Goal Setting -- How to Set the Right Goals for Business Success

Are you excited about all the possibilities of 2011?  Have you spent some time yet on figuring out what you want to achieve -- and how to get there?
One tool that will help you with achieving your goals is a roadmap, not unlike what you'd take with you on a trip if you want to get where you're going.  When I was in Paris a last October, as I headed out each day to explore the city, one essential was my map. When I got turned around (ok, I'll admit it... lost) a few times all I had to do was stop and ponder my map for a few minutes to see where I took a wrong turn or missed my subway exit to get back on track. I consulted it so often navigating my way, that it was tattered in just a few days.
And even in the age of GPS systems, which is just an electronic version, you still need to know where you are and where you're headed.
When it comes to life and setting business and personal goals, we sometimes overlook the essential of having a map - knowing where we're coming from and heading to.  Here are a few guidelines for setting goals that will help you get where you'd like to go during this new year.
1. First spend time thinking about your values
What's really important to you?  Time, money, freedom, family, community, fulfillment, health, achievement, a trim body, lifestyle, and so on.
Then spend some time ordering those in terms of priorities, limit yourself to three or so but no more than five of them as your top priority values.  As you go about setting specific goals it's important to make sure they fit in with your values.
2. Come up with goals that are compatible with your values -- and reflect what's important to you
Don't go for goals just because you've read somewhere that you're supposed to do a certain thing, no matter how reasonable.  Make sure it's something that YOU really want to achieve.  I believe that the bigger the WHY the easier to achieve the goal.
Your goals need to be something you're willing to do the work for and can really get behind so that when the going gets tough you don't quit.
3. Make sure the goals you set are compatible with each other
If one of your most important values and goals is to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, or to spend lots of time with your family, you can't have another goal that would require you to work 80-hour weeks, no matter how good that might be for your finances.  
Doing that would set you up for failure right from the start.  So look at all of the goals you're considering next to each other, and make sure that they all work together to help you achieve what's most important to you.
4. Make your goals come to life
Make your goals come to life by going into as many specifics as possible.  If you want a new car, make sure you include details like what it would feel like to drive the car, how comfortable its interior would be, what it might look like (color, shape, and even its specific make and model if you have one in mind). 
My favorite is... to feel the sun on my face, the wind in my hair (yes, I'm a convertible girl) the throaty sound of the exhaust as I downshift thru windy roads - and yes, it's got to be fast and either red or yellow. Just typing this brings it all to life for me and draws me to the goal. So what's yours? 
And if you want to achieve a certain amount of income, don't be shy - specify your desired income level.  It's okay and even good if it's a stretch.  Just don't make it so high that you don't believe you can actually reach it with a realistic amount of effort. And think past just the dollar amount - what would you DO with the income? 
5. Write down what you want to achieve
This is the step most people miss. You will greatly increase the outcome of achieving your goals if you write them down.  And when you do, make sure you write them in terms of what you want to achieve, i.e., increasing your client base and your profits, not in terms of what you are trying to get away from, i.e., avoiding debt.  
While there's nothing wrong with avoiding debt, phrase it in a positive way.  For example, you could resolve to pay all your bills on time and work towards an ever increasing positive net worth. 
6. Set aside some time to work out the action steps
Setting goals is just the first step. You can't just write them down and then sit there wishing they'll come true.  Next, you should set aside some time to work out the details of how exactly you're going to get there. You've got to be willing to do the work.
Mark out benchmarks along the way to check your progress. I'd really be in trouble if I just looked at my Paris map at the start of the day - I needed to consult it occasionally to ensure I wasn't too far of course.
Coming back to our GPS or map model, the goals are just the destination.  The action steps are what will get you there. 
7. Goals aren't written in stone
Finally, once you have them written down; keep in mind that goals are not written in stone.  Remember, your goals must be realistic and achievable or they quickly become de-motivating. If they become unreachable downsize (or rightsize) them. 
Also, if they no longer fit, no one is going to come and arrest you because you change your mind.  Yes, if you've done the job of aligning realistic goals well with your values and a big enough "why", it's unlikely you'd want to. 
However, sometimes your life circumstances may change, and when they do, don't be afraid to make adjustments.  Just remember to go back through the same process and make sure your new goal is aligned with the rest of your goals, and your values, and go for it.