Free self development lessons for Humanity

Be smart, set goals


Otermans Institute

at Devbhumi Vidhyalaya, Uttarakhand, India

Gerard Jansen

Trainer &  Head of Operations, Otermans Institute

Chief Product Officer, Solar Botanic

Researcher, Brunel University London

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Time Management

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Be smart, set goals


Set goals that move you towards your dreams

Make your goals tangible

Put it into action!

Tips & Exercises for the 'lockdown'


Is your life just drifting by, you are working hard day and night, always being busy, but never achieving anything worthwhile? Or is it now the opposite! You are living in a state of lockdown, you are at home or keeping yourself quarantined somewhere, you seem to have all the time to do the things you always wanted to, but cannot. While working from home, for many of us, was viewed as a luxury that could give us an extra boost of productivity, now having it in abundance is also resulting in all that important time flying by and many of us cannot seem to do anything about it.


If this is you, or you have felt it in some part of your life, then stop blaming everything around you for all those hard times! Most likely this is happening because you are wandering through life, without clear goals to get excited about and to keep you focused. In this lesson you will learn how to set goals that excite you, so that you stay motivated to accomplish them and get tips on how you can achieve small bits every day that together make your dreams come true in less time than you can imagine.


Set goals that move you towards your dreams


When setting goals, you have the flexibility to choose what you want to achieve. This is your chance to move towards your dreams! Don’t be afraid to dream big but stay realistic in the steps you plan to take to achieve them. Remember that these not only depend on your own situation, but are also influenced by external circumstances.


For example: If you want to make music now, sure go ahead and compose songs, record them at home and release them on YouTube. There is enough software out there to even get your compositions out online without the need for specialised equipment. However, in this lockdown, if you are thinking you will only record with a 7-set orchestra and in a top-class recording studio, then your expectations and decisions on the steps you are taking may be unrealistic.


Well, your goal can be anything! It can be a financial, spiritual, social, personal, physical, or professional, whatever you need in that moment. It can also be a set of things, to move you towards your dream. However, don’t focus on one goal and neglect other areas of your life. Set a variety of goals: big ones, small ones, long-term goals and short-term goals. Just decide well and note them down. Yes, you can reach many different goals and focusing on one doesn’t mean relinquishing others. However dedicate specific time to work towards each goal separately so you can actively focus on one goal at a time. See our lesson on time management on more tips and tricks that can assist you in creating and managing your goals. Have faith that you can reach your goals and you will be surprised with your progress!


It is best to set goals that allow you to take small steps towards your dreams or targets. This makes it easy to motivate yourself and to remain disciplined to take the necessary direct actions that are required to get you there. If they are too easy to reach, it won’t motivate you. If they are too hard, you will give up. You need to find the sweet-spot in between these poles, where the goal is challenging enough to keep you curious, inspired, and motivated, but not unachievable.


Make your goals tangible


The farmer who sows in the spring, wouldn’t do so if he couldn’t first imagine the rich harvest that should come in the fall. The act of visualising yourself already having achieved the goal is an incredibly powerful tool to motivate yourself, as well as to understand the steps you need to take to get there. Our co-founder Dev Aditya uses it in almost every small thing he does; for instance he is known to deliver a speech in his mind at least ten times, including interacting with the audience he hasn’t seen yet, before actually delivering the speech at an event. Everybody is different in how they do this; some people write down every detail, other people visualise it from a line written about the goal by them and others use a picture or image to get the necessary willpower to get to work. Whatever way you choose; it is important to first put your clearly defined goals on paper. Write them somewhere so that you can see it daily to stay inspired. We at Otermans Institute advice our students to start using the SMART technique as an early tool which prescribes that goals must be Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Relevant and Time-bound.



When defining your goals, be as specific as you can be. Don’t leave out any detail of how the perfect situation is when you have reached that goal. Remember the speech example I gave earlier. It is your goal; you should be happy with the result! The more specifically you define your goal, the more you make the goal work for you. In essence it becomes easier to see yourself having reached the goal and we human beings are known to conform more easily to things and ideas we can visualise and create a connections with.


An example of an unspecific goal is: “I am going to run a marathon”. Questions like When? Where? How? are left unanswered. A more specific way of defining this goal is: “I am going to run the 2021 Mumbai Marathon”. Now you know what you are going to do, but there are still a lot of questions left unanswered. These will be explored in the following points of the SMART technique.



How do you measure your progress and success for instance when you are going to ‘run’ the marathon? For instance do you know if you will allow yourself a break, or walk a couple hundred meters during the race? Do you want to finish within a certain time? You need to define your goal in such a way that it is measurable and allows you to understand whether you are making progress towards achieving it, and when you have achieved it. We can improve on our marathon example by putting some numbers and conditions to it: “I am going to run the 2021 Mumbai Marathon with a finishing time of less than 4 hours and without walking during the race”.



This one goes two ways! Firstly, it must be acceptable in a way that it is acceptable to demand of yourself making the necessary settlements, sacrifices and to retain the discipline to achieve the task. This means, set honest expectations for yourself. This will help you to keep motivated and to know exactly what you are working for, and why.


