How to set and achieve your goals as an entrepreneur in 2021

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When you start out as a business owner, there’s no set path to follow. You need to create your own progress, and if you want that progress to be significant, you’ll need to set some goals for yourself.

But most entrepreneurs—in fact, most people in general—struggle with setting goals and achieving them. Whether it’s related to the success of your business, your health, or your personal life, setting and achieving goals is a difficult process that leaves many people feeling discouraged and frustrated.

Over my 40 years of coaching business owners, I’ve been able to develop my own tools and frameworks for setting goals, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I’d like to share some tips that I’ve found to be effective. These may seem simple in nature, but they’re meant to shift your thinking around goal setting and how it applies to your business and personal life. Often, a shift in mindset is all it takes to achieve goals that would otherwise seem out of reach.

A goal is a vision

One of the biggest mistakes business owners make when setting goals is that they focus only on the numerical component. Setting measurable goals is important, of course—it’s something I recommend all entrepreneurs do—but it’s just one component of the goal-setting process. A goal should be more than just a number.

When I set a goal for myself, I look at it as a chance to create a bigger and better version of myself. I look at it as a vision of myself in the future, being able to operate with bigger and better capabilities. Sure, there may be a number involved to help me get there, but the goal is more than just the numerical component.

This way of thinking makes the goal exciting. It’s no longer just a mountain of numbers to climb; it’s a new version of yourself that you can visualise. In the future, you’re going to be a new business owner operating in a new way, and the goal is just meant to get you there.

This is perhaps my biggest goal-setting tip for entrepreneurs. While numbers are a vital component of the process, they’re not the be-all and end-all. Focus on creating a vision for yourself over the next year.

What new capability do you want to have? This could be anything: more revenue, a new piece of knowledge, a new business opportunity … Whatever it is, visualise it and how you’ll feel when you achieve it.

100 books in 100 quarters

When I talk to entrepreneurs about goals, I often bring up one of the most lofty goals I’ve set for myself over the years. When I was 70 years old, I set a goal to write 100 books in 100 quarters.

When I set this goal, I made it very public. I told my team, my clients, and everyone in my network that I was going to put out 100 books over 25 years. And within just a few weeks, I was already thinking, “What did I get myself into?”

This goal seemed unattainable. I had no idea what I was doing or how I would manage it.

Sound familiar? I’m sure most entrepreneurs reading this can relate to this situation and how I was feeling.

But I took a step back and remembered my own advice. What did I really want to accomplish here? What was my vision for the future? When I broke it down, I discovered that I was really looking for two things: I wanted to present a new book to our entrepreneurs every quarter, and I never wanted to run out of new ideas or concepts for Strategic Coach.

From there, everything started to fall into place. The easiest way to start was to take the main idea I was currently focused on for our workshops and turn that into a book with help from my team. Then, it just became a matter of coming up with one new idea each quarter and using teamwork to turn it into a book.

For me, this new vision was exciting, simple, and attainable. Creating a new book is a daunting endeavour. But coming up with new ideas to help entrepreneurs? That’s what I do best!

3 goal-setting tips for entrepreneurs in 2021

I hope that example shows you that even your most lofty goals are attainable if you shift your thinking. And with that in mind, here are three simple goal-setting tips that you can implement for the year ahead.

  1. Start by visualising yourself at the end of 2021. What’s going to be true about you as a business owner entrepreneur at the end of this year? What will be true about your business? Your personal life?

These questions will help you clarify what you ultimately want to achieve in 2021 and who you want to be. It all goes back to that first piece of advice—creating a vision, not a goal.

  1. Clarify your goals! Entrepreneurs often set goals without actually thinking through all the components. One of our most popular tools at Strategic Coach is called The Impact Filter, and it’s built to provide clarity on any number of things, including goals. Regardless of whether you use the tool or not, the idea is simple.

For every goal, you should clarify:

  • What the goal is
  • Why it’s important
  • What difference it’s going to make
  • What the ideal outcome is
  • The best and worst results
  • The success criteria

This will give you some much-needed clarity on your goals. If you’ve never taken the time to do something like this before, you’ll be amazed at how it improves your entire goal-setting process. I can’t recommend it enough.

  1. Instead of asking how to achieve your goals, start asking who will help you get there. Business owners often feel overwhelmed by their goals because they don’t know how they’ll achieve them. If you shift your thinking to focus on who instead of how, your capabilities become infinite and everything becomes easier.

When I first started on my goal of writing 100 books in 100 quarters, I had no idea how I was going to get all the work done. The primary reason I’ve been able to be successful with this goal is because I focused on finding the “Whos” for my “Hows.”

When you approach goals with this mindset, it makes them less daunting and more enjoyable. You don’t have to worry about all the things you don’t know how to do, because someone else will do them for you, freeing you up to focus exclusively on what you do best. Whether it’s a partnership, new hire, or freelancer, there is someone out there who can help you achieve your goals—and they’ll be happy to do so. You just need to find them!

These tips are simple, but I guarantee that any entrepreneur who follows them will be able to make 2021 their best year yet.

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan

Dan Sullivan is the founder and president of The Strategic Coach Inc. and creator of The Strategic Coach® Programme, which helps accomplished business owners reach new heights of success and happiness. A visionary, an innovator, and a gifted conceptual thinker, Dan has over 40 years of experience as a strategic planner and coach to entrepreneurial individuals and groups. He is author of over 50 publications including The Laws of Lifetime Growth with Catherine Nomura and Who Not How with Dr. Benjamin Hardy.

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