Tony Robbins: Setting Goals for Success

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Awaken the Giant Within" by Tony Robbins. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What does Tony Robbins say about setting goals? How can setting ambitious and inspiring goals help you to achieve them? 

For Tony Robbins, setting goals effectively is the key to success. If you want to change your life for the better, setting manageable yet ambitious goals can help. Tony Robbins’ setting goals advice will show you how to set goals you are more likely to achieve.

Keep reading for Tony Robbins’ setting goals advice.

Tony Robbins: Setting Goals That Inspire You

The drive to improve your life comes from developing a clear, compelling vision of your future, which you can do by following Tony Robbins’ setting goals method. When you set ambitious goals that inspire you, you become excited to pursue them, creating motivation and momentum, even in the face of challenges. 

Following Tony Robbins’ setting goals advice can be scary. Many people who have fallen short of their goals in the past are reluctant to set new ones because they’re afraid of the pain of failing again. To avoid future disappointment, these people often stop formulating clearly defined, actionable goals about what they want in their lives physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially—instead, their goals are merely to get by, pay bills, and survive. They don’t realize that their past failures may not be due to their personal shortcomings, but rather due to: 

  • Poor goal setting: Their goals may have hinged on things that were beyond their control. 
  • Inflexibility: They may have been too rigid to adapt either their goals or their approaches to achieving those goals. 

This chapter will teach you the importance of setting big goals, even if you’ve struggled to set or reach your goals in the past. You’ll learn: 

  • Tony Robbins’ setting goals advice and his best tips.
  • The importance of setting big goals 
  • How focusing intently on your goal helps you achieve it
  • Why not reaching your goal does not necessarily constitute a failure
  • How to set goals that create a vision of your compelling future
  • What to do after you’ve reached your goal

Set Big Goals and Get to Work

To set goals that motivate and inspire you, they must be ambitious—even if that goal initially seems impossible. By setting a goal, you’re creating an image of a destination, and your thoughts and energy begin to naturally move toward reaching that destination (eventually making the seemingly impossible possible). As we’ve discussed, your thoughts determine what you believe to be possible and what realities materialize in your life. Thus, your potential quality of life is limited only by the goals you set and pursue: Conservative goals beget mediocre lives, while ambitious goals beget extraordinary lives. Let your imagination run wild as you dream up your ideal future.

Next, generate a motivating pressure called “eustress,” which is a positive tension that’s created when you set goals. Eustress stimulates you and pushes you toward your goals. Learning to harness this tension is the key to creating the life you want. 

To have eustress, you need some dissatisfaction with your current circumstances to motivate you to work toward improvements. One way to create eustress is to announce your goals to friends who will cheer you on and keep you accountable. 

According to Tony Robbins’ setting goals should be immediately followed by creating a plan to pursue it and start making efforts to achieve it. As you work toward your goal, maintain your enthusiasm and drive to continue. Constant, consistent effort makes the difference between people who live the lives they want and those who fall short. Change your approach as needed—for instance, if your initial approach to meeting your goal doesn’t work—but never take your eyes off your vision.

Focus on Your Goal

While you’re pursuing a goal, it’s important to focus hard on it. When you focus intensely on anything, a part of your brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS) scans your experiences and draws your attention to anything that’s relevant to what you’re focused on. Focusing on your goal signals your RAS to notice resources and opportunities that can help you achieve that goal. 

Thanks to your RAS, you don’t have to know how you’ll achieve a goal when you set it, because your RAS will help you find the resources. All you have to do is to focus intently on your goal, dedicate consistent effort to it, and trust your RAS to reveal a way to achieve it. 

Don’t Equate Not Reaching Your Goal With Failure

An important aspect of Tony Robbins’ setting goals advice is what to do when you can’t reach your goal. When you work hard to pursue a goal, it can be disappointing when you don’t reach it—but there are two reasons that not reaching your goal does not equate to failure:

  1. You benefit from the experience of pursuing a goal. As we discussed, setting big goals is inspiring, and you can enjoy happiness and meaningfulness in the pursuit of them. By the same token, happiness is not contingent upon achieving your goals—rather, you must decide to be happy and make a consistent effort to be happy right now, and that joy will help you to succeed (even if that doesn’t mean achieving this particular goal). (Shortform note: Read our summary of The Happiness Advantage to learn about the scientific proof that happiness improves performance.) 
  2. In not reaching your goal, you could achieve something even better, even if it’s unexpected. Sometimes, the journey itself is more important than the finish line, not only because of the happiness and meaningfulness you feel, but also because it brings you through experiences that shape and prepare you for your destiny. For example, Little House on the Prairie actor Michael Landon had dreams of becoming a track and field star, but those aspirations were dashed when he was injured in college. However, the athletic training he’d done and the confidence he’d gained through the sport prepared him for an unexpected opportunity to audition for a role on the TV show Bonanza.

