I am a massive fan of goal setting in my business.
I know many people resist it, but I can honestly say hands-down getting comfortable with setting goals, reviewing them and taking action towards them changed the game totally for me when I was attempting to get my business off the ground and move from PAYE employee to totally self-employed entrepreneur.
But a question that has come up a lot for me and the wellness business owners I serve when we try to make the big vision happen is: is this realistic?
Achievable and realistic are common words used around the goal setting arena. Because the classic way to set a goal is to make it SMART.
S for Specific
M for Measurable
A for Achievable
R for Realistic
T for Timebound
I am so on-board with S, M and T in this acronym. The way I help my clients and members of my Just Start Now community set goals is all about getting specific and working to a 90-day timeline to give them enough time to get stuff done, but not so long that they lose focus.
But Achievable? And Realistic?
What do they even mean?
Personally, I prefer to shake them off. When I teach goal setting, I say to let go of these restrictive words.
Here’s what to think and do instead of clinging to what’s realistic:
One of the biggest stumbling blocks with setting big goals is they can create pressure.
And don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there. I set myself goals in the first year of going full-time in my business and beat myself up so hard each month when I didn’t reach the income figures I wanted. Constantly staring at the money that wasn’t coming into my account I put myself under a lot of pressure to keep working, marketing and doing all.the.things to make that target.
But the pressure doesn’t work.
What I’ve got comfortable with instead is this simple acknowledgement: that it doesn’t really matter whether you reach your goals or not.
And that might sound weird. Because I just said goals are important. But actually, it is the setting of them, the getting clear on what you want, the steps that you take and the person you become while taking those steps that is important. Not the achieving them bit.
What I’ve mastered the art of over a number of years is being focused on the goal, so it helps me keep the blinkers on and do the work necessary, but simultaneously completely letting go of whether I get the outcome I want.
Poof! I am not attached to it at all!
Achieving or not achieving the goal means nothing, it’s all just information and data.
I’m not a failure, useless or no good as a business owner if I don’t reach it.
It doesn’t mean no-one will ever buy, that I’m too expensive or that the market is saturated.
That’s all just stories in my head that I refuse now to let take control. And I encourage you to let go of these types of stories and meaning too, as they’ll only hold you back from setting bigger goals and consistently doing the work.
Repeat after me: It doesn’t matter if my unrealistic goal isn’t achieved. I am still worthy and capable.
Whilst I’m all for shaking off realistic and achievable when it comes to setting goals what we do need is to acknowledge is what input from you and real-life tangible stuff has to be in place in order to get where we want to be.
There is no point saying you’re going to reach 1M Instagram followers next year if you haven’t even started your account yet and have no intention of dedicating time to creating content and building an audience.
There’s no point saying you’re going to make €100,000 this year if you’re not willing to do what it takes to get comfortable with promoting yourself and set your prices higher.
There’s no point saying you’re going to get featured in 3 glossy magazines in the next 6 months if you’re not going to pitch your story, pay a publicist, pick yourself up after rejections and make friends with journalists.
There’s no point saying you’re going to get 50 sign-ups to your group programme if you don’t have a plan to grow your audience and your current following on social media is 65 and your mailing list is just your mum and your dog.
I hope you see my point here. No goal is unrealistic if you’re willing to put the work in. And you have the time and resources to make it happen.
You can honestly do anything. But you must recognise what needs to happen (practically and mindset) to reach it. The goal can be wild and ambitious. But you need to be truthful about the work that needs to go in.
A mentor I worked with in 2022 was Ruth Poundwhite and for the last couple of years she’s hosted a ‘play with possibility’ workshop.
As part of this workshop Ruth asks you to set an income goal for the year ahead and then triple it (this is a spoiler alert so keep it to yourself if you ever attend in future!).
Tripling the goal can feel terrifying. And bring up your not-so-friendly inner critic in your mind:
Who are you to earn that?
You don’t need that money!
No-one doing your job should earn that sort of income
You’re not that kind of business owner
You can’t out-earn your partner!
HOW would that even happen?!
It’s noisy and uncomfortable. But it’s so important we do let our minds go there and ‘play with the possibility’ as Ruth puts it. Not get bogged down in the ‘how’, but just sit in that expansiveness and look head-on at the limiting beliefs we have that stop us thinking that we can be the kind of person to achieve three-times what we originally dreamt up for ourselves.
Something I think that is important with goal setting is that they feel exciting to achieve.
I hear far too often “well if I made X that would mean I could just cover the bills” or “I really don’t need much, a few hundred for a summer holiday would be plenty” or “I don’t need millions of followers or customers, just a little trickle would be nice.”
It’s not just you that gets stuck in that rut. I realised this in my own goal setting too just this year. I worked out the income I thought I could make (realistically!) in 2023 to set my budget with my accountant. And it was a nice amount, yeah. Similar but slightly more than 2022.
But it didn’t excite me. It would mean only keeping the same take-home pay as I’ve already achieved. And it’s no mean feat to keep it the same, don’t get me wrong, that still involves work.
But I just bought a house! And there’s so much we want to do on it, that requires money.
And I want to travel now we can and take lovely holidays with my family!
There are things I’ve wanted to buy for myself that I just can’t with the income I’m on right now.
So where’s the fun in earning the same again..?!
It’s realistic yeah. But is that going to get me up in the morning? Is that going to get me trying new things or pushing out of the comfort zone?
No! If anything it’s going to make me feel pretty resentful and exhausted doing all that again to not feel any further on.
What’s the solution then?
Another influential voice around this idea of unrealistic goal setting for me in the last year has been Ray Dodd who encourages her clients to set 3 levels of goals:
I was resistant to this at first. It felt like way too much hard work to map out 3 lots of income plans. But I’ve come around to seeing the advantage.
My good goals are what I give my accountant, they’re my ‘realistic’ ones.
But I’m also going to set myself great and mind-blowing goals too, ones that excite me, that I can play with and that help me imagine who I need to be, what I need to do and where I can be if those were achieved instead.
So, in short, the answer to the question “do my wellness business goals need to be realistic?” the answer is no. They do not.
They need to be specific, measurable and timebound. But you can dream as big as you want, as long as you acknowledge the steps that need to take place and detach any negative meaning from when or if you reach them or not.