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The ‘secret-sauce’ to successful goal setting? You.

Life – what a journey it can be. And if you don’t pay attention to the twists and turns along the way, you may end up quite far from where…

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09 July 2022

The ‘secret-sauce’ to successful goal setting? You. 

Life – what a journey it can be. And if you don’t pay attention to the twists and turns along the way, you may end up quite far from where you’d like to be.  

The thing is, without a clear direction, it can be easy to feel like a boat adrift on the open ocean. But that’s what goals and plans are about: they provide navigation tools, just like the Matariki star cluster used to guide navigators across the Pacific (check out our Nine pūtea tips to kickstart your Matariki New Year here).  

In this guide, you’ll find some practical tips and insights to make goal-setting successful in any area of your life. Read on to learn more. 

Key takeaways 

Why setting goals is important - Goal-setting can serve as a roadmap, to help cut through the noise and busyness of life and focus on what’s important to you.  

Understand your goal-setting personality - If you’d like to make goal-setting work for you, knowing what makes you ‘tick’ is crucial. It’s about finding the source of your motivation. 

Setting SMART goals - To be effective, your goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. 

Micro-goals can go a long way - If your goals are big and ambitious, it may be worth splitting them into smaller or even micro-goals, to keep momentum going. 

Goal-setting is just the beginning - Make sure you acknowledge the road ahead and prepare yourself for any unexpected challenges that may arise. 

Why goal setting? 

Effective goal-setting is a roadmap, but not just ‘any’ roadmap. To keep you on path, your goals need to be all about you and your unique needs. They act as both a destination and the driving force to get there, helping trigger new behaviours and make positive, long-lasting changes. 

Importantly, setting goals can give you both long-term vision and short-term motivation: just what you need to cut through the noise and busyness of life, and keep your gaze on what’s important to you.  

What’s your goal-setting personality? 

When it comes to goal-setting, not everyone has the same style, or ‘personality’. So understanding yours is a good first step.  

According to best-selling New York Times author Gretchen Rubin, most people align to one of four major goal-setting personality types

  • Obligers have inner expectations, but they need outer accountability to meet them. Having a support team for them is crucial, because they value other people’s expectations of them over their own.  

  • Questioners, as the name suggests, tend to question all expectations due to their innate commitment to logic and efficiency. They often need more information before making decisions, and their perfectionism can get in the way of getting things done. 

  • Upholders have the strongest inner motivation of the bunch, but their approach may not always be flexible enough if circumstances change. They thrive with a clear schedule, but they also need to learn to accept that things don’t often go to plan. 

  • Rebels resist both internal and external expectations, which they actually enjoy defying. But they also like a challenge, and if the goal aligns with their identity, values and beliefs, they’ll live by it. 


Other experts talk about ‘Type A individuals’ (who easily find and commit to goals, but struggle to be realistic about the goals they set), and ‘Type B individuals’ (who prefer learning-based goals and largely rely on their intrinsic motivation to meet them).  

Whatever school of thought you choose, knowing your own personality type can help you set better goals and follow through on them. It’s about understanding what makes you tick and where your motivation comes from - whether it is within you, outside of you, or a mix of both.   

Let’s talk about SMART goals 

Now that you know a bit more about your own personality, let’s dissect the goal-setting process further and talk about five key characteristics that goals should have, according to the SMART goal-setting technique. 

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – the five ingredients of an effective goal-setting recipe. This approach was first mentioned in 1981, in an article about writing management’s goals and objectives. In a nutshell, when setting your own goals, you need to ask yourself: 

  • What am I trying to achieve, why, and by when? Being specific provides a clear picture and helps you hold yourself accountable. For example, rather than saying: “I want to save more money”, you can say: “I want to save $5,000 in the next five months and book my next vacation.” 

  • How will I measure what I’m doing? Measurability is the key to assessing your progress. 

  • Do I have allI need to achieve this goal? A SMART goal is attainable, and asking yourself this question will help you identify if any gaps need plugging. 

  • Why am I setting this goal? Make sure the goal matters to you and it fits within your other plans. How is it going to improve your life?   

  • When do I plan to achieve my goal? To keep momentum going, it’s a good idea to have a clear timeframe for both your end-goal and the smaller milestones in between.  

The SMART technique is a sort of checklist, designed to define your goals more clearly and better understand how you can achieve them. And keep in mind that, while big goals can sometimes be overwhelming when seen through a ‘SMART’ lens, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aim for the stars. What you may need is to break them up into smaller (or even micro) goals.  


How micro-goals can turn into macro-change 

The best way to explain micro-goals is the marathon analogy. If achieving big, long-term goals is a marathon (like saving for a house, or building your retirement nest egg) and short-term goals are still a good distance run, then micro-goals are five-minute sprints.  

Micro-goals are bite-sized, easy to tackle right here and right now, and serve as everyday fuel for bigger goals. As Pulitzer-prize-winning reporter and author Charles Duhigg wrote in The Power of Habit, “Small wins are exactly what they sound like, and are part of how keystone habits create widespread changes.” 

What SMART micro-goals can you set today, and how will they help you achieve bigger and more challenging milestones?  For example, if you’d like to save $5,000 in five months, a micro-goal could be to bring your lunch to work today and put the $15 you’d have spent at the café straight in your savings account. 


Acknowledging the road ahead 

Of course, goal-setting is just the beginning. Make no mistake: life will continue to be busy and unpredictable, with countless demands, and unexpected challenges and distractions getting in the way.  

If your goals are SMART and you keep setting a steady flow of short and micro-goals to keep you motivated, you’ll be off to a great start. But over time, you’ll likely need to adjust the course. So, make sure you keep your end-goal in mind, but also allow yourself to be flexible and, most importantly, kind to yourself. Remember - goals are not set in stone: you are in control.  

And speaking of goals… 

Just like every other goal in your life, saving for retirement requires a fair share of planning and thinking. And it all starts with goal-setting. 

Whether you’re looking at using KiwiSaver for your first home or just as a retirement-saving vehicle, make sure you take a closer look at your primary goal and make it SMART.  

How much money will you need to save? When are you planning to withdraw it? And what’s your action plan to get there?  

Our helpful portfolio generator is designed to give you a comprehensive view of where you stand and what you may need to achieve your KiwiSaver goals. Give it a try now, and let us know if you have any questions. 


Disclaimer: Please note that the content provided in this article is intended as an overview and as general information only. While care is taken to ensure accuracy and reliability, the information provided is subject to continuous change and may not reflect current developments or address your situation. Before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article, please use your discretion and seek independent guidance.