goal setting for entrepreneurs ultimate guide on how to set goals in life and business

How To Set Goals & Create Fulfilling Success ™ In Life & Business

This is an entrepreneur’s ultimate guide to successful goal setting in life and business. Whether you’re wondering how to set life goals, or how to set business goals, this article highlights everything you need to know about goals and step by step process to set powerful goals without overwhelming yourself.

There is a shocking amount of information on the internet about setting goals. Whether you’re brand new to goal setting or you’ve consistently set goals in the past and are looking for a more effective process, the information yielded through a simple Google search can be confusing, overwhelming, or downright misleading.

From SMART goals, to HARD goals, to WOOP goals, to OKR goals, to micro goals, to backwards goals (I could go on and on…) there are a LOT of competing goal setting frameworks out there. Quite frankly, I believe this is part of the reason why 92% of people don’t achieve their goals – because the framework they’re using doesn’t set them up for success.

Yet clarity – of what you want to achieve and of where you need to focus to get there – is so important to fast tracking your success, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners, so I’ve made it my mission to simplify goal setting once and for all… because when something is simple it’s sustainable. 

So let’s make sure you walk away from this article understanding exactly

  • The Importance of Goal Setting: How Setting Goals Leads To Success (when done right!)
  • Why Most Goal Setting Frameworks Don’t Work & the Mistakes You Must Avoid When Setting Goals in 2023
  • The Simplest and Most Effective Goal Setting Process for Entrepreneurs & Why It Works So Well
  • The Step by Step Process to Setting Life and Business Goals Effectively
  • 7 Steps To Take After Goal Setting to Ensure Success

ultimate guide on goal setting strategies for entrepreneurs wondering how to set goals in life and business

What Are Goals? 

Goals are desired outcomes that wouldn’t otherwise happen without intentional action.

Elliot Berkman, at the Centre of Translational Neuroscience in the University of Oregon, has a great definition of goals: “a goal is a detour from the path of least resistance.” 

Because of the way our brains are wired (to keep us “safe” by maintaining the status quo), it’s easy to do what we’ve always done and much harder to change in order to achieve a different level of success, whether in business, health, or relationships. 

The Importance of Goal Setting

With the number of distractions we face in this day and age, goal setting is especially important. Here’s why:

Goal setting gives us a focus 

We live in a world of distraction, especially in the age of social media. However, the amount of time, energy, and money we have to dedicate to living remains finite. Without goal setting, it’s easy to spend those resources in every direction, without seeing them amalgamate into anything meaningful.

Let’s use a non business example to drive this point home, if you spend 1 hour a week playing sports and you’re trying 52 different sports in a year, you’re not going to see any improvement. However, if you spent 52 hours on the volleyball court, you’re going to experience a completely different outcome.

Goal setting is important because it allows us to focus our time, energy, and money on the things that truly matter to us, while giving ourselves permission to ignore the rest.

Goal setting creates clarity

When you know what you want to focus on, it’s so much easier to figure out how to make it happen.

Without a plan of action you spin in circles while feeling like you’re doing everything you’re ‘supposed to’ be doing, but not actually seeing the result you want. (This is where most entrepreneurs are when they first come to me for entrepreneur coaching).

ultimate guide on goal setting strategies for entrepreneurs wondering how to set goals in life and business

For example, if your goal is increase customer retention in order to grow your business, you can break down specific ways to achieve it, and see a big boost in how long your customers stay with you and the recurring revenue that brings in. However, if you don’t have a goal on customer retention, you might be trying to grow your business by focusing on social media followers, or developing some new product, and still be struggling to maintain consistent revenue because your clients aren’t sticking around. 

Goal setting allows you to get crystal clear on what you need to do in order to see the momentum you want.

Goal setting makes us feel good

Working toward a goal gives entrepreneurs a sense of purpose on a day to day basis. Building, growing, and scaling a business to match the vision you have for yourself in 5-10 years can take a very long time – it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like it’s not happening fast enough. 

When you set goals, you give yourself a way to measure your progress toward your big vision, and you create a reason to celebrate along the way and enjoy the journey instead of focusing exclusively on the destination. (Queue the cheesy quote about journey vs destination).

If you don’t set goals, you’re unlikely to stop and celebrate the wins, yet neuroscience has proven that those small moments of celebration are exactly what drive our primitive little caveman brains to keep moving forward. 

Related post: Entrepreneur’s Guide To Creating A Business Vision Board

How does setting goals lead to success?

