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Goal Setting Tips for Ambitious Entrepreneurs

These goal setting tips will keep you from making the mistakes that lead 92% of people to fail at their goals and instead will offer you best practices to help you achieve your life and business goals in 2023!


You’re going to set goals this year, no doubt about it, but are you going to succeed in achieving them?

It depends on how you set goals — with these goal setting tips for ambitious entrepreneurs, you’ll be able to successfully achieve your life and business goals.

Goal setting is a process many ambitious entrepreneurs undertake to help them close the gap between where they are and where they ultimately want to be by directing their time, energy, and resources toward what’s most important. As a business coach for growth-focused entrepreneurs, I’ve spent 700+ hours helping my clients achieve their wildest life and business goals with specific goal setting tips that help them get there.

But in order to actually achieve your goals this year, you’ll want to be sure you’re not making these same mistakes that lead 92% of people to fail and instead use these goal setting tips to be part of the 8% that succeed.

In this article, I outline the biggest goal setting mistakes entrepreneurs make and share my top 5 goal setting tips for entrepreneurs in 2023 to help you set your personal goals and set your business goals up for success this year. 

goal setting tips for entrepreneurs on how to set personal goals and how to set business goals and achieve them in 2023

How does goal setting lead to success?

Setting goals allows you to focus your limited resources (time, money, and energy) on creating a life and business you actually love, without getting distracted by what other people are doing, society’s expectations, or keeping up with the Jones’. Without goal setting, it’s easy to end up living a life or running a business that feels wrong, because it wasn’t built in alignment with who you are and what you truly want.

Goal setting also allows you to keep a clear line of sight to your priorities and carve out intentional time to work toward them, which means you can get there faster. Without goal setting, it’s easy to let life pass you by — there’s plenty of stuff to keep you busy on a day to day basis, whether at home or in your business, but it doesn’t always get you where you want to go.

When you are clear on your goals, it’s easier to say no to distractions and other things that aren’t going to move you forward, because you are crystal clear on where you’re going and what you need to focus on. This means you can achieve the same result with way less time and effort.

Most importantly, goal setting allows you to feel a sense of purpose in your day to day life. As you watch yourself succeed at what you set out to do, you feel a sense of empowerment and confidence that helps you continue to succeed.

Why are these goal setting tips important?

Through the 700+ hours I’ve spent coaching some of the world’s most ambitious and successful entrepreneurs, through my own experiences with goal setting over the last decade, combined with all of the research I’ve devoured to fuel my personal and business growth, I’ve identified common patterns that either hold entrepreneurs back… or help them grow their businesses faster while enjoying fulfilling lives!

If you’re a growth-focused entrepreneur ready to set and smash some ambitious goals this year without getting in your own way, this article will show you the top 5 goal setting tips you need to know to succeed in your life and business goals this year!

If you’re going to spend time setting goals, you may as well do it in a way that’s going to work for you and actually help you achieve them. These goal setting tips are critical to improving your likelihood of success. But to start, let’s look at what goal setting mistakes you must avoid when setting personal goals or setting business goals.

Goal Setting Tips & Mistakes To Avoid When Setting Personal Or Business Goals

Setting too many goals

Setting too many goals is equivalent to not setting any goals at all (except way more time consuming!) 

ANA MCRAE

Don’t assume that every single area of your life or business needs to see an improvement this year. 

One of the biggest goal setting mistakes entrepreneurs make is looking at every single area of their life, and every single area of their business, and determining what they want to improve.

Certain goal setting strategies actually distract you more than they focus you. For example, the Wheel Of Life Assessment has you analyze what’s working in each area of your life, and decide what a 10/10 version of that area would look like. While this is an incredible tool for creating a high level vision of your best life, it’s not a great goal setting strategy because it immediately focuses you on way too many things! 

You’ll have a much higher chance of achieving your goals if you’re focused on a few things that are truly important to you, instead of trying to revolutionize your entire life and business in one year.

Look at your goal setting habits in the past, or what you’ve put on your plate this year:

  • Are you trying to improve every area at once?
  • What is your actual success rate with that goal setting strategy?
  • How would focusing on the most important things (instead of calling it all important) potentially change your results?

Setting goals that are too small

If you’re setting realistic goals, you’re falling short of your potential.

