Goals - The Ultimate Guide

Self-care, boundaries, mindfulness, and a business strategy in line with your values. They are the pillars of a crisis-proof business. How do you build those pillars? By setting and achieving goals. Being able to set and achieve goals is the entrepreneur's bread & butter. It's also quite often the bane of the entrepreneur's existence, the #1 thing we consistently struggle with. Let's talk about that, starting with a story...

A while back, my husband and I had a candid conversation with our family doctor. We're both in our 40s and feel like we need to make a bigger effort to lead a healthier life. Neither of us believes in "just taking a pill for it" and continuing on with our old ways {yet, we do}. We're both at a point where the aches and pains of middle age are setting in {no, 45 is not the new 35} and where we realize we need to start changing our ways now, if we want to enjoy our retirement with travelling, instead of having our diapers changed in an old folks' home.

One of the things our doctor said was something along the lines of the pain not being big enough or the situation not being serious enough yet, otherwise making a change would not even be up for discussion - we'd just do it. That got me thinking {of course it did} - and while I think he's right when it comes to our health, the whole concept also applies to "business".


Wanting something bad enough is a powerful catalyst for setting goals and making changes. Do you want to be your own boss bad enough, to take the leap into self-employment? Or is being employed just a bit too convenient? Do you want to increase your profits bad enough, to make the necessary changes?  Or do you get by just fine and the extra effort seems just a bit too much? Do you want to submit your writing to different publications bad enough, and face your fear of rejection? Or is the thought that you could, if you had time, good enough? Do you want to make some wardrobe upgrades bad enough, to appear more professional? Or is running to the post office in your yoga pants just too damn easy? {O.K. - that might just be me.}


Lots of people - including me - want to do lots of things and never do. Because it's too scary, too hard, not rewarding enough, too inconvenient.... Either approach is fine - you just have to own it. Yes, some things will forever be daydreams and wishful thinking, but remember, that at some point, you made the decision that you didn’t want it bad enough.


There are two kinds of people in this world: people who don't change their ways until they are forced to in one way or another; and people who want it bad enough to make changes before sh*t hits the fan. Which group do you want to be in? I’m going to take a guess - you want to be in the second group, right? That’s a good start, especially for an entrepreneur! So what’s keeping you from taking the first step? I know you look at plenty of inspirational pictures on Pinterest. They are really inspiring, eh? The problem? You look at that inspirational picture, feel all the inspirational feelings, and think all the inspired thoughts. Then you go back to doing whatever you were doing before, because all you have to do is "believe", right?


Here's the thing - sometimes, a pretty picture and a fancy font just aren't enough. Sometimes you have to roll up those sleeves and dig in. Dig deep. And get to work. Lots of people have a hard time defining and setting goals. Because in order to take action? You have to want it bad enough and you need to know what for. 


Are you all fired up and ready to commit to a few goals now? Great, because this was just the prequel to make sure you're on board - the real work starts now! 


it's gotta be you

Apart from the fact that you have to set the goal, it also has to be completely and genuinely yours. Not someone else’s. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? It’s not. Think about how many times you set a goal that wasn’t yours. It could have been to reach a grade your parents wanted you to have in high school. It could have been trying out for a sports team you didn’t want to play on - but your Aunt Betty really wanted you to. It could have been a ridiculous weight goal you set because of someone’s condescending remarks, even though you feel perfectly happy with your body. 


It’s the same when it comes to your business. Your business goals have to be yours as well. Not what a business coach says, not what members of a Facebook group say, and not what your best friend says. You can certainly ask all those people for advice and consider their ideas, but in the end it has to be your decision, based on what’s best for your business and what aligns with your business plans and strategy. 


One sure-fire way to know that there’s an issue with your goal-setting? The word “should”. If it shows up anywhere in your goal or even your considerations around your goal, you have to take a very close look. Chances are, someone else’s ambitions/dreams/ideas snuck in there like a cuckoo, getting comfortable in your nest. There’s no room for that in your business, so get the phony egg out of there and re-evaluate. 


but why?

Your goal has to have a purpose. There has to be a “why”.  And the purpose cannot be to achieve the goal. {I know that’s what you just thought.} Your goal has to serve a purpose, and it has to align with your purpose {= it’s your goal, true to what you want to do and where you want to take your business}. Let’s look at a couple of examples:


You are a Real Estate agent and want to be able to sell properties to international clients. You set the goal to get certified for international transactions. That goal serves a purpose. If you wanted to get certified because other agents in your office did, then it would not pass the purpose test. The goal also aligns with your purpose, which essentially means that it’s genuinely your goal, not someone else’s. 


You are a freelance copywriter, and want to get certified by a freelance trade organization to be able to charge a higher hourly rate. Your goal serves the purpose of being able to earn more money, so you’re on the right track. If you only wanted to get certified to prove to Uncle Bob that you’re really a writer and run a legit business, then it’s a fail for the purpose test. Uncle Bob is still going to be a jerk, even if you’re certified - and you know that.


