An impending new year brings with it the opportunity for a fresh start — or the pressure to set and achieve new goals. It depends on your perspective. If you have a history of making and abandoning New Year's resolutions (we’re right there with you!) the flip of the calendar may cause stress. But there’s a way to reframe resolutions to make them less daunting and more attainable.
As an independent, business goals are important to set and track to keep you accountable. After all, you usually only answer to one boss: yourself. And while you may be goal setting throughout the year, the spirit of renewal in January is a great time to revisit and refresh them.
If you’re still an aspiring entrepreneur, let yourself get swept up in the moment. The new year is a great time to finally put those dreams to paper and take action. Treat resolutions more like clear, structured goals with a measurable plan to achieve them.
🚀 11 ways to create business goals you’ll actually stick to in 2022
We spoke to three small business founders to tap into their wisdom about setting, tracking, and smashing your goals in the new year. Read to the end to download our printable business goals template for setting your 2022 goals.
Meet Elaisha Jade Green, senior social media manager, certified meditation & mindfulness teacher, and founder of Your Mindful. Sarah Stockdale is the founder of Growclass, a self-paced growth marketing course and community. She also authors We Need to Talk About This and hosts The Growth Effect podcast. And, Josephine Walters is a certified PMP and founder of Noots, a DTC premium pet brand.
Here’s what they had to say about their own goal setting practices in the new year—and all the time.
1. Exit the resolution rut
“Resolutions start a year by listing everything you wish was different, rooting you in thinking about every way you perceive that you've failed in the previous year,” says Sarah. “Usually, they are unrealistic promises to yourself that don't have a real plan behind them.”
This pattern, she says, can leave us less motivated—quite the opposite of their intention.
Josephine agrees, admitting that New Year's resolutions offer a great way to think about the whole year but they often lack a plan to achieve them. “For me, goal setting is an ongoing undertaking throughout the year,” she says. “It consists of a series of smaller goals that when accomplished eventually result in larger overall goals being met.”
2. Make your goals matter
"If your goals aren’t synced with the substance of your heart, then achieving them won’t matter much," writes author Danielle Laporte in The Fire Starter Sessions. Your business goals should all tie into your big “why” for becoming an entrepreneur in the first place. Maybe you started a business to create an eco alternative to an existing product. A goal like “switch to sustainable packaging by 2022” aligns with your “why.”
The idea for Noots came to Josephine when the new cat owner found pet lifestyle products on the market to be subpar. She launched the brand, named for her new cat, with a meaningful goal to build her audience pre-launch—which started with the feline’s own Instagram fans.
“I knew that launching with an interested audience would be a great way to acquire my first customers, spread awareness and get valuable feedback,” she says. “When I launched, we had a number of orders come through from day 1 which was pivotal to our early growth.”
💡Related: Beyond the Buzzwords: How to Communicate Impact as a Brand
3. Clarify your goals with practice
“I love people with fuzzy aspirations because they always know more about themselves than what is coming to the surface,” says Sarah of some of the students in Growclass cohorts. “It's like mining for gold.”
It’s ok to start the year with vague goals. There’s no time limit on setting goals and a plan to achieve them. Vague goals, like “quit my job and start my own consultancy” leave a lot of questions unanswered. Your micro goals in the meantime may all be related to learning and personal and professional development.
“Coaching is the best tool to help someone realize the times they really love their work and what lights them up,” says Sarah, who plans to add more coaching and personal growth features for Growclass in the new year.
A journey of self-discovery can help you clarify your ultimate goals and set a concrete plan in motion — whether that happens in January or July.
4. Visualize your goals
For Elaisha, a visual approach helps her keep her goals top of mind. “I visualize my ideas on my dream board and hang it somewhere I can see it easily each morning,” she says.
For you, visualization might be a mental exercise in which you describe in detail what your ideal future state looks like: where are you? What’s the weather like? Who’s with you?
Other forms of visual goal setting might include journaling, mindmapping, or moodboarding. Even your favorite motivational quote from a mentor or someone you admire posted prominently in your office or space can remind you to stay on track.
5. Set a trajectory that’s in your control
"Be the designer of your world and not merely the consumer of it," writes author James Clear in Atomic Habits. Having ownership over the entire process of setting both personal and business goals means that you alone are responsible for your success.
