3 Ways To Set Business Goals You Can Actually Achieve

As a small business owner you’ve heard a lot about setting goals.  You have to set progress goals in order for your business to grow.  You have set sales goals in order for your business to prosper.  You have to set personal goals in order to get where you want to be in five years, ten years, and even retirement.  Most of what you here is a lot of hooey.  What good is setting all these goals if they aren’t realistic?

Setting unreachable goals can be detrimental to your entrepreneurial spirit and your go get ‘em attitude.  You’re essentially setting yourself up for failure, disappointment, and disillusionment.

But you can’t throw out goal setting altogether—there is still some merit in it.  The key to success is setting goals for yourself and your business that you can actually achieve.

Realize You’re Always in the Present

Steve Pavlina, a personal development coach and public speaker, says that the way we all look at time is nonsensical.  We set goals as a way to divide how we “spend” our time during the day, the upcoming week, or even the next season.  However, as Pavlina says, you can’t spend time—it passes whether we use it or not.  We only exist in the present.  The past has already happened and the future exists only in our imagination.

Before this gets too New Agey, all you have to realize is that setting a goal isn’t about changing the future—you can’t change the future because you never actually reach the future, you’re always in the present.  Pavlian defines goal setting by saying that its purpose “isn’t to control the future.”  Indeed, “The only value in goal-setting is that it improves the quality of your present moment reality.”

It still sounds a little Buddhist monk-like, but Pavlina’s idea isn’t too far from the truth.  Indeed, he suggests that one of the main values of goal setting is not outlining our future, but getting “greater clarity and focus right now.”  In essence, rather than viewing the whole goal setting process as a tool to build a future, you should see it as a tool to provide you focus in the now.

Set Goals For things You Like

As Maura Schreirer-Fleming, a sales strategist and founder of Best@Selling, says “. . . when you realize that you are setting a goal about something you hate, then you also have to face the reality that [achieving it] is going to be a real challenge for you.”  If you go into the process thinking it will be a challenge, it will be doubly so.  You’ll find your resolution flagging and eventually you’ll either give up or end up with an unsatisfactory result.

Instead, consider setting your end goal for something you enjoy.  Maura notes an example where she made a resolution to get more organized in her life (she, apparently, loves organizing things).  This had the added benefit of increasing here efficiency and effectiveness as well as dramatically increasing her time management skills.

You can even turn goals for hated tasks into goals for things you like to do with a little creative brainwashing.  Take Maura’s example.  What would she have done if she hated organizing?  Set a goal and given up on it?  Not likely.  Say she enjoyed being able to cut out early on Fridays or take an extra half-hour during lunches.  Her goal could have been to increase her daily effectiveness in order to get that extra time off.  One “side effect” of the positive goal would have been achieving the thing she didn’t like:  getting her office sorted.

It’s almost like when your parents use to tell you to get your homework done before you could watch TV:  rewards are more powerful motivators than punishments.

Get Real With Yourself

Many times, we fail to reach our goals because we set those goals far too high for ourselves.  Why do we constantly aim for things we can’t possibly hit?  One of the reasons is that many of us see our businesses through rose tinted lenses.

When a business owner has a falsified image of where their business is along the growth and profitability spectrum, they’ll set unreasonable goals for themselves and not even know it.

For example, if you don’t have an accurate picture of your current profits, continuing to rely on project annual profits recorded in your business plan could be a recipe for disaster.  You’ll find yourself overspending, bringing in more inventory and employees than you can afford, and at the end of the year your numbers won’t be anywhere near the goal you set for yourself.

Instead, tear off those rose tinted glasses and take a hard look at where you and your business are at the moment.  This unvarnished examination will give you a much better understanding of what sort of goals are reasonable and what sort are just setting you up for failure.

Don’t Be Afraid to Adjust Your Goals

Another reason we often fail to reach our goals is that we fail to adjust those goals to fit reality.  To many this may seem like cheating—setting the bar after the pole-vaulter has already begun the jump.  However, if you do it carefully it can be an effective and appropriate step for your business.

There is a fine line between adjusting your goals to meet reality and giving yourself a pass because you can’t bear failure.  However, there are very real benefits to actually hitting goals (even if you’ve lowered them to do so).  These benefits include: self-esteem boosts, improved self-image, improved perceived worth, and even a sort of business placebo effect.  So don’t be afraid to tweak your goals if you spot a disconnect; just don’t set your bar too low or you’ll never achieve anything beyond mediocrity.

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