Goal setting allows you to fast track your success by focusing your limited time, energy, and money toward a specific outcome, clarifying the most effective way to achieve it, and enjoying the process by celebrating your momentum, so that you can accelerate your results!

Most successful entrepreneurs didn’t “accidentally” build 8 figure businesses, they intentionally focused on creating a successful business and growing it to their desired level.

Most healthy people didn’t “accidentally” develop six pack abs or run a marathon, they intentionally made the decision to pursue the uncomfortable actions that would get them there.

If you haven’t defined what success looks like for you, it will be challenging to set meaningful goals that you care enough about to achieve. In that case, I recommend you read this article on redefining success. But, if you know what you want at a high level in your life and business, setting life goals and setting business goals will help you make your vision a reality faster.

If you aren’t sure where you need to focus in your business for the upcoming year take our personalized quiz here!

The reason most goal setting frameworks don’t work

One of the biggest goal setting mistakes entrepreneurs make is working toward something they don’t actually want (without realizing it). 

For a full article outlining the mistakes entrepreneurs make when it comes to goal setting, and the 5 goal setting tips for ambitious entrepreneurs that I have seen make the biggest difference in my clients’ success, click here.

If you’re a type-A, high achieving entrepreneur, you’re likely trying to achieve more all. the. time. While that drive fuels success, it can also create some major consequences if it isn’t aligned with what you truly value deep down.

  • This looks like setting wild revenue goals & creating complicated strategies to achieve them that require you to work more hours when what you most want is the freedom to spend time with your family.
  • This looks like scaling a family business you took over when it doesn’t actually light you up.
  • This looks like working toward passive income because it’s the “it” thing to do, when deep down you have the desire to actively run a service based business that’s focused around your passions.
  • On a smaller scale, this looks like saying you’ll show up more often on social media to grow your business when you despise Facebook; or deciding to write a book when you much prefer speaking to writing.

In each of these real world examples that I’ve coached my business coaching clients through, the goals were entirely out of alignment with what the person setting them truly desired.

entrepreneur coach for small business owners

We set goals that are wrong for us all the time, but until you start setting goals that are in alignment with what you truly want, at your core, not only will you be less successful, but the small amount of success you do happen to create won’t leave you feeling any happier or more fulfilled.

Do it because you love everything about the thought of it, not because it’s going to be how some other dream of yours comes to pass.

~ Mike Dooley, Leveraging The Universe

In that case, how do you set goals that you can not only achieve, but that leave you feeling deeply satisfied and fulfilled upon achieving them? And how do you do it in a way that’s simple and effective? What is the best goal setting process for entrepreneurs?

What is best (simplest & most effective) goal setting process for entrepreneurs?

Short answer: setting goals from your values.

The only way to consistently work toward what’s most important to you in life and business is to define what that is and use it to determine your goals year after year. 

Scientific findings in the field of neuroscience have proven that when our goals are aligned with our core values and our sense of self, we are more likely to succeed in them (if you want to nerd out on this, check out this research paper: The Neuroscience of Goals and Behavior Change).

Therefore, the simplest and most effective way to set goals is to set them based on your values. Let me explain exactly why…

What are the benefits of value based goal setting?

Value based goal setting means you cannot get it wrong

When you set value based goals, you’re literally focusing on what’s most important to you and tuning out the noise of what everyone else is doing. In a society that nearly revolves around social media or the corporate/entrepreneurial rat race to wealth, focusing on your own personal values allows you to live a life that’s authentically yours, and not built on the shaky foundation of someone else’s values, beliefs, or expectations.

Value based goal setting means the “why” is already built in

Goal setting gurus unanimously agree that “having a strong why” is important to sustaining the motivation to achieve your goals – ask Simon Sinek. The problem arises when, in the absence of actually knowing why you want what you want, you make up a superficial why in order to check the box. Then you’re pursuing a goal you think you want and trying to justify to yourself why you set it.

Here’s a great example: one time I decided I was going to run a half marathon because my friend was really into running, and I justified that because being healthy is important to me I should try to run this half marathon… but with bad knees and two small kids, the extensive running training didn’t make sense for me, and so I “failed” at my goal. (Being a high achiever makes me cringe to admit I failed here, so my ego would like to add that I ran 10 miles on a random afternoon run I wasn’t planning to take, and ran out of time to finish the last 3 miles before I had to take the kids to basketball. But, I digress…)

In reality, the failure occurred the moment I set a goal that wasn’t actually rooted in my values. Had I checked in with myself, I would have realized that because ‘living a vibrantly healthy life exploding with joy’ was one of my core values, I wanted to commit to mountain biking weekly – something I love but was only making time for haphazardly. This was a much more fulfilling goal for me that I was actually set up to succeed in!

