Susan Ward wrote about small businesses for The Balance Small Business for 18 years. She has run an IT consulting firm and designed and presented courses on how to promote small businesses.
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Updated January 21, 2020
Setting achievable goals for yourself is a simple and repetitive route toward larger, more ambitious goals—the kind generally referred to as a five-year plan, or as “dreams.” Goal setting requires both achievement and failure, so it’s important to appreciate both when practicing any new personal or professional discipline.
The difference between a resolution and a goal is the planning and incrementation needed to achieve one’s objective.
A New Year’s resolution is only one small step above a wish; it’s an intention with a vague or nonexistent plan, and without documentation or granular attention to detail.
Goal setting demands a desired result, and could be simply defined as the process of deciding what to accomplish, and then devising a plan. The implication of setting a goal is that we desire change, and in this way, goal setting is an intellectual exercise used to plan for the future and achieve some semblance of our present dreams.
Resolutions are passive and goals are active.
The first step toward successful goal setting is an analysis of all aspects of the goal. You want to make sure each goal is worthwhile, and yet the importance of simplicity and repetition in goal setting on a daily basis cannot be overstated.
Making to-do lists is a fundamental form of goal setting—one without extensive documentation for action, desired outcomes, or detailed analysis. These lists typically include the incremental action items of a larger goal that you’re working toward.
You can use the SMART goal setting framework for making sure you’re setting goals that are actually achievable. SMART stands for: Specific, Motivational, Action-oriented, Relevant to your situation, and Time-bound.
Business goals follow the same goal-setting methodology as personal ones: they must be relevant, actionable, and achievable.
Creating a business action plan will provide you with direction for the coming year or more. Upon completing your plan, you will have a vision statement, a mission statement, and specific business goals to kickstart your action.
The power of goal setting is in small, frequent motivations and results. Three motivational points to consider further include:
- Choose goals that are challenging.
- Choose and monitor both short-term and long-term goals.
- Keep goals consistent.
If the goal is too easy to complete, there’s little achievement in it. If you set exclusively easy goals for yourself, you will get bored and fall out of the habit of goal setting. The challenge is what makes results feel worthwhile and self-actualizing, and makes goal setting feel rewarding.
In terms of business goals, the vision statement is a useful challenge vehicle. It provides the inspiration for both your daily operations and your strategic decisions.
It’s easy for small, critical actions to fade into the background of a busy schedule, but predetermined daily reminders will help you stay focused on your goals. Reading, meditating, exercising, or starting each day with a personal or business planning session is a great routine to sharpen your discipline for goal setting. These daily habits can exponentially increase your motivation and clarity when setting and achieving goals.
Be sure your short-term goals don’t contradict or undermine each other, and that they’re consistent with your long-term objectives. An overarching mission, as laid out by your business or personal mission statement, will help you stay on track. Working through a business planning makeover can also show you how to create a framework for long-term goal setting.
By initiating the process of goal setting, you’ll have taken a significant step toward the achievements of personal reflection and of self-discipline.
Dr. Orison Swett Marden, an American inspirational author and who founded SUCCESS magazine in 1987, wrote about achieving goals in life:
“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.”
Results follow goal setting, and they are a reflection of your habits, your motivation, and your focus.