 Issue


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