Apply It: Create Your Compelling Future

It’s time for you to set some goals to create your own compelling future. You’ll create goals for the four main areas of your life: personal development, career and finances, leisure, and giving back. 

As you follow this exercise, write down exactly what you would want your life to be like if you knew you could do anything. Do a stream-of-conscious brainstorming session of short- and long-term goals, writing without censoring yourself, as if you were a child writing a fantastical Christmas wish list. Don’t get bogged down in the details now—just get down the basics. And, as you write down your vision, believe that you will achieve it. 

First, brainstorm your personal goals: 

  1. Write down all the ways you’d like to improve your personal growth—physically, mentally, socially, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. You may want to consider what knowledge or skills you want to gain, what character traits you want to cultivate, and who you want to be. Write for at least five minutes without stopping. 
  2. Review your list and assign a timeline for each goal, in terms of years. You don’t need to know how you’ll achieve your goals, but deciding when you’ll reach them creates momentum and aids your progress. 
  3. Review your one-year goals and decide which is your top priority. Spend two minutes writing a few sentences about why this is the number-one goal you want to accomplish this year, how it would benefit you, and what would happen if you didn’t reach it. 
  4. Review your reasons for pursuing your top one-year goal, and determine whether these reasons are compelling enough to spur you to action. You not only need to know what you want to achieve, but you also must be clear on why you want to achieve it. If your reasons aren’t compelling enough to energize and motivate you, brainstorm better reasons or a more inspiring goal. 

Next, do the same for your career and finance goals, leisure goals, and philanthropic goals. Consider a few questions as you brainstorm goals for each category: 

  1. Career and finances: What kind of job would you want? How much money do you want to have? What goals do you have for your company? When do you want to retire? How much do you want to be able to spend on things like travel and gadgets?
  2. Leisure: What kind of home or vehicle would you want to buy? What kinds of events would you want to attend? What kinds of adventures would you want to experience? Where would you want to travel?
  3. Giving back: What kinds of activities could you do to improve the lives of others? How could you contribute to social and environmental causes, such as cleaning the oceans? 

Now, you should have one high-priority goal in each of these four categories. Take a few minutes to write down the skills, beliefs, attitudes, and character traits you need to achieve each of these four goals. 

Finally, create a list of achievable actions that you can do to make progress toward each goal every day for the next 10 days. They can be small actions, such as making a phone call or drafting a plan. Whatever it is, start doing them immediately in order to capitalize on the momentum you’ve already created by writing your goals down. This will further solidify your commitment to your goals, and it will help you continue the momentum towards achieving them.

Review all of your goals every six months or so, and revise or reprioritize them as needed. You can also do a new brainstorming session at that point, and you may consider adding or eliminating some goals. 

Focus on Success

Now, you have four high-priority goals that you want to achieve in the next year, along with compelling reasons to do so. Ensure that your RAS tunes into everything that could help you reach those goals by: 

  • Looking at these goals every day—write them down and put the list somewhere you’ll see it constantly, such as your bathroom mirror or your desk.
  • At least twice a day, rehearse what it’ll be like to achieve each of these four goals. Vividly envision the moment and the emotions you’ll feel when you accomplish these dreams—imagine what you’ll see, hear, and feel. Do this daily and with increasing emotional intensity.

Rehearsing success conditions your nervous system to feel the pleasure of achievement, which strengthens the neural pathways needed to pursue your goals and increases your drive and conviction that you can achieve your goals. As you become more certain that you will accomplish your goals, that certainty will drive your decisions and actions to bring that vision to life. 

Have Goals on Deck

When you get close to achieving your goals, cue up the next set of goals that you’ll soon begin pursuing. You’ll doubtlessly feel accomplished and energized when you reach your goals, but after the initial excitement wears off, you’ll need something else to motivate you—otherwise, you may feel deflated. For example, several of the astronauts who were the first to land on the moon fell into depression after returning to earth; they’d spent their entire lives preparing to go to space, so now what were they supposed to do? Having new goals lined up will stave off this feeling of emptiness. 

If you run out of personal goals to queue up, there are endless ways to create goals for helping others: Choose a cause like homelessness, environmental protection, or child poverty, and find a way to help personally or to work with an organization that tackles that problem. Unfortunately, these issues are so large that there are plenty of individual goals you can make to contribute to their improvement and ultimate resolution. (Shortform example: You could set a goal to organize a community effort to clean up a local park.)

Tony Robbins: Setting Goals for Success

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  • How you create your destiny every time you start a sentence with “I am…”
  • Strategies to take control of your thoughts and emotions

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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