The Lessons of Zig Ziglar #1: 
7 Steps of Goal Setting



In an effort to get more insight into personal development, I have been on an audio learning frenzy. I’ve listened to nearly ten well-known programs in the last week or so and one of the best subjects that has been covered is goal setting. See You At The Top author Zig Ziglar is one of the most dynamic motivational speakers of all time. He has put together a great 7 step goal setting system that I will now share with you and I will include my own personal examples.

Note: Please take the time and write down your responses to all of the 7 steps of goal setting. This is crucial in your actual achievement of these desires. Writing them down makes the goals real; it makes them tangible. By setting them down permanently onto a sheet of paper, it keeps us from mentally bailing on these very important parts of our lives. Do yourself a favor and get out a pen or pencil and a sheet of paper or a journal before you read these steps.

Note #2: Setting a goal and doing it right can take a lot of time. Zig Ziglar suggests putting over twenty hours into the really complex ones. He also says that this time will lead you to three to ten hours a week for the rest of your life once you learn how to set goals properly. This is a great payoff for us forward thinkers. Set aside enough time to do this right and you will be rewarded. 


Step 1: State the Goal

Has this ever happened to you? Over the course of a week, several different people have asked you different variations on the question, “what is your main goal?” Maybe they’ve said, “what is your ambition” or “what do you want to do with your life” or even “how does the future look for you?” These similar questions were asked by different people of different ages or social circles and you made efforts to try to phrase your goal in the best possible way. Perhaps you use the terms “sorta” or “kinda” as in “I sorta want to go back to school, but I’m not sure.” Your explanation takes as long as a minute or two because you aren’t exactly sure about all of the specifics. When you finally get it out, the other person acknowledges what you’ve said and then promptly moves on.

It took you a long time to state your goal, because it isn’t clear to you. The person moved right on because they can tell that your lack of clarity will make it tough for you to achieve what it is you “sorta” “kinda” want.

Clearly state your goal in a positive and succinct way. Even if you aren’t 100% sure you can do it, do not insert any maybes or probablys. If you think losing 30 pounds would be good for you and that you might want to make it a goal, say:

I want to lose 30 pounds.

Author Brian Tracy also suggests you put it into present terms as if you’ve already completed it. Here’s an example:

I have lost 30 pounds by July 1st, 2009.

Recently, I have been writing down my three major goals every single day when I wake up in the morning and reviewing them before I go to bed (another Brian Tracy tidbit of wisdom). But to start, try writing down your goals in this way once and see how it makes you feel. Getting things out of your head and onto paper can be a great first start. 


Step 2: Set a Deadline

A lack of a deadline can make you put off really trying to complete the goal. I understand that there can be a lot of fear associated with attempting to try and failing, but as extreme failure and success Thomas Edison could tell you, there’s much to be said about failure leading to ultimate success.

Add a deadline to your goal to enhance the clarity even further. This can be a particular date, a month, a year, or even a lifetime goal. It will be easier though to start with a few goals you expect to attempt in the near future. For example:

I want to increase my monthly income 20% by June 2009.

Or to be more specific:

I want to increase my monthly income from $3,000 a month to $3,600 a month by June 2009.

I suggest adding a deadline to all of your goals. Even if you aren’t able to achieve it by the date, you can change the date later, but there’s something about listing the hopeful completion time that will kick your subconscious into high gear. 


Step 3: Identify the Obstacles

Here’s the good news. This is a step that most of the general public does fantastically. Here’s the bad news. Identifying the obstacles of their goal setting is what usually stops them from trying to achieve their goals in the first place.

By pointing out the things that are in the way of a goal, we can figure out ways to overcome them. This is not the path of least resistance people, this is where the work comes into play. We have goals because they are worthwhile, not because they’re easy. Jim Rohn has a great quote about football for this situation.

Say you’re in an empty football stadium. You have a ball and you tuck it under your arm and cross the goal line. Should you feel good about yourself? Did you just score a touchdown? No, of course not. There was no resistance, no other team, no fans for either side cheering or booing you. All you did was walk with a ball on a field. Now, add in the game and the packed stadium of fans. If you cross the goal line with the ball, you have scored a touchdown and you will be cheered and congratulated by your team and fans. This is because you’ve actually accomplished something. You achieved a goal despite the obstacles against you. You did something that was worth it.

Don’t just go for the easy stuff. Push forward and take on goals with a few obstacles. Let’s go back to the weight goal. What could be a few obstacles?