In our example of the 2021 Mumbai marathon, you might realise that 2021 is around the corner and you can’t demand these sacrifices of yourself in such a short time. Therefore, the goal becomes the 2022 Mumbai marathon as it is more honest and realistic. Secondly, it should also be acceptable for your surroundings. Your goals shouldn’t expect unacceptable things of other people in your close environment. This makes sure that your goals are attainable and won’t end in a disaster for anyone, including you. In our example of the 2022 Mumbai marathon you can include that you won’t hurt anybody or you won’t ignore your job and family for it. In fact, you can even choose to run for a good cause! So do you have it in you to push yourself to the limits for this goal?



Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life to take. By keeping goals aligned with your dreams, you will find the motivation you need to be disciplined in doing the things you have to do come easily. It will also make it less demanding to recognise and enjoy your progress towards that long-term goal, as if you are achieving two goals at the same time! For example, if your long-term goal is to run that marathon, a short-term goal of reading up on training advice can become enjoyable, because you see justification in the reason for doing that. This is exactly what I also meant by the small bits you can do daily to achieve your bigger dream at the beginning of this lesson. Assuming everybody wants to be healthy in life, I would take the liberty of saying that completing the goal of running that marathon fits that bigger picture.


Another example is if you always wanted to raise money for a charity you believed it. You can now run the marathon and sponsor the charity through any money raised in support of your marathon run.



Without clear deadlines, how do you know by when to reach the goal? Can you spend the next 50 years working towards that goal, or do you want to achieve it by a specific date? Why not challenge yourself and set a hard deadline on it: “I am going to run the Mumbai Marathon with a finishing time of less than 4 hours and without walking on the 23rd of January 2022 for which I will need to make a strict diet plan and training routine by December 2020”.


Tip: Write your goals in positive language. Using phrases like “I will” and “I can” instead of “I want” and “maybe” make it automatically easier to visualise yourself there, to feel the thrill of success and to be excited about that goal and achieving it.


Using this tip, the goal of running a marathon can directly be rewritten as “I will be so healthy and fit that I will run the Mumbai Marathon with a finishing time of less than 4 hours without walking during the race on the 23rd of January 2022.”


Put it into action!


Apart from just using techniques like the SMART method, you will also need to put things into action. If you just sit and wait to achieve a goal, your chances of getting there are zero” despite making the list or planning for it on paper. You will have to make an effort, know what you have to do to reach the goal and how you are going to do that. First, list the activities and then check what resources you will need to perform these activities and how you can access these resources, for example:


“I need ₹15,000 for running clothes, shoes and nutrition. I can earn this in three months by doing a part-time job. That leaves me three months to do my research on what shoes and clothes are best for me, how to avoid injuries and how to make the best progress through training and nutrition. With that information, I can make a training plan to go from being able to run 2 kilometers in 12 minutes to running 26.2 kilometers in 4 hours before the 26th of January 2022.”


Some people like to keep their goals to themselves, but it could motivate you to tell your goals to someone close to you. This can help you to be honest about your progress, and you can get valuable feedback and even tips from the person you shared your goals with. In fact, they can also regularly check up on your progress and keep you on track.  Sharing can only help you to achieve those goals.


Finally, it is important to remember that failing to reach a goal does not matter much, as long as you can reflect back and see that you gave it your best shot. It should have helped you build up an understanding of what you did wrong and you should have learnt from the experience to better prepare for next time. Fall in love with your mistakes, they are your best lessons in life.

Tips & Exercises for the 'lock down'


Self: Now you are at home, you will have the time to write down your goals on paper, and develop an action plan to reach those. Start with some small, short-term goals to get the feeling of planning and to develop discipline to focus on these goals. For instance, you might want to get back in shape but are locked in your house now. Why not set a goal to eat 3 pieces of fruit a day for the next few weeks and to do 100 star jumps every morning right after you wake up? Also remember not to underestimate consciously planning for these smaller goals; you don’t want to wake up one day, ready for your apple and realise you have run out. Also, don’t feel shy to give yourself a small reward for achieving the goal, you’ve deserved it!


You can also use this exercise to plan and prepare an open source project from your home that we covered in our previous lesson. Just ensure it is in life with your life’s vision and core goal.


Family: After a nice dinner with your family, take out a notepad and start writing down ideas for goals that you can achieve as a family. For example, all of you may want to have the front-garden cleaned up. Again, make a plan and visualise your common goal; how do you want the front-garden to look like this summer? Do you have the necessary equipment like a lawn mower? Have you got the flower seeds and weed killer? It doesn’t need to be the lawn and can be anything from re-settling your old CD collection to polishing the furniture of the house. Remember besides being able to enjoy that front-garden or your assembled CD collection together as a family, also take the time to celebrate all the hard work you’ve done collectively to make it ready!


Don’t forget to ask us at Otermans Institute for more suggestions and tips using the form below. We would also love to hear your goals and how you are aiming to achieve them through the same form or via email on

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