Turn Your Dream Into a Reality with 1-3-5 Goal-Setting

A goal setting planning notepad on a white table next to three colorful pens

If you’ve ever had trouble making a plan for your goals, you’re not alone.

After all, there is a lot that goes into goal planning and there are also a lot of unknowns. You’re likely to encounter a few bumps along the way, and without the proper groundwork you could be derailed completely (we’ve all been there!).

A 1-3-5 goal setting plan is an easy way to stay on track. 

What is it? Think of the 1-3-5 method as a roadmap. It was popularized by leaders at Keller Williams, a nationwide real estate company, but it has the ability to help professionals of all backgrounds and skill levels set and execute goals.

Sometimes called a GPS plan (Goals, Priorities, Strategy), the method is a holistic overview of what you want to accomplish and how to get there.

It helps you excel because it is expansive and pushes you to be thorough — two important ingredients of goal setting.

To get started, it’s best to grab a piece of paper and start brainstorming. This is a plan that can be easily visualized. At the top you’ll have your one main goal. Below that, list three strategies that will help you achieve that goal, and for each strategy spell out five tactics that help build the strategy. 

In a lot of ways, it’s like a flow chart. If you work best with visualization, this is a strategy for you!

When you’re finished planning, you should be able to see your 15 tactics as the building blocks, the strategies as the structure, and the goal as the achievement. You can even think of it like a construction project. You’d never put a roof on a house without the bricks to build the walls; you can't achieve your goal without the right tools and steps planned out.

This plan works for so many people and so many goals because it takes the guesswork out of how you’ll reach your goal. Here is how you can do it.

1. Choose your goal 

Whether you want to find a new job, meet a big health or wellness goal, or even spend more time with friends or family, you can make a plan with the 1-3-5 method. 

The most important part of choosing a goal is to be specific. If you want to earn more income, figure out that number. Maybe it’s $2,000 more a month or $20,000 a year. If you have a goal to exercise more, make your aim measurable, like running a 5k or completing three workouts a week. 

Choosing a goal might take some soul searching about what is possible and what your resources allow. The next steps are all about how to achieve this goal through strategy, so make sure whatever you set out to do is realistic — that won’t mean it won’t be challenging, but at least you’ll have a sound destination to work toward.

When writing this plan out, put it at the top of your page. Underneath, you’ll list your strategies.

2. List 3 strategies 

The next step of the 1-3-5 method is to list three strategies that will contribute to your goal’s success. Oftentimes, we think about the road to success as being one-way, but there is always more than one way to get to your destination. 

Yes, they might not all be equally fast or even efficient, but when you hit a roadblock, you’ll be grateful you accounted for different avenues. Being able to re-route when it comes to achieving your goals is actually a good thing. The more ways you have to succeed, the more likely you will!

For example, if your goal is to find a new job, your strategies might look like: More networking, working with a recruiter, applying at new companies. Each of these methods could very well have the same outcome (your goal), but what you’ll have to do to make each of them work looks a little different. 

3. Name 5 tactics 

These five tactics will support each of your three strategies. They can be considered step-by-step on how to nail those three pathways to your goal. In relation to the other two steps, the tactics may seem like the smallest pieces because they are more specific, but they are arguably most important. In some instances you could even look at the tactics as a to-do list. 

In the example of finding a new job, your networking strategy might include tactics like: 

  • Find or join organizations and events related to your desired profession
  • Print business cards to distribute at events
  • Re-evaluate contacts from the past and present
  • Schedule a lunch or coffee break with relevant acquaintances each week
  • Send follow up/check-in emails to people you’ve previously networked with

Overall, these things might seem small or even completely separate from your main goal, but that’s okay! They’re another piece of the machine that helps you get there. 

As you work through these tactics, whatever they may be, you’ll start to make progress on your strategies and eventually reach your goal.

Finding success with 1-3-5 goal setting

It’s important to remember that attaining goals is difficult. Whether it’s forming a habit (or breaking one), work-related or part of a team effort, goals will most always involve a lot of moving parts. And sometimes they aren’t in your control. 

Being able to visualize a process is where this method really shines, and research shows that by writing down your goals, you’re more likely to accomplish them.

So, grab a notebook or a journal and dedicate it to what you want to accomplish. 

It’s also important to honestly evaluate your progress. Hold yourself accountable by talking about your goals to friends, family members or a colleague. You’re more likely to stick with a plan that way. 

As you make your way through each tactic, it’s worth asking whether it contributed to the strategy in the way you wanted it to. And in the end, did it serve the goal? 

Reflecting is as much of the process as any other step, because to achieve goals is to learn along the way.

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