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Expert Series: Go For The Goal
By Alissa Finerman

What does it mean to truly thrive? Does it mean to have a fabulous career, great friends, a loving partner or a fulfilling day? This is the question each person needs to define for oneself. I know one thing for sure, you need to set goals and make choices to thrive.

I equate thriving with the phrase living in your top 1%, which I’ve defined below.

LIVING IN YOUR TOP 1%: The practice of using all your strengths, talents, and assets to live your best life possible. Living with this philosophy includes taking the words can’t, should, and impossible out of your vocabulary and believing that you can create whatever you commit to. It’s about reaching your personal best without comparing yourself to others. 

Living in your top 1% is about having a vision, making progress in key areas, and understanding that small shifts in mindset produce powerful shifts in behavior. Top 1% living requires that you believe in yourself and take action. It does not depend on your age, the size of your bank account, or your education. It is not about attaining perfection or being better than others. Living in your top 1% is about living life to your fullest potential and being your best.

My first book, Living in Your Top 1%, shares nine essential rituals to practice this way of life. This article will focus on the fourth ritual, Go for the Goal (the actual ritual is to set goals every quarter).

Goals are a path to increasing your chances of a desired outcome occurring. If the word goal is too daunting, then substitute a more appealing word, such as purpose, aim, desire, or whatever word resonates with you. What I have learned through my coaching practice is that people who thrive set specific and measurable goals that provide a sense of purpose and heighten overall life satisfaction and self-esteem.

BENEFITS OF SETTING GOALS: Extensive research has been done on the benefits of setting goals. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her book The How of Happiness,offers compelling research to support the theme that “people who strive for something personally significant, whether it’s learning a new craft or changing careers, are far happier than those who do not have strong dreams or aspirations. Find a happy person, and you will find a project.”

People who set winning goals will confirm the benefits below. You likely have experienced many of these benefits during your own goal-setting process.

  • Creating the vision and picture for where you want to go.
  • Enhancing your motivation and purpose.
  • Providing a greater sense of excitement each day.
  • Building confidence (the feeling of “I did it”).
  • Increasing accountability and results.

The next time you decide to start a new business, improve your golf game, or learn to be a better public speaker, think about what would make the goal meaningful and specific to you. Every goal has the potential to be great as long as it is a priority and one that you value. Design your goal so that it resonates with you and empowers you to take action.

THE GOAL SETTING PROCESS: A FEW DO’S & DON’TS: Good goal setters use SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) goals to get started. SMART goals are effective for setting a specific goal that can be measured and can be achieved. For example, “I will make twenty sales calls by May 1.” Although this is a clear goal that can be measured, if the person is not motivated to make the calls, it’s unlikely the goal will be achieved. The reality is that SMART goals are a good start, but to thrive, you need to uncover what motivates and energizes you.

You can make your goals come alive by practicing the following Do’s and Don’ts (a more extensive section on goal setting is in the book).



Words on paper take you into another realm—a realm in which your vision becomes crystal clear and action kicks in. Many people talk about their goals, but few actually write them down. It makes a difference. You need to see and feel your goal for maximum results. When you write your goal, it makes you personally accountable. It’s one of the most sacred steps you can take because you enter into a contract with yourself.

This sounds simple but this is one of the stumbling blocks for many clients. It’s not enough for your goal to be important; it must be a tier one priority. I can give you a list of 10 things that are important to me, but that doesn’t mean I do them all. I’m interested in helping you focus on what you want to happen this month, this quarter or this year — do you want to expand your new business, write another book, get in shape, find a different job, take a fabulous vacation or build a relationship. All of these are certainly important but will only happen when you are willing to schedule your priorities rather than prioritize your schedule. I need you to make a conscious choice and decide what gets added to your schedule. You are the CEO of YOU INC. and it’s time for you to step into that role.

This one seems obvious but few people follow it. I want you to pursue goals that you value and care about. I talk to a lot of people who are pursuing a great goal (running a marathon, starting a new business, going to graduate school or working to get promoted) but the outcome if achieved is not that exciting. Please double check to make sure the goal you are pursuing matches your values (such as kindness, respect, adventure, community, health etc) and excites you. Otherwise, your motivation will waiver and it will be challenging when you hit an obstacle.



Lists can be very effective but when you are setting goals do not let a to-do list trick you into thinking you have a goal. A goal is not picking up your dry cleaning, buying food for breakfast, and dropping off your dog at the groomer. The above is a to-do list, and a good one. Goals are something you put effort into, and it’s often a process to achieve them. If your goal sheet looks like a to-do list, think about why each entry is important. Answering the why will usually lead you to your goal.


It takes courage to set a goal. Often, clients set vague goals and do not realize they are vague. Any goal with the words more, better, or try needs to be fine-tuned so that it’s clear what you plan to achieve. I went to a networking event in Los Angeles and talked to a man in his fifties. He asked what I did, and I told him I was an executive coach and focused on goal setting. His goal was to build his business. This is a classic, vague goal. How will you know if you succeeded without having a measurable goal or progress markers? The point is growing your business could mean getting ten new clients, opening offices in three locations, or increasing revenues by 30%. The more specific you can be, the better the result.

VAGUE GOAL: I will try to be healthy.
SPECIFIC GOAL: I want to take care of myself so I can play with and enjoy my children.

VAGUE GOAL: I hope to build my business this year.
SPECIFIC GOAL: I will increase revenues by at least 10% by the end of this year.


Goals are things that you want to do rather than what you should do for yourself, your friends, or your family. When you pursue a “should” goal, such as “I should lose ten pounds,” your commitment level is not high enough to overcome obstacles. Make your goal a priority and you will have much better results. Own your goal and make it authentic. For example, I will exercise regularly because I want to feel energized and maintain my ideal weight. The key is to make sure your goal is specific and meaningful.

CONCLUSION: Setting a goal is one of the best ways you can invest in yourself and thrive in the New Year. Every day is a new chance to take a small step forward. Small steps are one of the secrets to success and will help you build confidence as you move forward. I encourage you to carve out at least fifteen minutes of quiet time to start writing your goals and get started. Remember, there are no limits to what is possible.

If you would like to find out if you are living in your top 1%, please take the quiz and visit my website or

Alissa’s new book, Living in Your Top 1%, will be available January 2011 on

Alissa Finerman Bio:

Alissa Finerman is an author, speaker and motivational coach. She loves to help clients achieve their goals and experience top 1% moments. She is known for her clarity, energy, and ability to redefine your potential. She bridges her experiences as a professional tennis player, Wall Street professional, and motivational coach to inspire others to take that small step forward. She works with individual clients and speaks to corporations about goal setting and reaching your potential.

Alissa holds an MBA from the Wharton School of Business and a BA from the University of California at Berkeley. She received her coach training from New York University.

Alissa lives in Santa Monica, California.

Website:   (take the Living in Your Top 1% Quiz)

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