Goal Setting to Grow Your Confidence

This is the third of four articles from the series Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone: 3 Keys to Confidence.  

Palm Trees
The 5th bell of the final round was a turning point in my life. Alone in a foreign country, I had trained twice a day for 6 weeks to harden my body and mind for competition. Marked in a notebook beside my bed was the date of my first fight. It would arrive – would I?

Setting goals gives you direction – something to work towards. In my life, lacking direction has been one of the biggest contributors to my feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. When you don’t know where you’re headed it’s hard to wake up with enthusiasm. When you can’t measure progress, its tough to see yourself improving. Learning to set goals gave me the direction that was missing and provided me with a framework to measure my progress. Goal setting changed my life.

Developing the confidence to have my first Muay Thai fight in Thailand grew from a goal to travel abroad. I moved to China to teach English and while I was there I committed myself to doing whatever it took to rid myself of the sciatica that had hindered my martial arts pursuits back home. As I worked on this, I began to seriously consider traveling to Thailand to train Muay Thai for a few months as a reward to overcoming this pain, I was in the area and had been focusing on my stand up game so why not?

Opening Doors

Once in Thailand I realized how different competition was approached in comparison to the West. Instead of making a big deal of fights, it was just considered part of the training process. I’d be there hitting pads and getting in shape for  6 weeks, why not end it with a fight? That’d make a good story, right? Travel to Thailand and have your first fight there? Eventually I decided to go for it. Marking off that first major goal was the start of a new journey.

Do you see how my goals grew off of each other? The direction traveling abroad provided opened doors that I never would have seen had I stayed home in the states. That’s the power of goal setting – one little thing can lead to so much more. This is why direction is crucial for your self-development.

Now I’m not saying you have to fight in Thailand or do anything even remotely as insane as that, but what I do want to encourage is that you find some direction – you set some goals – and through that, you will find the courage to take on that challenge that’s been sitting in the back of your mind for so long.

In this walkthrough I’ll take you through a goal setting method I learned from the late great Jim Rohn. I like this exercise because it teaches you how to create a large list of goals with a vague time frame, taking the pressure off of most of them, but allowing you to identify the ones that that can be started today. Now I’ve added a few tweaks to gear it towards building confidence while aiming to keep your ego in check. It’s this very goal setting process that helped me to get off my couch and into the arena of life, building the self-belief and self-confidence – that vital ingredient so many of us need – to create a life we love.

In order to complete this exercise you’ll need a pen, a few sheets of paper, and a timer of some sort. If you have a stop watch, use that, if not, your phone will do. I suggest you also close any other tabs you have open during this exercise so you can stay focused. If you don’t have time to finish it in one sitting (about an hour), you can always return to it later.

Oh, and to help you get past any resistance you have in regards to the time, consider this: you’ll be wasting a whole lot more time by bypassing this exercise and moving though life aimlessly than you will by taking the time to figure out where you want to be and how to get there.

Alright, that’s it. Let’s get started.

Goal Setting Exercise

1) Reflect on Your Past Accomplishments

  1. Write down 5 things you’ve accomplished that you’re proud of

2) Create a list

Make a list of everything you want to accomplish in the next 10 years. To be clear – not everything you think you can accomplish, everything you want to accomplish.

If everything went as planned – money wasn’t an issue, time wasn’t a problem – what would you want to experience? I’ve included some questions to help you generate some ideas.

  • Write everything in list form (top to bottom, not left to right). We’ll be doing something with this later.
  • You’ll have 2 minutes to answer each question. If you need more time, reset the timer and start again.
  • Don’t stop writing until that timer dings!
    1. What would you like to experience in the next 10 years?
    2. What results would you like to see regarding your relationships in the next 10 years?
    3. What spiritual goals do you have for the next 10 years?
    4. What would you like to own in the next 10 years?
    5. What skills would you like to learn in the next 10 years?
    6. What would you like to start doing in the next 10 years? What would you like to stop doing?
    7. Where would you like to travel in the next 10 years?
    8. What career goals do you have for the next 10 years?
    9. What hobbies would you like to start?
    10. What else? Anythings possible. What else could you possibly want out of the next 10 years?

3) How Long Will it Take?

    1. Go through your list and put a 1, 3, 5, or 10 after each goal. These numbers are estimates of how many years you think each goal will take. Don’t think about it too much, just write down what seems reasonable. If something is shorter than 1, just put 1. Longer than 10, put 10.

4) Choose 4

    1. Underline your top 4 one year goals.
    2. Out of the 4, circle the 1 that will give you the confidence to take on the other 3. We’ll tackle that one first.

5) Seeing Yourself as You Could Be

    1. Write out your answer to the following question:

To achieve all that I want, who must I become?

6) Why? How?

Knowing why you want to accomplish something is imperative if you want to get through the tough times. When struggle comes your way, when roadblocks and hardships interfere with your success, remembering why you’re doing what you’re doing will give you the strength to push through. Let’s learn more about what these goals mean to you now.

