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man staring at a maze
What do you want?

It’s a simple question, but finding the answer and figuring out how to get it can be surprisingly difficult, especially when running a small business. Understanding and implementing goals can help though.  

Goal setting is a learned skill. It starts with the goal itself – the answer to the question posed above. This ambition is completely up to you, and can be about whatever you like - financial success, improved marketing, perhaps addressing a business weakness? A goal could also be connected to personal achievement, artistic success or a mixture of everything.  

The term ‘success’ here is very important, as the definition of success is very personal. Each person’s version is utterly different. For some people, success means wealth and acclaim, for others it means a contented cup of tea at the end of the day.

It doesn’t matter what your goal is, as long as you’re clear about what you want.  

To create a well-defined goal, ask the ‘miracle’ question – if money was no object, and you could make all your dreams come true, what would your life look like?

Use your imagination, and try not to let fear or self-doubt cloud your picture. It sometimes helps to link your vision to a significant date or event that happens every year, and keep the timeline relatively short. For example, what would your life look like by Christmas if you had total control over what happens next?  

If you’re suddenly beset by a cornucopia of wishes and need to narrow the field.

Limit yourself to three goals as a starting point.

If you’re struggling to think of any goals at this point, try relaxing your definition. A goal doesn’t need to be anything large or astounding, it could be as simple as finding time to update your website, or getting to the bottom of that shoebox of receipts by the end of June.  

It's vital to remember that setting goals does not actually mean that you have complete power over future events. You don’t, and you will be setting yourself up for failure if you invest in that idea. Asking the ‘miracle’ question gives you a way of being clear in your focus so you can make better decisions that might help you get what you want in time. It doesn’t give you a magic wand.  

Also check your goals to see if they are completely dependent on the universe bending to your will. “I want to win a million dollars in the lottery” is a fetching idea, but you don’t have a say in whether or not that happens, even if you buy a ticket. “I will make $50,000 profit in my business by the end of the year”, however, places some of the control over realising that goal in your hands, and makes it a much more realistic possibility.  

Good habits and hard work are the next step. Break down the process by starting at the end (the goal) and working backwards. At certain points along the timeline you’ll need to create smaller milestones to help you on your way.

You’ll need to make decisions about what to do, when you do them, and how much time and work each step will take.

Being specific is the most important rule here. Ambiguity is the enemy of goal realisation. If something has to happen in the middle of the year, give that task a specific date and stick to it.  

Measuring your progress is also important. Check in each week to see how much closer you are to achieving each milestone. If all is well, keep going. If not, see where you need to make adjustments. Are you slowing down, or getting distracted? Are your goals changing? Have you over-estimated how much time things will take? Has something happened to get in your way? Or are you getting in your own way and sabotaging the process unconsciously?

Running a small business is a daunting task, and the learning process at first is tremendous. After time, though, the early difficulties become easier, and new challenges help keep your passion alive.

Making goals, and learning how to work towards them and achieve them, provides its own reward. Completing your taxes, finishing your symphony, fixing up your website and the myriad other milestones that you’ll achieve over time will give you reasons to feel proud and capable, and help you build the confidence to keep moving forward towards your version of success.


© Monica Davidson 2016



Monica Davidson from Creative Plus Business is a business advisor and trainer specialising in creative business and arts entrepreneurship.