How to Set Goals and Redefine Success

By Jennifer Moody, LMSW | July 18, 2022

If you are like most, odds are you have felt stuck in one area or another in your life. Knowing what direction to go in or what goal to go after next can be hard to determine in these moments where we feel stuck. To get past the first state of change and to move toward reaching your goals, you have to confront the pre-contemplation stage of denial. You can move past the pre-contemplation stage on to the next stage by practicing the DBT skill of radically accepting where you are right now. To do this, practice mindfulness by asking yourself what you need? What do you really want? What are you missing out on that money can’t buy? What are you jealous of? These questions can help unlock what your true desirable goal is.

Once you finally realize what you want that goal to be, you also have to deal with the emotions that come with not having what you want. Maybe the feelings that arise are anger, guilt, or even shame of being where you are now and not having what you want. You can move forward by dealing with these emotions as opposed to pushing them away and avoiding them. That is the art of using the DBT skill of radically accepting in the first step of goal setting.

Keys to Redefining Success

No Comparing: What you choose as your goal should be solely your decision. You get to decide what you want. By deciding what you want, you alone have the power to determine what the success of that goal can look like. Maybe your fitness goal looks more like parking further away from the store to get more steps in, while your best friend’s goal might be to run for 5 miles a day. If you compare your goals and success to others, you will constantly feel defeated and unmotivated to keep moving forward with your progress. There is a reason why horses have blinders on in a race. They will quickly fail if they keep looking to the left or right. So put on your own blinders and focus on yourself. Taking a break from social media to stop comparing yourself to others can help in this process too.

Make them Realistic: You have to believe you will achieve. Sometimes that might mean giving yourself a boost of confidence each morning by manifesting what it is that you want. This can also mean needing to reevaluate your goals or even the timeline to get there.

Habit Stacking: Creating a routine of adding the baby step to progress towards your goals through habit stacking can be beneficial in creating consistency. For example, suppose you already have a morning routine of waking up, getting breakfast, and showering. In that case, you can stack another habit by adding the next step into your routine, like checking emails after showering or going for a walk after breakfast and before showering.

Small Baby Steps: You know the saying Rome wasn’t built in a day? Well, maybe you have a big goal that you want to achieve that’s Rome size big! It isn’t impossible. However, remember to break down these big goals into small bite-size steps. That can look like creating weekly or even daily goals that will eventually lead to the prize.

Treat Yourself: Reward yourself for progress made. Did you order water instead of a soda for dinner? Good job! Go give yourself that high five you deserve for even that small step.

Make Failure Your Friend: Sometimes, no progress is made towards goals out of fear of failure. Take each failure as a lesson learned and build upon these experiences to create your own solutions. Scientific evidence shows that our brains learn best through exploratory learning. There is a reason babies fall down when learning to walk! Aim for progress and not perfection, and you will see results.

Remember, there is not a one size fits all approach to reaching your goals. Practicing mindfulness reflections throughout your progress is a great way to decide what works best for you. Know that you are the author and evaluator of your own success. So keep going and keep pushing through to create your life worth living!


  • Hillside Therapist – Virtual DBT IOP & Intensive In-Home Therapy Program - As a mom of 2, I have loved incorporating DBT skills into my own journey of parenting. I see how beneficial DBT skills truly are in all aspects of life and have developed a passion for helping children and their families grow on their treatment journey by incorporating these skills into their daily life. When not working, I am actively involved in a local moms club helping to empower other moms on their journey of motherhood. I love fishing, playing soccer, and outdoor family activities in my spare time.

    View all posts
Posted in