January 4, 2023

The Importance of Goal Setting for Entrepreneurs

Samantha Bell

Make Your New Year's Resolutions a Reality

Setting goals is one of the most important skills an entrepreneur can cultivate. But not all goals are created equal. It's not just which goals you set, but how you set them that will factor into your eventual success. As there is no set path or playbook for entrepreneurs and their respective business ventures, effective goal setting is essential to provide structure and direction, bolster commitment, and increase accountability. The start of a new year is an enticing time to plan for major acts of reinvention and set lofty aspirations, whether for professional or personal benefit, but all too often, these goals remain mere fantasies. Whether your aim is to construct your initial business plan, hire employees, or feel less stressed on the job, there are methods and mindsets you can adopt to increase your chances of meeting your objectives.

In and of itself, goal setting is the ability to precisely identify your unique needs and execute a process to attain them. This first requires some internal reflection. All growth begins by recognizing an area for improvement, so take stock of what is missing or not working in your career or business. What issues can you remedy, and what's going well that you can implement more of? Is there a gap between where you find yourself presently, and the position you'd rather be in? If so, pinpoint what's within your sphere of influence that can bridge that divide.

It's also worthwhile to distinguish a 'want' from a goal: wanting is passive desire for a certain outcome, regardless of practicality, but a goal provides a route forward and makes up part of a broader strategy. "A new pair of shoes" is a want, but "saving x amount of money per month to afford new shoes" is a goal. Wants cannot be tracked with data and metrics; goals can and often should be. After all, the only thing separating a goal from a wish is a concrete plan!

Entrepreneurs, in particular, rely upon decisive and clear goal-setting in day-to-day life. From as early as writing the mission statement, it's important to know where you want to go – and how you intend to get there. Goals make up the very identity of your business and brand: they encapsulate your essential, basic functions as an entity. A business enterprise is ever-evolving, and goals provide a sense of structure and a projection for an uncertain future. Set them wisely, and they'll propel you forward.

One surefire way to formulate an actionable goal is to use the acronym SMART, making certain it is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. These criteria were established by corporate consultant George T. Doran in his 1981 publication, There's a SMART Way to Write Management's Goals and Objectives. The conditions speak for themselves, but to extrapolate, they help ensure that:

Your goal is whittled down to its most basic essence and lacks any vagueness or overreach (Specific);

Your progress towards – or away from – your goal is trackable with graphs or numbers (Measurable);

Your goal is theoretically reachable given your particular skills and constraints (Achievable);

You've selected a goal that is likely to reap professional benefits and complement the mission of your organization (Relevant);

And deadlines are in place to keep up momentum and avoid pitfalls such as procrastination (Time-Bound).

So, you have an aspiration in mind – now what? The work is only just beginning. Follow-through is not guaranteed, and maintaining a goal to fulfillment is a skill in itself. Keep reading to learn the best methods to use when chasing your next major milestone.

  • Physically write out or type your goals on a piece of paper instead of merely holding them in your mind. The more frequently you see it, the better.
  • Map out any foreseeable obstacles you are likely to encounter, and strategize how to face them before they occur.
  • Progress towards your goal in the smallest increments possible. Subdivide it into easy-to-accomplish, satisfying steps. Start by biting off as little as you can chew, and expand from there.
  • Establish a tantalizing rewards system to keep yourself encouraged along the way. Recognize and celebrate your wins as they occur.
  • Visualize your future accomplishments as tangibly as possible. What will it feel like when you reach that goal? Look like? Manifest it in your mind's eye as if success is an inevitable outcome.
  • Don't be afraid to allow room for adjustments or plan B's. Being adaptable does not signify a failure. If a goal does not come to fruition, maybe it's time to pivot.
  • Employ proven project management techniques (i.e. Agile, Scrum) and softwares (i.e. Asana, Monday.com) to stay organized and streamline your workflow.
  • Take your goal public to keep yourself accountable to the expectations of those around you. Tell your trusted allies what you intend to achieve to provide extrinsic motivation.
  • Focus on progress, not immediate results. Record every move you make in a positive direction to remind yourself what you've invested and how far you've already come.
  • Mix up short- and long-term goals so tasks at hand don't seem insurmountable, and the stakes aren't always high. Alternatively, set "good, better, and best" levels to any given goal, gradually increasing in difficulty.