Earlier in Sarah’s career, she set goals related to things that weren’t within her control: salary, promotions, titles. Giving up agency, she says, can lead you to place more importance on others’ opinions of your success.
“The biggest thing I've learned about goal setting is that you need to have control over your own goals,” she says. “You have to think really hard about how you want to measure your own success, and how you can control those outcomes so your goals can feel good.”
6. Focus on the journey (the destination will follow)
“The new year brings clarity and motivation,” says Josephine. “It’s always a good time to set intentions for yourself.” But goals aren’t slow cookers that you set and forget. They’re more like making risotto, requiring monitoring and adjusting to ensure the best end result.
“How often do you reflect on your progress and adjust your vision and expectations for yourself?” Josephine asks.
If you focus too intently on your end goal, it’s easy to miss the smaller wins. Splitting big goals into smaller milestones means that you’re enjoying success throughout the journey. The goal of launching Noots, to Josephine, felt like it required an overwhelming amount of work.
“Setting smaller incremental goals was helpful in ensuring I was setting goals that were achievable,” she says. “This lent itself to an increase in my productivity and motivation as I continued to accomplish goals that were moving the needle.”
7. Use systems that work for you
“I never found goal-setting apps helpful,” says Sarah. But many others do. The important thing is to pick a system that works for your lifestyle and schedule. Sarah prefers a pen and paper approach, using author Danielle Laporte’s method for outlining her “core desired feelings.”
“I schedule reflection times throughout the year, because if I don't, I know I won't ever do it,” Sarah says. “It’s literally in GCal — nothing fancy.”
For Josephine, custom Excel spreadsheets are her go-to for documenting business goals and tracking progress. “Regular monitoring of progress allows me to confirm whether my goals are realistic,” she says. “So I can make adjustments as needed or move the goalposts.”
8. Don’t get caught in a wheel
"Goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress,” writes James Clear. A system will help ensure you’re not running on the spot in pursuit of your goals that never seem to get any closer. If this is happening, step back and take stock of your plan—does it map clearly to your goals or do you need to change course?
“Even as a mindfulness and meditation teacher it’s easy to get caught up in chasing milestones which never leads to satisfaction,” says Elaisha.
9. Crowdsource your motivation
“Achieving your goal isn't accomplished in a vacuum by you alone,” says Sarah. “They're always a product of a group effort.” In the spirit of this, Growclass focuses heavily on community among its students.
As a solopreneur, you may not have a community or support system built in. Seek others in your industry or those at a similar palace in their own entrepreneurial journey. Celebrate wins together and learn from each other’s mistakes. Online communities, networking apps, and local industry events are all great sources for meeting like minded people.
“You need support, coaching, a network to connect you to opportunities, smart friends to bounce ideas off of, and accountability to keep you motivated when it gets tough,” says Sarah. “It's frustrating that we're always taught success is an individual thing,”
10. Celebrate your wins
Reaching your big business goal (or your micro goals along the way) are cause for celebration. Many who are self-starters can easily get caught up in the “what’s next?” before taking a breath to bask in their success.
“There will always be new goals to hit after accomplishing another,” says Elaisha. But she takes the time to reflect back on her year and celebrate her accomplishments. “It gives me the chance to feel energized and empowered to build big goals and also not defeated that I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to.”
11. Decompress, reflect, repeat
As a mindfulness professional, Elaisha knows the value of making space and time for self. At the end of each year, she prepares for the next by decompressing. “I book a day to listen to some relaxing music and decide how I want to feel next year and what actions it’ll take for me to get there.”
New year’s resolutions can act as a jumping off point for the rest of the year. They provide a theme within which you’ll start to set clear goals with measurable plans. “Engaging in goal setting on a regular basis helps ensure you're setting the right goals and working towards them,” says Josephine.
Your goal setting practices may take time to establish and your road to achieving them may be rocky at first. Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from striving toward your goals — the new year is a clean slate on which to write your future.
"It is easy to get bogged down trying to find the optimal plan for change,” writes James Clear. “We are so focused on figuring out the best approach that we never get around to taking action."
✴️ Look, leap, level up resource: Download our printable business goals template to help you get a head start on 2022. If you prefer a Google Doc version to fill out online, view it here and make a copy!