Goal setting is something that many people, myself included, find or have found difficult to understand and difficult to do. The reason, I believe, is this: in the past, when I would set a "goal" for myself, that goal would be a grand achievement, something that--if attained--would change my life forever. Now that's a good goal to set, of course, but it was not good the way I did it.
When I set a goal like that there would be an emotional rush of excitement at first, but when that faded I would look at the goal and see it as unattainable, because it was so big. I could not see myself getting there.
As you'll know if you watch the movie The Secret, or if you read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, the most important part of hitting a goal is envisioning yourself as having hit it already. This requires most of us to add another step to goal-setting. This step is designed to work with our minds, and the limitations we have made a part of them.
Most of the world has been programmed since the time of their childhood that certain things are attainable, and certain things are not. What those things are differs from person to person, but the basic problem remains the same--we are unable to envision ourselves wealthy, loved, fulfilled, or happy. Or if we are able to visualize that, then at best it remains a weak fantasy, with little or no sway over what we do today, in our day-to-day existence.
That is why we need a plan.
Obviously, the best kind of plan is one where you know all the steps to achieve your goal, and where what you need to do next is laid out plainly. But that is not always going to happen. Many times in my life, I've seen somewhere I want to go, but I have no idea how to get there.
In a case like that, where the goal seems huge and unattainable, and the steps are obscured by the mists of time, then one thing must be done. You must find the component parts of the goal. For instance, if your goal is to write a book, then here are some component parts of it: you must know how to write well, you must have a good story or topic to write about, you must have publisher, an agent, etc.
Now you have some slightly more attainable goals. But maybe you still don't know how to attain them. So you just need to take each one, and keep breaking it down. To get an agent, you need to know what makes a good agent, and what they look for in writers. So one very attainable step you can take then is to study up on agents, go to your local bookstore or library (though info from the library is often somewhat out of date) and pick up a book on how to get an agent. The information in the book will give you more steps to take, and bring you closer to finding an agent.
The above is the physical process of breaking a goal down. Another important part of it is in your head. In your head, the large, overriding goal may feel unattainable. So what you need to do is break it down, using the above process, until you find a step that you can accomplish today. Then, you need to see the step you can do today as not one isolated step, but as the start of a path. Because it is a path that will take you to your goal, you can see the first step as totally necessary, and view the large goal as attainable, even if you don't know all the steps that it will take to get there.
This takes a certain level of trust in the path. You have to take the first step, or however many steps are clear to you, and trust that the next step will be revealed to you when you get there. It's not always easy to do this. This is something that I still struggle with often. But if you can accomplish this, then the goal will be yours. For being on the correct path enables you to visualize yourself at the end of it.
Once you know you're on the right path, once you trust the path to get you there, you can begin to see yourself as having already achieved the goal. When you can do that, you will have it.