Just as we make resolutions for ourselves every year, we hope that by committing to behaviors, we can change our lives for the better.  While goals for our own personal development based on vague notions of improvement fizzle out almost as soon the party’s cleaned up after, we make them year after year and don’t expect results.

The reason for this—and any ineffective goal-setting—is that we don’t form concrete goals and milestones to adhere to.  Instead, any achievement dissipates when we don’t reach what we haven’t defined.  It’s almost a paradox, isn’t it?

Well, the same goes for entrepreneurs and their businesses.  Asking just for success and prosperity isn’t enough.  What is need is effective goal-setting.  From effective goal-setting, we can approach our problems in various ways, whether it’s breaking them into smaller pieces for a more frequent sense of victory, or by conforming to a system of consistency that regularly produces achievement, sometimes without our direct knowledge.  In this article, we’ll tackle some of the methods of successful entrepreneurs that you can use in your own business to reach new heights of your endeavors.

Breaking It Down

Audacious goals can be a double-edged sword.  While seeking to inspire us, they also conspire against our motivation by constantly reminding us of never measuring up to a standard.  A good solution is to break down our ambitious goals into smaller components.

For instance, taking a goal, like expanding our business to an earning $1,000 more in gross profit a month, is fairly nondescript.  Reverse-engineer how we’d arrive at that extra $1,000/month.  If our business was dog-walking, how many more clients would we need to achieve this?  If it took four more clients to do so, we could break down our goal into four separate components, each time adding a client would bring us closer to the goal.  Would we continue beyond that? The answer is yes, and that’s because we can “small-chunk” our goals.

A better way of looking at the goal from the outset is to determine ourselves successful with each new client added to our roster.  Who knows if our business model would be able to handle the workload of four new clients, thus keeping us away from ever reaching our extra $1,000/month?  If we then analyze what else it would take, such as hiring an employee, training that employee, and so forth, as smaller components, we can congratulate ourselves on success while not being frustrated by the length of time it takes to get there.  Eventually, we’ll reach our goal and be able to move beyond it, slow and steadily.

Goals in Good Time

Another problem with goal-setting is our inability to adjust the tempo on our goals.  Sometimes, like in the last example, we set goals that may be further off than our current capabilities.  We need to be flexible in our goal-setting and not count it as failure if our business thrives slower than expected.  What our main focus should be is on direction, not concrete goals.  If we continue in a direction steadily, we’ll build momentum and eventually exceed our milestones.

Similarly, if we achieve our goals too quickly, we can be left wondering what the next level is and regretting our lack of foresight into our abilities.  The trick lies in picking a direction, not in a carrot dangling in front of us.  Businesses should figure out their pace of achievement and set that as their tempo.  Falling below expectations may be just the whim of the marketplace and not necessarily the effort expended.

Visualizing Your Goals—Literally

It is often said that if your goals aren’t written, they don’t exist.  That’s great for yourself, but what about your staff?  Keeping a whiteboard of goals always visible can be a reminder, even a subconscious one, of what your business needs to achieve.  In addition, it helps to make successes visible, so be sure to reward outstanding employees with public recognition to inspire other employees, stoking a competitive instinct for success.  Creating incentives, like monthly bonuses, to supplement the public recognition is doubly inspiring.

Setting an Appointment for Your Goals

In addition to writing your goals, you should spend a regular interval redefining your written goals.  Whether it’s every week or once a month, setting aside an appointment with yourself or with your employees is a way to keep up motivation and stay on course.

Track your progress by keeping your old goals archived and refer back to the old ones to see patterns of how your business is shifting or staying true to your original vision.

Make Your Goals Fun

There’s the old adage: “Find what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”  While we can’t expect every task to be joy-filled and exuberant, we can spread joy in our offices and thus our goal-setting by incentivising our employees.  Offer real rewards, even embarrassing ones for yourself (jump in a lake, wear a clown costume, etc.)—the real goal, of course, is for those enjoy themselves and accomplish more.  While it may harken back to grade school, offer parties if sales quotas are met and praise successful employees’ individual efforts in the same way that parents may gloat over their children.  By making “fun” the goal, you’ll retain employees and stay motivated towards accomplishing far-off goals.

Compare Your Goals to Your Goals

By framing your goals in a measurable way, you can compare what methods are achievable and what methods are far-fetched.  When your new goals are set, compare them to old goals—have your ambitions grown wider, or have they been tempered by real-world experience?

Committing to a System—an Alternative Approach to Goal-Setting

Just as we small-chunked our goals, we changed our focus from finite goals to a process, which can be a healthier approach.  Choosing goals puts a burden on our shoulders, which makes us lose sight of the current actions and future milestones which may be unreachable for some time.

The solution is to commit to a system.  For instance, as an entrepreneur, your goal may be to build a million-dollar business in several different countries.  However, your system is sales and marketing.  If you’re a writer, your goal may be to write a best-selling book.  Your system is your writing schedule that you follow every week.  The key is the realisation that if you ignored your goals and followed your system, would you still achieve your goals?

Another consideration to take to heart is whether you would continue after realising your goals.  Sometimes, after making a massive achievement, complacency can set in and the business retrograde.  In essence, goals can be at odds with long-term development and a motivation killer.

What every entrepreneur knows but doesn’t wish to hear is: we can’t predict the future.  Every time we set a goal, we tempt fate by believing we can.  What we can use goals for is to provide us direction, not certainty.  Our systems become our ways to achieve goals by not focusing on them, instead focusing on our daily processes, measuring our progress, and sticking to a steady path.