When you’re setting value based goals, the why is already built in (instead of made up), which means you are so much more likely to succeed.

Value based goal setting means you prioritize your business AND yourself

The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is focusing exclusively on growing their business at the expense of everything else in their life.

We adopt this belief from very early on in our entrepreneurship journey that when the business is bigger or making more money, everything else will be better too… and it’s the biggest trap entrepreneurs fall into!

After 7+ years working with business owners at all levels (from corporate escapees with zero entrepreneurship experience to multi-millionaires that have been running successful 8 figure businesses for decades) and through my own entrepreneurship journey (from $0 to 6 figures in just over a year working 15 hours a week), I can personally tell you that a bigger business or more money ultimately doesn’t change much in your life.

  • If you’re not making time to build deep relationships with close friends now, you won’t suddenly have time for it later.
  • If you’re ignoring your physical and mental health now, you won’t magically flip the switch later.
  • If you’re not prioritizing happiness now, that will also remain the same in the future

When you set goals from your values, you get to avoid the tunnel vision trap of focusing so much on your business that you forget all about yourself.

Value based goal setting means you’re prioritizing yourself, not just your business, and ironically, that makes your business so much more successful too.

How To Set Life And Business Goals

So, if value based goal setting is the solution – how do we go about doing it? What are the actual steps to take in order to set life and business goals and achieve them?

Let me start by saying that goal setting isn’t rocket science – the process for setting value based life and business goals that accelerate your path to success is quite simple (and that’s what makes it so effective).

entrepreneur coach for small business owners

Let me break down exactly how to set life and business goals and achieve them, so that you’re able to simplify goal setting in 2023 and create more success in your business this year, and more happiness in your life.

Step One: Identify Your Core Values

Most people cannot clearly articulate their core values off the top of their head. It’s not something that’s taught in schools or prioritized in the workplace, so we often spend decades of our lives not really sure what we’re all about. 

Defining your core values is the single most important exercise you can do to help you create not just financial success, but fulfilling success.

For a full article on how to define your core values, head here.

Here’s the Coles’ notes version:

How to define your core values and live life in alignment with your values:

  • Decide defining your core values is important to you
    Prioritize the time for it in your calendar and actually sit down to do this work (it’s not going to happen by accident).
  • List all potential core values off the top of your head
    What are the things that are important to you in the way you live and work? Brain dump your thoughts onto a page without censoring yourself. Look at lists of values online if you find that helpful, or think through your Peak Experiences (times when you felt happiest or most fulfilled) and Lowest Moments (times that you were unusually frustrated or upset) – which of your values was being met or missing in those moments?
  • Group similar core values into themes & narrow down to 5-7 core values
    Group similar categories (like kindness, friendship, empathy, community) into themes (like connection). This makes your values easier to remember and therefore live into. Challenge yourself to not have more than 5-7 core values, or else you’re not really defining anything, you’re just trying to be everything.
  • Rank your 5-7 core values in order of importance
    This is hard. Do it anyway – it helps you make decisions when your values are competing with each other in a specific circumstance.

Defining Your Core Personal Values & Core Business Values 

Remember, you are not your business. I highly recommend you identify your personal core values, as well as your business core values. The two will have many overlaps, but important nuances in the way you execute on those values. 

For example, one of my personal core values is making an impact – I’m focusing on donating $1,000 to organizations whose work I value, sitting on a board of directors, and helping a family displaced by war. In my business, ‘making an impact’ translates to ‘creating results for my clients’ – I’ve set targets to get 3 new clients from $0 to a profitable business, and 3 new clients from multi-6 figures to $1M. The two values – impact and results – are similar, but they look different in my personal life vs in my business.

Separating yourself from your business allows you to give each one the dedication it deserves, rather than sacrificing your life on the altar of your business, or failing to prioritize your business at all.

Step two: set a goal directly from each value

Look at the 5-7 values that you’ve identified above, and ask yourself the following question (for each value):

“If I was standing here 12 months from today, and it was the most phenomenal 12 months of my entire life, what would that look like in [insert value here]?”

ultimate guide on goal setting strategies for entrepreneurs wondering how to set goals in life and business

Decide the 1-3 things that are most important for you to achieve related to that specific value. 

