Goal Setting Definition and Examples

Strategies for Successful Goal Setting

Pensive man at laptop in home office
••• Goal setting in action. Astronaut Images / Getty Images

Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to accomplish and devising a plan to achieve the result you desire. For entrepreneurs, goal setting is an important part of business planning.

This goal setting definition emphasizes that goal setting is a three part process. For effective goal setting, you need to do more than just decide what you want to do; you also have to work at accomplishing whatever goal you have set for yourself  - which means you have to create a plan so your work gets you where you want to go.

For many people, it's the third part of the goal setting definition that's problematic. They know what they want to do and they're perfectly willing to work on it but they have trouble creating a plan to get there.

The undirected effort might help you accomplish what you want to do if by some fluke you do the right thing at the right time. Usually, it doesn't. And then, because you're not getting any results, you quit working at whatever it is and give up on whatever goal you've set.

Sound familiar?

So for successful goal setting, the first thing you have to do is close the gap between the end result you want and where you are now with a plan.

What's the Difference Between a Personal Goal and a Business Goal?

Business goals and personal goals have different purposes (business goals aim to improve your business rather than some aspect of your personal life) but there's no difference in the goal setting process.

The same goal setting formula and strategies that works for business goals will also work for personal goals - with the one difference that applying the strategies that are often used to set business goals will give you greater success with achieving personal goals than is often the case.

Business Goals

Business goals are typically set on an annual basis and should be aligned with your long term goals.

For example, if your five-year plan is to increase sales by 100% then at the beginning of each year you might set a goal to increase your sales by 20% for the current year. Your goals should be worked into your business plan and (in this case) your sales forecasts.

Throughout the year, you might have weekly, monthly, or quarterly sessions where you review your progress towards the annual goal. Writing down the results is essential for staying on track when you're working towards achieving a goal.

At the end of each day, you should review what you have accomplished for the day and think about what you would like to achieve on the following day. ​Preparing a to-do list for the next day each night is an excellent practice that will help keep you on track.

Whether you prefer to do it at night or in the morning, Daily Planning is a highly recommended way to increase your business success. Regularly reviewing your progress towards achieving your goals and your goals themselves keeps you focused and motivated.

Strategies for Goal Setting Success

The easiest way to set yourself up for goal setting success is to use a formula for setting goals that incorporates a strategy for accomplishing the goal.

(See Goal Setting: The First Step to Achievement for details.) 

Another way of ensuring that you have a good shot at actually accomplishing the goals you set is to make sure that the goals you set follow the SMART acronym and are:

  • Specific - For example, I want to increase my business revenue by 30% this year.
  • Measurable - "Increasing sales" or "reducing debt" are measurable goals, "working harder" or "increasing my personal satisfaction" are vague and difficult to measure.  Putting your goals in writing helps to keep you focused and see how much progress you've made towards your goals at the end of the defined time period.
  • Attainable - A goal should be challenging but attainable. If your business is a lumber yard, overtaking Home Depot in sales is not a reasonable goal!
  • Relevant - Goals should be aligned with your long term plans. If your long term plan is for your business to attain $200,000 a year in sales your short-term goals should directly relate to achieving this.
  • Time-Bound - Without a specific time frame for your goals they can't be properly measured. A goal should contain a time limit (e.g. "by the end of the year I want to increase sales by 20%").

I hate to wreck a good acronym, but I think it's important to add an 'E' for engaging when goal setting. If a goal isn't engaging to a person, they're not going to have enough internal motivation to work to accomplish it.

Examples: Once Craig learned how to set specific goals, he found his goal setting efforts a lot more successful as he actually accomplished what he set out to do.

Read more:

10 Goal Setting Tips for Setting Goals You Will Achieve

Create a Business Action Plan

How to Write a Mission Statement in 3 Easy Steps

How to Write a Vision Statement