I’m out of shape and I can’t exercise for more than a few minutes.
I work 60 hours a week and I’m too tired to do much of anything by the time I get home.
My friends and I go out for a big steak dinner and drinking every Friday evening which makes me hung over pretty much all Saturday.

You don’t have to figure out how to beat these yet (that comes later) but even just listing some of these on a piece of paper makes them tangible, real things. Thoughts in your head are a lot tougher to beat than words on a sheet of paper. Listing your obstacles is a great first step to overcoming them. 


Step 4: Identify the People, Groups, and Organizations that Can Assist

I know a lot of people who are afraid to ask for help in many situations. When you are trying to achieve your goals, this is a bad time to play either shy or independent person. Some of the greatest minds in human history had wonderful mentors or assistants to help them get to where they are. A good number of them also belonged to organizations that honed their skills and aided in their achievement of their important life goals. For a weight goal there are programs like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or a series of books on the subject. For improving your income, there are local finance groups or seminars led by speakers who have achieved a great deal of success.

A simple Google search will yield wonders. The important thing here is to search. Whenever I am embarking on a project that requires information beyond my own, I ask somebody who is an expert on the subject. Finding these people saves me tens of hours of my time trying to figure something out myself.

Make a list of the people, groups and organizations that can help you in your quest. If you can’t identify more than just a couple, do a little bit of research. Your goal is worth the amount of time you put into it. 


Step 5: List the Benefits of Achieving the Goal

This is the fun part where we can let the imagination run wild. List as many benefits as you can think of to setting and making this goal happen. If you want to lose 30 pounds, think about how much more you will be able to do without that extra weight around. Maybe you will be able to bike more or meet new people in more athletic settings. If it’s the money goal, perhaps you will be able to afford that new restaurant in town, or take your significant other on a nice trip. Whatever your goal is, go to town on writing down all the possible spoils of making this goal a reality.

Perhaps the Law of Attraction will kick in and help you push toward your goal even faster than you imagined. 


Step 6: List the Skills You Need to Acquire to Attain the Goal

This is another tough part but it is also worth it. Our ability to take on these goals is directly related to what we can do to make it easier and more achievable on our parts. Before starting this website, I needed to learn enough to use the Site Builder program for my host “Site Build It!”. Before I could learn to bench press 200 lbs., I first had to learn all of the supplementary triceps and pectoral exercises to fully enhance my bench press skills.

Perhaps you need to learn web design or a sales technique to up your monthly income. Or maybe you must learn how to iron your clothes better to look good for that upcoming job interview. There are so many books available on so many subjects and there is a growing “how to” directory of videos and articles on the Internet. Many different skills can be learned. If you need a skill in order to improve your chances of accomplishing a goal, you have little to no excuse. Take the time and learn it. 


Step 7: Develop a Plan

You know your goals and when you want to achieve them by. You know what’s in your way and who can help. You know how much these goals will benefit you and you know what skills you must acquire to help you along the way.

Now comes the little matter of “how.”

I suggest a detailed plan of the next week and how you are going to integrate these six other steps into your daily routine. When will you put in the thirty minutes in the library researching the right book for a skill? When can you set up a meeting with that potential mentor about his or her expertise? Is there a good twenty-minute period of downtime for you to visualize some of the benefits you may receive?

Schedule the time for this goal achievement to happen. If you never schedule it, there is a good chance you will never move forward. If you slip up a few times and you don’t get some actions completed when you planned them, just change the deadline and try again the following week. The best plans are often adjusted many, many times before the end result is reached. You must create a plan to ensure that you will at least attempt to realize these goals.

This is your opportunity to achieve some of the things in your life that you have put off to the side. Write down your responses to these seven steps right now. You can use it with any or all of your goals for all areas of your life. Put your answers in a good place for you to review often (a refrigerator or a desk). Pick them up when you have a chance and start working. At that point, the achievement of your goals is simply a matter of time. 

Related Articles to Zig Ziglar #1
The Lessons of Earl Nightingale #1: Thinking
Law of Attraction
The Lessons of Stephen Covey #1: Quadrant II
The Lessons of Steve Pavlina #1: 30 Days of Success

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Written by Bryan Cohen

Bryan Cohen is the author of more than 30 books, many of which focus on creative writing and blasting through that pesky writer's block. His books have sold more than 20,000 copies. You can find him on and Facebook.

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