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The seven steps for successful goal setting

Picture of Corinne Thomas

Corinne Thomas

Founder & Managing Director

The seven steps for successful goal setting

With a new year fast unfolding before us, your thoughts may be turning towards setting goals and targets.

We invited Sarah Holmes from Pencil Me In to talk to members of our Ethical Sales Academy about goal setting. Sarah is passionate about professional and personal goal setting, so she shared her clear process for creating and achieving goals with our group of like-minded salespeople.

While the start of the year is an obvious time to set goals, this is an exercise that can be done at any point – so there’s no need to wait until 2025 if you haven’t yet started!

Read on for an expert’s guide to goal setting in a simple seven step process. It can be applied to your professional and personal aspirations for the year, so you can turn them into reality.  

1. Choose your values

Before any goals are set, it’s important to first set your values. Values help define what you stand for, and in turn help shape and frame your goals.

To choose your values, look at a list and see which five resonate the most. Examples of values can include creativity, inclusivity, progress, learning, integrity and curiosity.

You can have separate professional and personal values, although there may well be some overlap, especially if you run your own business.

Once you’ve selected your top five, Sarah advises sharing these with your colleagues. This will help them to understand more about what you’re prioritising in the coming months, and work with you in a way that aligns more with your values.

Asking employees to do this exercise is also useful as you can the see what’s important to them, which in turn can help you to better motivate and support them.

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2. Rate your life

Next up is to look at the following elements of your life and score them out of ten: relationships, health and fitness, career and business, travel and adventure, education and learning, home/physical environment and finances.

This simple exercise allows you to easily see areas of your life that can be improved, which in turn can help set goals based on increasing these scores.

Don’t try and make massive jumps. If finances are a 4, for example, think about some small goals to get this rating up to a 5 or a 6, rather than aiming to leapfrog to 10 in one year.

It’s not just the low scoring elements that can be tweaked, either. Even if certain areas have high scores now, think about ways to keep them consistent or even just move them up one point.

3. Write down your goals

Now you’ve thought about your values and rated your life, it’s time to start creating your goals.

It can be helpful have a feeling in mind when goal setting and work backwards from this. What feeling are you chasing? Who will you become at the end of your goal? What difference will it make? For example, rather than setting an arbitrary goal of “do more exercise”, ask yourself what you specifically want to achieve. This could be “feel strong” or “improve cardiovascular fitness”. Once you know this, you can set a goal that fits this feeling.

When it comes to business goal setting, consider how clients experience your business and how you want them to feel when dealing with you.

It’s important to note that goals don’t have to be big. A group of smaller goals can be better than one massive one for building momentum and taking your business to the next stage of development.

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4. Create  SMART goals

Using the SMART system for goals is a great way to structure them. Consider the following five elements when creating goals:

Specific – be clear in what you want to achieve. If it’s too vague you won’t feel you’ve achieved something.
Measurable – how will you know you’ve achieved your goal?
Attainable – will you be able to achieve it? Do you need smaller milestones along the way to help break it down?
Relevant – does it tie in with your values?
Timeframe – how long will it take?

An example of a vague goal is “I want to grow my business in 2024”. A SMART goal would be “I want to get three new clients for my consulting business within the first two months by asking for referrals, launching a social media campaign and networking, as this will allow me to grow my business.”

5. Break your goals down

The next step is to write down all the tasks needed to achieve your goal, even if it’s a tiny task such making a phone call, and put them in order.

Then, do a brain dump of everything related to your goal. For example, timing – is this the right time to do it? Do you have the time to commit to the tasks, and if not, can you sacrifice anything else? Sarah cited the example of wanting to start running: if you’re in Scotland, then waiting until the spring would be better than trying to start in the cold, dark days of January. If there’s the option to pick the optimum time, do it.

Other questions to consider: are there any barriers to achieving this goal? We all come against these when working towards goals, so identifying early on what might get in the way (such as time, money or people) and how you’d overcome them/react to them, will mean your motivation won’t be affected if (when!) you hit resistance.

It’s also worth thinking about who could help you to achieve your goal. It’s good to have a cheer squad of people supporting you, as well as separate people who will hold you accountable. The latter is particularly useful, as statistics from The American Society of Training and Development show that you’re 65% more likely achieve your goal if you commit it to another person, rising to 95% if you build in ongoing meetings to check progress.

Having someone on hand to give advice can be invaluable, especially for business-related goals. If there’s someone who’s achieved a similar goal, ask them to share information about their journey and any tips they gleaned. And use resources such as blogs, books and podcasts.

6. Monitor and reward

Once you’re working towards your goals, stay on track by monitoring progress. A goal diary with quarterly reviews can be helpful, but something simple such as a spreadsheet is also a great tool: write the tasks needed to complete your goal and check them off when done.

And goals are much more achievable if you reward yourself when they’re complete! When Sarah was doing triathlons, she would book in somewhere lovely for lunch afterwards to motivate her during the final run. Your rewards could be similarly delicious or something such as a day off, a new item of stationery, or simply acknowledging your progress and giving yourself a high five!

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7. Be prepared to flex

While goal setting is a great way to help achieve success in your ethical business, Sarah does also advise being flexible. Things will happen during the year that can’t be anticipated – she gave the example of 2020 when no-one knew half the year would be spent at home.

It’s important to be open to events and adjust your goals as necessary. You never know – these may just turn into wonderful opportunities for you and your business that will help you grow in unexpected ways.

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