As a creative, as an artist, someone who would rather look at the abstract side of life, I hated goals.

For years.

And years.

Goals and I were not friends.

I loved the freedom of not having goals. I loved the freedom of being able to do what I want and go where my creativity took me. There was a time when I was making a living as an artist where everytime I was asked how much money I wanted to make, I’d say, “Oh, enough I don’t have to worry about it.”

At the time I thought that was my goal, and I thought that was a good goal; I thought it was something worth working towards, which it was, but it wasn’t realistic because it wasn’t actually a goal; it was a dream.

My folly wasn’t unique. you’ll be amazed how many people make this mistake.

In fact, one of the biggest mistakes I see clients making is they don’t set goals. They think they set goals, but instead they just have a dream.

Dreams are great, but dreams aren’t goals.

The difference between dreams and goals

Simply put: dreams are vague; goals are specific.

Dreams are statements like, “I want to make more money and work less.” That’s a nice idea; who doesn’t want that? But it’s not a goal because it’s not specific enough.

  • How much money?
  • How much more time do you want back?
  • By when?

Dreams are necessary — a key ingredient to any entrepreneur’s success — but they’re not goals.Share on Twitter

Goals, on the otherhand, are specific, measurable, and actionable.

If we take that same statement, we can turn it into a goal:

“I want to increase my profits by 50% and reduce the time I spend working by 25% within the next 18 months.”

THAT is a goal.

It’s specific. It’s measurable. And it’s actionable.

Four must-have elements of any goal

In my experience, both personally and with clients, goals must be:

  1. Desirable
  2. Specific
  3. Measureable
  4. Actionable

If you’re familiar with the SMART goals structure, you’ll see this is similar. SMART goals are:

  1. Specific
  2. Measureable
  3. Achieveable
  4. Results-driven
  5. Timebased

I’ve seen entrepreneurs set SMART goals time and time again and come up short, and it’s usually one of two reasons.

1. People set SMART goals they think they want, but couldn’t actually care less about. These are often goals they hear from other entrepreneurs. They hear an entrepreneur’s goal, think it sounds good, and then adopt it for themselves. This is a recipe for disaster because it misses the key element of desire. If you’re ever going to achieve any goal, you have to desire it. You have to want it deep in the core of your being. Without that desire, without that fire, you won’t persevere when things inevitably aren’t as easy as you think they’ll be.

2. People often set SMART goals that don’t lead to clarity of action. I’ve seen lots of SMART goals that didn’t break down obviously into any specific action items, so people are stuck with what looks like a really good goal, but no idea how they’re going to do it.

My system differs slightly, but in two key ways. Desire and action.

When I’m working with people to set goals, we always start with the desire.

Why do you desire this goal? Where’s the desire coming from?

Then we move onto specificity.

How can we make this goal as specific as possible? (Specificty leads to the feeling that something is readily achieveable.)

After specificity, we get into measureable.

How will we measure this goal? By what metrics are we going to be gauging efficacy? 

And then last, but not least, we work on the actionability of it.

Does it lead to clear action items?

This is where most people get hung up, so let me explain.

If you think on your goal for a few minutes, can you start to get an idea of how you’ll take action? For example, if your goal is to reduce the number of hours you work by 25%, then it is only logical your action items will be:

  1. Get clear on how many hours you currently work, and determine how many hours you’ll be working after a 25% reduction.
  2. Track where your hours are invested for an entire week.
  3. See what tasks you can assign to someone else on your team, automate, or eliminate all together.

Next steps

Getting in the habit of setting effective goals for your business will go a long way in transforming how you do business, but goals are only part of the puzzle. It’s not enough to set a goal and then just leave it sit there.

Once you have your goals, you need to design a strategy to achieve them. Your strategy will consist of big tasks and small action items that — when executed consistently — will lead to big results.

Goals are mile markers on the road to your dream, and the strategy is the turn-by-turn directions that help you get where you’re going. Combine strong goals with a solid strategy, and you can start to build your breakthrough.

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