1. At the top of a new page, write your circled goal.

2. Beneath that goal, answer the following questions:

      1. Why do you want to accomplish this goal? What will you gain from doing so?
      2. Why do you want to gain that?
      3. How will you grow mentally? Physically? Emotionally?
      4. Why do you want to grow in that way?
      5. How will it effect the lives of your friends? Your family? Your community?
      6. Why do you want to effect their lives in this way?
      7. How will it change the course of your life?
      8. Why do you want to change your life in this way?
      9. What impact will it have on your confidence?
      10. Why do you want to have this impact on your confidence?

3. Now let’s make a list of the what you’ve got to get done in order to make this goal a reality. Write out your answers to the following questions.

      1. What steps will I have to take to accomplish this goal?
      2. What skills will I have to learn?
      3. How can I learn these skills?
      4. Who do I know that is familiar with this subject?
      5. What books can I read on this subject?
      6. What are some of the stepping stones that will lead me from where I am now, to having that goal achieved?

4. Prioritize each item on your “how” list by rating them on a scale of ‘1-4’. A ‘1’ means it will be unlikely to really help you to achieve your goal while a ‘4’ is a sure bet.

7) Set Yourself Up for Success

In order to keep your goal at the front of you mind you’ll want to see it every day. Hang it on your wall, put it on your desk, or leave it on your nightstand.

After you’ve read your ‘Most Confident Self’ answers from my last article, Changing States, read your goal aloud each morning. Make sure to also go over the why’s and the how’s you’re currently working on.

As you do this, allow yourself to feel what it would be like to accomplish this goal. Imagine yourself working though the steps you have to take in order to make it happen. This may take some practice, but in time you’ll be able to put yourself in a state of having as opposed to a state of wanting. We’ll talk more about this in my next article on visualization.

Your priority over the next 30 days is to move as close to accomplishing your goals as possible. The best place to start is with your ‘sure bets.’ If you can accomplish your goal by only finishing a couple of them, then focus on those. You might also try getting the easiest ones out of the way first in order to build momentum. You can return to the tougher ones later after you’ve got things rolling.

Make a commitment to yourself now to work on these ‘sure bets’ for a minimum of 15 minutes a day. If your why is strong enough, this should be easy to do.


You can come back and continue this exercise as often as you’d like. If you think of something later that you’d like to add, do it. Conversely, nothing has to stay on your list if it’s no longer important to you, feel free to remove things as well.

After you’ve accomplished your goal return to the remaining 3 from step 4. Repeat step 6 for each of these goals and carry on!

A Few Final Notes

You are not your goals!

One mistake I’ve made in the past is getting too wrapped up in my goals, thinking that I wasn’t good enough or I couldn’t be happy until they were accomplished. This is completely no true – don’t fall for it! Thinking like this will only hinder your progress.

Think about your goal for a second, say it aloud or think it through in your mind. In doing this, you might feel some tension around it, some expectation to get it done. I’d like you to let that tension go. Just release it.  You have no use for that. These goals are giving you a direction to travel, not a standard of how you should be. Move in that direction and you’re already successful – you’re growing, that’s what counts.

A great book all about the way we look at challenges and how that affects our happiness and capacity for growth is Mindset by Carol Dweck. Here’s a quote:

“Real self-confidence is not reflected in a title, an expensive suit, a fancy car, or a series of acquisitions. It is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.”

Think about that when any thoughts or feelings of discontentment or self-judgment show up in your life.

“Your readiness to grow.”

I highly recommend Mindset for anyone looking to improve themselves – especially those who are just starting out.

After you’ve accomplished a significant goal…


Sit for a moment.

Allow yourself to feel what it’s like to cross that off your list. Soak it in. Stay with it for a while. Give yourself some credit for your hard work, your persistence, and your willingness to take on new challenges. Give a couple thoughts of thanks to whatever underlying force provides us with the ambition to challenge ourselves and grow – some people don’t have that.

Know Thyself

Take some time to reflect on your experience. Grab a pen and piece of paper and journal the process.

Ask yourself:

What have I learned in pursuit of this goal?

What skills have I developed?

Who have I met?

Who have I become?

You can also do this when you fall short of a goal – it reminds you of all the progress you’ve made, reinforcing your strength to see it through.


I’d like to leave you with a few final notes from Jim Rohn on goal setting. Best of luck to you and all that you are!

  1. When you’ve accomplished some goals, you need some more to accomplish
  2. It’s very important to celebrate when you reach a significant goal
  3. If you reach the goal as a couple or a team, celebrate as a couple or team
  4. Celebrating your accomplishments let’s you know you can do more
  5. Make sure you always have plenty of projects to keep you busy 
  6. The key is to teach these things to help others experience it
  7. The purpose (the why) is much stronger than the object
  8. Not what you get that makes you valuable, it’s what you become that makes you valuable.
  9. What kind of person must I become to achieve all that I want?
  10. The key is to put EVERYTHING on your list, that way you get to cross it off!
  11. Goals are something you attract not something you pursue


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