ANA MCRAE

SMART Goal setting is a widely-known goal setting strategy that preaches setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals. Frankly, I think SMART goals are dumb. SMART goal setting might have worked 40 years ago (when it came out in 1981) but an abundance of recent research suggests that it is not the most effective way to set goals!

SMART goals urge you to “play it safe”, and that’s simply not how entrepreneurs create success.

Realistic goals simply aren’t exciting and if thinking about achieving your goal doesn’t fire you up, you’re never going to sustain the energy and effort required to achieve it (even if it’s realistic).

In reality, people who go after big goals are much more likely to be successful. In a 16,000 person study of goal setting, Leadership IQ found that “SMART goal setting is actually leading to lower performance, less inspiration and may even impede career success…” It makes sense then why top executives are 64% more likely to set difficult or audacious goals than front line employees – ambitious goals fuel success, realistic goals sabotage it.

how to set business goals and achieve them

Think about what goal you’d set if you were 100% certain it would be successful – that’s the kind of goal you want to go after, one that isn’t tainted by the fear of failure, regardless of whether people think it’s realistic or not.

Look at your goal setting habits in the past:

  • Where were you too afraid of setting goals that were “too ambitious” and downsized your desires to fit into what other people thought would be “realistic” for you?
  • What would happen if you gave yourself full permission to want what you want without caring about how “realistic” it is?
  • How would that change the amount of energy you put into achieving your goal, and therefore the results you see on the other side of it?

Attaching an arbitrary deadline to your goal

Your most important goals are most important regardless of when you achieve them.

ANA MCRAE

You can’t predict the future, so why are you trying?

Another reason I think SMART goals are dumb is because they force you to set “time bound” goals. Time bound goals set you up for disappointment, not success.

If you’re truly working toward your most important goals, they are important regardless of when you achieve them – whether that’s on March 3, 2023, or May 3, 2023, or even December 31, 2024, it literally doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of your life and business.

But goal setting gurus will tell you to set deadlines on your goals, yet in my personal experience and what I see over and over again with my coaching clients is that deadlines do more harm than good. 

If March 3, 2023 comes around and you haven’t “doubled your quarterly revenue” (or whatever it is you’re working toward)…

  • you’re going to feel disappointed in yourself/your team
  • you’re going to wonder whether it’s actually possible to achieve that goal
  • you’re going to question whether the strategy you’re executing is working well enough or whether you should try something different… 

And instead of sticking through the messy middle and working it until it works, your deadline causes you to pivot or give up, even when the very outcome you desire could be just a day, a week, or a month away.

When you don’t attach an arbitrary timeline to your goal (or try to pretend that you can predict exactly how everything will work out) you’re free to celebrate every win without feeling like you’re off track, behind, or failing, which will fuel you with more energy to keep going after that goal until you succeed.

Honestly, this is one of the biggest things that holds entrepreneurs back from success in business – feeling like it’s not working when it actually is – and deadlines are a big contributor to that feeling.

goal setting tips for entrepreneurs wondering how to set and achieve life and business goals

If you’ve set a goal to make a million dollars in your business, you better work toward that goal until you hit it, instead of changing your mind just because it didn’t happen at year end.

I want to caveat this by saying that there is a ton of value in having deadlines on the process of achieving your goal — committing to having a certain action done by a certain date helps keep you motivated and moving forward. But attaching a timeline to an outcome that is entirely out of your control is not just pointless but harmful.

Take a look at your goal setting habits:

  • Does having a deadline fuel your energy and excitement? Or does it create a level of pressure that takes all the fun out of achieving your goals? 
  • Do you tend to pivot when you don’t see immediate results? How might removing the deadline empower you to stick with the process until it works?

Goal Setting On Autopilot: Just doing what you did last year

Another goal setting mistake entrepreneurs make is assuming what was important last year is still a priority, and focusing on some version of the exact same goal as the previous year.

This becomes especially prevalent with money.

Entrepreneurs at all levels and across all industries get stuck in the hamster wheel of creating more money at the expense of happiness and fulfillment in their lives. While I firmly believe in the value of building wealth, and it’s one of the biggest pieces of the work I do with small business owners as an entrepreneur coach, I also see a lot of wildly wealthy (and shockingly unhappy) entrepreneurs that don’t know how they ended up becoming miserable millionaires. 

The fastest way to end up miserable in your business is assuming that more money is, and always will be, your top priority and focusing exclusively on it at the expense of happiness & fulfillment in other areas of your life. 

