How Should We Set Goals? A Practical Guide to Help With Your 2024 Goal-Setting

As 2024 begins, there’s this mix of excitement and worry. The joy of celebrations, family time, and lots of food lights up your days. But then, there’s the reality check—the promotions you missed, the small circle that remains unchanged, and the fading hope that perhaps this year would be different.

Many are beginning to wonder: Is it too early or too late to set goals? How do you set them so they motivate you without setting yourself up for disappointment? 

As we wrapped up 2022, I did something different—I made a serious attempt at setting goals. This time, it was more than just a casual list. I went all out. I invested in a whiteboard, strategically placed it on my bedroom wall, divided my goals into quarters and even set deadlines.

Before this, my approach was more laid-back:

  • I’d think about what I wanted to achieve
  • Grab a random, all-purpose notebook for jotting down my personal and work aspirations.
  • Feel a momentary burst of pride for jotting it all down (you know, embracing that ambitious boss energy)
  • Resume my normal life, tackling the challenges that come with life, family, and career.
  • Eventually, I forgot I had any goals, only to scramble to remember them at the end of the year, hoping the next year would be different.

Spoiler alert: It wasn’t any different. Sure, there were some wins scattered here and there, but nothing solid enough to pat myself on the back. So, as we faced a new year, I resolved to do more than just scribble on paper. 

What struck me as I navigated through this repetitive loop of setting goals and living my life on autopilot was this: we often treat our jobs and tasks more seriously than we do our own lives. Think about it: when we embark on a new project or launch a campaign, what’s the first thing we do? We define the goals and objectives, right? It’s a standard practice that allows us to compare results later, analyze data, and plan more effectively.

So, why don’t we apply the same precision and intent to our personal goals?

In pursuit of answers, I delved into the methods of successful individuals, those who not only set goals but consistently achieve them. Here’s what I’ve distilled from my research into five key insights.

Envision your ideal future and get specific about your goals

Instead of jotting down generic goals like “retire at 40” or “sit on a board,” take a moment to vividly visualise your ideal future. Sketch out the details of what you want your life to look like. For instance, rather than a broad aim, consider setting a goal like increasing your annual income by a specific amount, building a successful venture capitalist firm, retiring at 40 while still staying engaged on the board, acquiring a yacht, establishing a second home in Ethiopia, and fully fund all children’s college trust funds.”

“Retire at 40” then transforms into a richer, more detailed vision.

Why this approach? The mind is a powerful tool and the most successful people in the world leverage its abilities. So as you set goals for 2024, take a moment to visualize where you want to be next year at the same time. What will success look and feel like? What actions are you taking in that mental image? It’s a simple yet powerful strategy to align your goals with a crystal-clear vision of your future self.

Gather data and insight

Don’t just start setting goals blindly.  Before you dive, pause, and take a good look back at the year that just wrapped up – what triumphs did you celebrate, where did you stumble, what hurdles did you overcome, what opportunities came knocking, and what valuable lessons did you learn? You need to gather ample wisdom from your past experiences before you lay out your goals.

Let’s take a cue from the queen of media herself – Oprah. Before aiming to become the media mogul we all know today, she carefully dissected her journey from a local news anchor to hosting her talk show. Oprah identified her strengths and areas for improvement and used those insights to navigate her path to success. The key takeaway? Informed decisions lay the foundation for goals that truly matter.

Answer your why and have a visual reminder of it

By now, I’m assuming you’ve got your goals neatly jotted down, following the classic ‘SMART’ criteria. Then here’s the next power move: answer your ‘Why’ and paste it where you can’t ignore it. 

Why do these goals matter to you? Why are they worth the effort and dedication? Why… why… why?

It’s like your personal pep talk, a constant visual cue that sparks the motivation you need to keep pushing forward. Find a spot – be it your fridge, your desk, or your bathroom mirror – where you can stick it up and have a daily eyeball session with your goals- a visual reminder of why you started this journey.

Ditch the urge to do it all

Successful people are masters at setting priorities and tackling what matters. They understand the power of limitation and acknowledge that they can’t be everywhere and do everything. It’s this genius at setting priorities that makes them stand out.

To think like a successful person means channelling your energy where it matters most. Consider the impact each goal brings. Are there goals on your list that, once accomplished, would naturally render other goals obsolete? It’s not about quantity but about strategic, high-impact objectives.

Stay consistent, committed and flexible

That’s the winning formula. Commit to your goals, and they do whatever it takes to achieve them. Be the kind of person who goes the extra mile, puts in those extra hours, and isn’t afraid to trade short-term indulgences for long-term gains. Make those calculated risks and sacrifices because you understand that your goals are important and it isn’t always a smooth ride. 

But here is one thing you should note- there will be moments when your goals need a little recalibration in response to new insights or changing circumstances (for example, generative AI is here to stay). The key here is to stay adaptable and maintain sight of the finish line. So, buckle up for the journey, stay committed, and be ready to pivot when needed.

And here’s a bonus tip to wrap it all up, enjoy the journey and process, not just the destination, because it’s easy to get fixed on the outcomes

So, cheers to a fantastic 2024 and all the beautiful goals we accomplish, both big and small.


– Udochi Mbalewe

We Had An Amazing 2023 at TEDxLagos, Thank You For Being A Part of It