All this talk about purpose… Let’s have a quick look at that to make sure we’re on the same page. If you want to live a life and run a business by design rather than default, you need purpose. Purpose is what separates default from design. If you want to find out what your purpose is, you start with your baseline. Find out what your default actions and reactions are, and look for a common thread, look for a pattern. Next you check those patterns against your values and beliefs. If your actions and reactions align with your values, you’re living your purpose. Of course there are many different ways to live by design, and to run your business by design. 


ripe with possibility

Possibility of success and failure, that is. If success is certain, then it’s a task, not a goal. If failure is certain, then it’s a learning experience, not a goal. To set and crush your goals like a boss, you have to be comfortable with the concepts of both failure and success. Be aware of what they mean in relation to your goal and embrace the possibility of both.


Let’s have a look at failure first. Failure. Does that word give you goosebumps {not in a good way}? Does it tell you that you’re not good enough? Does it make you feel like it’s pointless to try and better to just give up? Failure. So sneaky. A tragedy, really. Because it’s part of life and you can’t escape it - and while you have to fail to learn and grow, it makes you feel like a loser nonetheless. Enough of the doomsday talk now! Failure is just what the doctor ordered. How are you supposed to learn, grow, and optimize, when you’ve never tasted the bittersweetness of failure? Failure means that you did not have the desired outcome, and what’s wrong with that? Nothing. Because you can try again, and next time you’ll already know that much more about how not to do it. What a great way to learn!


Embrace the possibility of failure when setting your goals, and be aware of the learning opportunities they present, rather than beating yourself up for not being good enough. Want to dig deeper and get comfortable with the concept? Think about a few recent failures {be honest with yourself}, and write down what you learned from each. 


Now let’s have a look at success. Sweet, sweet success. You want to be successful. Success means money and power, and you want a slice of that - right? Not necessarily - think again! Success is defined as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and let’s just agree that does not have to equate money and power. If failure is a learning experience, then success is fulfillment. And how exactly that fulfillment looks like is entirely up to you. We often associate intangible words like success with something grand, and feel like achieving our humble goals won’t qualify as a success. Newsflash! You don’t have to agree with anyone else’s definition of success. You can define it for yourself, in a way that makes you say "somebody ring a bell" {Oprah voice}! You can aim as high or as low as you want; the important thing is that you have a good understanding of what it means to you, and what it means in relation to your goal. 



Whether we’re talking about failure, success, or how committed you are to achieve your goal - it all comes back to you in the end. Because it is about YOU. You define failure and success for yourself, and you decide what to commit to. Aim to be accountable to yourself - because nobody else is going to care. It’s nobody’s responsibility but yours to stay on track. Sure, you can cheat on setting and achieving goals, there is no accountability police. But in the end? You’re only cheating yourself, and I hate to break this to you - cheaters don’t get to whine. They just have to suck it up.


Having trouble being accountable? Finding yourself making excuses why you can’t seem to stay on track? That’s a sure-fire sign that there’s an issue with one {or all} of the elements I mentioned above. Make sure the goal is truly yours, it serves a purpose, and you’re comfortable with the possibility of failure and success as they relate to the goal - and accountability will be a piece of cake.


Here are a few tips to stay on track and rock out accountability:

  • Check in regularly - whether you prefer to keep track with an app, or with pen and paper - set a timeline for your goal and check in on a regular basis to see if you’re still on track.
  • Reward yourself - no goal is achieved in one step {then it’s just a task}, and chances are there will be some milestones on the way. When you hit one, take a few moments to celebrate. {Whatever that looks like for you. For me? Lindor chocolates. Sigh}
  • Cut yourself some slack - being accountable does not mean you have to be a hardass. Chances are, your road to achieving your goals will be filled with ups and downs. Such is life. And after a down? You don’t have to start over from scratch. It’s ok to pick up where you left off and keep going.
  • Call in reinforcements - yes, accountability comes back to you in the end, but sometimes it’s helpful to talk to other people about what you want to be accountable for. Whether it’s in business or your personal life, accountability groups can be an excellent tool for staying on track.

add 3 oz. of perspective

Perspective is essential for achieving your goal, because it will put it to the test. You’ve done the work to get to this point, now it’s time to put your goal through the wringer. 


Here are some questions to ask yourself (by no means an exhaustive list, but something to get you started):

  • What’s the worst case scenario for each step of this goal? Do you still want it bad enough to give it your best shot?
  • What would your best friend say?
  • What would your worst critic say?
  • What would it take to give up?
  • What’s the best case for each step of the goal? Does it make you want it even more, or take the wind out of your sails, because you don’t feel challenged anymore?
  • Are you setting the bar too low?
  • Are you setting the bar too high?
  • Is this the best possible goal you can set for your business right now?
  • Is your goal actionable enough or too abstract?
  • Do you have a support system to fall back on for advice?

Look at your goal from every possible angle. Get different opinions and ask about experiences in professional groups or at networking events. We often assume that we’ve considered every possible scenario and based our decision on tried and true fact, just to be caught off guard by something in plain sight, which we’ve completely overlooked. And by “we”, I mean myself. And you. I mean you, because I know you’ve been there too. Putting your goal into perspective has nothing to do with doubting what you came up with. It’s a way to check in with your commitment and expectations, and to increase your chances of reaching your goal. Nothing wrong with that, eh?


Which goal will you tackle first?