From the very beginning of my entrepreneurship journey, I was clear on my core value of making memories with my family, and intentionally created a business that would allow me to travel more and spend more time with my kiddos while they were young. While I still have wildly ambitious growth goals for my business, and I’ll be d*mned if I recreate the same corporate rat race I worked so hard to escape and chase money at the expense of all my other core values. This past year I took a 5 month road trip across the country with my family, and intentionally chose to deprioritize the growth of my business (cutting my paycheck in half) so that I could create these memories with my family, because that was most important to me at the time.

Sometimes making more money is the most important goal you could work toward.

Often, you have more than enough and have been conditioned to want more without ever defining what enough looks like and end up completely missing the point of having your own business.

Maybe you do want to grow your business to a certain revenue level this year, or maybe, just maybe….

  • You’re actually happy with what you have right now and would much rather prioritize traveling? Then you might want to focus on digitizing parts of your business so you don’t have to be in a specific location
  • Or maybe you want to create more free time to spend doing things you love? Then you might want to focus on building out a team

None of it is wrong. But focusing exclusively on making more money without checking in to see what else is an equal or more important priority is a fast path to burnout and dissatisfaction.

how to set personal goals and achieve them

Intentional reflection and a solid goal setting strategy will help you determine whether last year’s priorities remain a priority this year, but assuming you should just keep doing the same things as before can keep you from achieving what you actually want and need right now.

Take a look at your goal setting habits in the past:

  • Do you tend to just set the same things over and over again? Are you always focused on making more money or do you balance your goals across your other values as well?
  • Are you feeling fulfilled on a day to day basis, or do you need to create space to reassess what’s important to you and recreate your goals based on your current desires?

Goal setting for the sake of goal setting

The final goal setting mistake entrepreneurs make is setting goals just for the sake of having goals. If it’s December 30th and you haven’t set goals for the New Year, you might be tempted into setting goals just to have something to work toward, and I highly recommend you don’t fall into that trap.

Goal setting is ineffective without an intentional process of reflection.

ANA MCRAE

Googling ideas for your goals or getting trapped reading Pinterest list-icles of top 10 New Year’s Resolutions to set this year, or even setting 30 goals for turning 30 is a sure path to overcommitting yourself to things that aren’t even a priority, and missing the boat entirely on what’s truly important to you right now.

Take a look at your goal setting habits in the past:

  • Do you choose goals because you feel like you should? Or because you truly desire to make meaningful changes in your life and business?
  • Are you creating a story about what it means to not have any goals that may or may not be true? 
  • What might happen if you took a break from goal setting and spent some time rediscovering yourself and your values?

Top 5 Goal Setting Tips for Entrepreneurs

These goal setting tips will help you avoid the 5 mistakes entrepreneurs make when setting goals and help you achieve your life and business goals in 2023.

  • Check in with what you truly want – don’t just assume “more”

    Focusing exclusively on making more money without checking in to see what else is an equal or more important priority is a fast path to burnout and dissatisfaction.

  • Set a few goals that align with your values – quality over quantity

    Don’t assume every area of your life or business needs improvement. Set goals directly from your values so that you know you’re working toward what’s most important. 

  • Set goals that excite you and challenge you – forget about being realistic

    Ambitious goals fuel success. Realistic goals sabotage it.

  • Don’t attach an arbitrary deadline – you can’t predict the future

    Deadlines do more harm than good. If you’re truly working toward your most important goals, they are important regardless of when you achieve them.

  • Create space for intentional reflection – do it because you want to

    Don’t rush through goal setting. Goal setting is ineffective if you’re just doing it to check the box.

goal setting tips for entrepreneurs on how to set personal goals and how to set business goals and achieve them in 2023

As an entrepreneur coach for small business owners, I help a lot of my clients create clarity around what they actually want to achieve in life and business so that they can create not just financial success, but fulfilling success.

Goal setting is an important part of success, but with so much conflicting information out there, it’s easy to have your goal setting process turn into a time consuming mess that yields inconsistent results (or consistent failing). 

That’s why it was so important to me to share these 5 goal setting tips for entrepreneurs, so that you can set your 2023 goals without making these goal setting mistakes and get ahead of the game. In my next article, I’m going to share my simple and proven method for goal setting for ambitious entrepreneurs that will make it easy for you to create more success and fulfillment in your life and business in 2023, so stay tuned.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below: which of these goal setting tips are you going to focus on this year?


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