Here are some examples

  • Core value: Family – making meaningful memories
    Goals: take a weekend trip 1:1 with each kiddo; take a ski vacation as a family; actively play with the kiddos for an hour every day
  • Core value: Impact – make the world a better place
    Goals: donate $1,000 to causes I care about; help a family displaced by war; sit on a board of directors
  • Core value: Health & Joy – live a vibrantly healthy life filled with things I love
    Goals: go mountain biking with the girls every week; join a volleyball team; get back into 30 mins of daily exercise
  • Core value: Impact & Results
    Goals: help 3 new clients hit $1M revenue; help 3 new clients go from $0 to profitable; double my business’ revenue
  • Core value: Depth & Connection
    Goals: write powerful content that resonates; meet with my clients face to face for dinner; lead in person workshops
  • Core value: Energy & Balance
    Goals: take daily hikes; cap work week at 20 hours; get out of the office 3x a month to get inspired

From here, you can create the strategy for what it actually looks like to make those goals happen (more on that below). For example, to double my business’ revenue I’m going to speak in front of bigger audiences, which feels really aligned to my value of making an impact and connecting with people. But if I were to randomly decide “speak at 10 events this year”, I’d likely procrastinate on it because we didn’t connect the dots between how that action got me more of what I value.

When you set your goals directly from your values, you’re running your business and living your life in alignment with what’s most important to you.

Ana McRae

When you use value based goal setting, everything feels easier because none of your values are in conflict with your goals. When things feel easier and more aligned, you’re able to create bigger results in a shorter time frame.

Step Three: Set Up Systems For Success

Defining your values and setting goals is great, but if this is a one time exercise you do and never come back to, you may as well not do it at all for all the impact it will have on your actual life. 

In order to set and actually achieve your goals, make sure you set yourself up for success. I have a full article on the 10 Steps To Actually Achieve The Goals You Set coming soon.

After goal setting, you want to set yourself up for success by

  • Building out a roadmap to actually achieving your goals
  • Identifying the habits that will make it impossible to fail
  • Assigning clear roles and responsibilities with your team
  • Aligning your mindset with your vision
  • Establishing systems and processes to hold you accountable
  • Celebrating your progress every step of the way
  • Writing down your goals as if they’ve already happened
  • Creating certainty for your brain
  • Having a plan to mitigate failure
  • Working with a coach to accelerate your success

If you want to learn more about each of these steps, what I mean, and how to do that, head on over to the next article How to Achieve Your Goals | Ten Things to do After Setting Goals!

Whatever you do, don’t just set your goals and forget them. Although having that clear goal is important, it’s only the beginning of the work. Take the time to set yourself up for success so that you can achieve the level of greatness you know you’re capable of.

ultimate guide on goal setting strategies for entrepreneurs wondering how to set goals in life and business

Goal setting is an important part of my life and business.

It helps me focus on what’s most important and spend my time and energy on the things that are genuinely going to improve my life and business.

I hope this guide to goal setting for entrepreneurs has been helpful for you too.

If you are looking for more guidance in goal setting, I highly recommend my Peak Performance Business Bundle! A collection of my MOST powerful & proven resources to help you strategically review your business, identify what projects to focus on, set clear goals, and stay focused each month & week on the things that will move you forward.

If you’re ready to scale your business without sacrificing your work life balance, the Peak Performance Business Bundle is for you!

It’s everything you need to reflect on the last year, set powerful goals, and stay focused on them over the next 12 months so that this time next year you’ve actually achieved everything you set out to achieve!!

Here’s the summary for how to set ambitious life and business goals that truly create fulfilling success:

  1. Define your core values in life & business

    Setting goals from your values is the MOST effective way to set goals. It ensures you’re always working toward what’s most important to you and creating fulfilling success.

  2. Decide what you want to achieve in each value

    Ask yourself, “If I was standing here 12 months from today, and it was the most phenomenal 12 months of my entire life, what would that look like in [insert value here]?”

  3. Set yourself up for success

    Don’t just set ’em and forget ’em! Build the roadmap, identify the habits you need, assign clear roles and responsibilities, align your mindset with your vision, create accountability, celebrate your progress, write your goals down, create certainty for your brain, mitigate failure in advance, and work with a coach to accelerate your success!

If you’re an ambitious entrepreneur looking to build or scale your business to new levels, I’d love to offer you a free 1:1 Breakthrough Session to help you create clarity around what you’re working toward and how to achieve it. If you’re interested in booking a free session, simply fill out this form and I’ll be in touch within 24 hours to find a time that works for a 60 min call where we’ll talk through your goals, your challenges, and where to focus to move forward.

If you find this article on goal setting for entrepreneurs helpful, I would love for you to share it to your social media so that your community can benefit from it as well! And of course, let me know what resonated with you in the comments below — I’d love to hear from you!

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