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Goal Setting for 2022: Types of Goals

I like to look at three major categories of goals: Big Picture goals, Milestone goals, and Mini goals (or action steps). Each has its own components, qualities, and needs. Let's look at them one by one.

Big Picture Goals

These are the long-term goals that are not achievable in one step. They take time and effort and are likely made up of a series of smaller goals. If we think of goal setting like hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, these are the mountain themselves. They are major shifters and lead us closer to living a life aligned with our values.

When coming up with big picture goals, it's important that you're excited, inspired, motivated, and dreaming big. Don't worry about the details yet -- that's what the other goal types are for.

Examples of big picture goals are things like:

  • Being a more loving parent or partner

  • Having a healthy lifestyle

  • Creating a more just world

  • Doing work that makes me proud

  • Developing my spiritual practice

See how they're just a little vague, but potentially really enticing? These are the goalposts, the mountain summits, the peaks. Once we have these, things will be different.

Milestone Goals

Milestone goals are where the rubber starts to hit the road. Milestone goals are the base camps along your hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro. There are usually several that nest up under a big picture goal, and some of them can be easy, one-offs, but often these milestone goals are also multi-step goals that take some breaking down to be able to achieve them.

Milestone goals also require you to do some calculations and specifications, because milestone goals must be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.


  • SMART goals say exactly what you want to achieve. Narrow it down to the most detailed level you can. For example, “Increase time away from television by 10%” rather than, “Watch less TV.”


  • How will you know when you’ve succeeded? Find some way to measure what change has taken place in terms of quantity, quality, cost, etc. I recommend starting all goal setting with a benchmark of where you are now -- if your goal is to be "healthier," what's your current "health rating"?


  • Be realistic, but aim to stretch yourself. Too low and you won’t have any challenge. Unrealistically high expectations will be de-motivating and disappointing.


  • It’s important that your goals apply to your situation at hand and are related to the life you have now and not some fantasy, non-Covid influenced life. There’s no point in setting a goal to ski the double black diamond trail if your ankle is broken this winter. Similarly, when global travel is still up in the air, don't plan your world tour.


  • Set realistic target times. Pinpointing a time for achieving -- or at least reviewing and renegotiating -- sub-goals can help break down what may seem an enormous task, and provide the motivation to start.

Some examples of SMART goals (using two of the Big Picture goals above):

  • Being a more loving parent or partner

    • Have a date night (as specifically defined by you -- it could be dates in the house or going out) 2x a month until June

    • Identify and read a book on loving relationships by April

    • Hire a coach to work on being more loving by February

  • Having a healthy lifestyle

    • Replacing a burger with a salad twice a week until October

    • Getting my cholesterol checked by February

    • Reducing cholesterol by 10% by December

    • Walking 3x a week for 30 minutes each time until June

For all of the examples above, you can tell they're SMART because when you ask "can I identify when this is done?" the answer is yes.

Mini Goals or Action Steps

These goals help you break down things into bite-sized chunks that you can accomplish in short, reasonable amounts of time on a daily or regular basis. Sometimes the emotions we have around goals can keep us from seeing the next step forward, and using mini-goals or action steps can make all the difference.

For example, if you have fear around health issues, saying "getting my cholesterol checked by February" can be more than you can tackle in one sitting. That's fine, and knowing that makes all the difference! Take a moment to break that goal down into components, things like:

  • Find doctor's number

  • Make appointment for physical

  • Have appointment for physical

  • Get cholesterol results

If this level of detail feels like too much for you, that's great, skip it. But if you find yourself not making progress on a goal, it could be because you don't have clear next steps or because the progress is so slow that it's not motivating.

In the end, your goals can look like an outline for an amazing essay on your year:

  1. Big Picture Goal 1

    1. Milestone Goal 1

      1. Mini-Goal a

      2. Mini-Goal b

      3. Mini-Goal c

      4. Mini-Goal d

    2. Milestone Goal 2

      1. Mini-Goal a

      2. Mini-Goal b

      3. Mini-Goal c

  2. Big Picture

    1. Milestone Goal 1

      1. Mini-Goal a

      2. Mini-Goal b

      3. Mini-Goal c

      4. Mini-Goal d

    2. Milestone Goal 2

      1. Mini-Goal a

      2. Mini-Goal b

      3. Mini-Goal c

      4. Mini-Goal d

      5. Mini-Goal e

    3. Milestone Goal 3

    4. etc.

    5. etc.

    6. etc.

Want some support for your goal setting? Book a free consultation. I'm always happy to help!

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