It’s fun to set goals. It can be exciting to challenge yourself—to push your limits. Maybe you’re finally going to get that editorial calendar together or create your first product. You write that goal down. You stick a sticky note on your desk to remind you of that goal each day and then…you don’t reach your goal. You’re frustrated. You’re discouraged. “Is there something wrong with me?” you wonder.
Nope. You simply ran into a goal setting challenge you weren’t prepared to handle.
Let’s tackle five of those challenges today!
Challenge 1: You Aimed Too High
It’s always okay to set your sights high and challenge yourself to push your limits, but sometimes, you set that bar just a teeny bit too high. You’re not going to reach your goal, which makes you want to quit.
- Example: I’ll sell 20 courses this month.
- 1 Week to Go: I’ve only sold 9 courses.
DON’T do this: “No sense trying. There’s no way I’ll sell another 11 courses in just one week when it took me three weeks to sell 9.”
Instead, you have two options:
1) Change your goal: I’ll sell 12 courses this month.
2) Keep reaching for that 20 even if you don’t hit it.
Regardless of whether you changed your goal or stuck to the original, at the end of the goal timeframe (in this case, a month) ask yourself:
- Why did I originally aim to sell 20 courses?
- What did I do/not do in order to reach that goal?
- What could I have done better?
- Whether you reach a goal or you don’t, you learned something.
Earlier this year, Kayla Hollatz, of KaylaHollatz.com, started an online book club, but after a few months, it was clear to her her original plan was working out. It was difficult to get people to engage in another Twitter chat (she already hosts #createlounge on Wednesdays) once a month to discuss the book, and she hadn’t met those original goals she set for herself when she started her book club.
But Kayla didn’t let that stop her. She was still passionate about reading and about community, she just needed another approach. She kept the concept of the book club BUT changed the format in which she engaged with her audience about each book.
If you ask Kayla if she would consider her first attempt a fail, she’d probably tell you, “No.” She didn’t fail She just had to find another way to approach and execute her goal.
Challenge 2: You Forgot to Give Yourself Time to Plan
You thought of a goal and you dived right in, forgetting that you don’t even know how to do X! Oops.
- Example: I just set up my website and my goal is to get 1,000 subscribers by the end of the month.
- The Problem: I don’t know how to set up a newsletter list, get people to join my list, and I don’t have anything to offer subscribers at the moment.
DON’T do this: “Forget it. I can’t believe I was so stupid. I have no idea how to gain 1,000 subscribers.”
Instead, check out where you took a wrong turn, backtrack, and get yourself on the right path.
So you forgot that before you should start worrying about gaining newsletter subscribers, you need an actual email list for them to subscribe to, and you need to offer website visitors a valuable reason for joining your list.
There’s no need to give up on your goal, but you’re going to need to tweak it. First, you need to set a goal to create a newsletter list. Then you need to create an opt-in of some sorts and post that opt-in in multiple places on your website as well as mention it in your social media bios (you can see my Pinterest bio as an example of this).
NOW set your goal to reach those 1,000 subscribers. You have something they want/need (and you have a way to gather all their emails)—now start driving traffic to that opt-in.
Goofed up your goal timeline? Check where you took a wrong turn, backtrack, and get yourself on the right path! (<<< click to tweet!)
Before I moved my website to Squarespace, I knew I needed to learn how to use Squarespace. I downloaded a free course on how to use Squarespace and worked through the entire course before I moved my site.
Because I knew in order to complete my ultimate goal: Get website on Squarespace, I needed the skill set to achieve this goal.
- Before you set your next goal, ask yourself:
- What do I need in order to make this goal a reality?
- Do I have what I need?
- If not, what I can do to get what I need before I start?
Challenge 3: You Weren’t Honest With Your Timetable
Ever undertaken a new project/goal without *quite* understanding just how much work it was going to take? Hey, we’ve all been there at one point.
- Example: I’m going to redesign my website, and it’ll take me one week.
- Reality: It’s been a month and I’m still working on my website. Grrr.
DON’T do this: Beat yourself up, call yourself a failure, or quit.
So you underestimated redesigning a website. That’s okay. You’re learning. It’s the first time you’ve done this. Give yourself a pass and restructure your schedule/timetable to fit in the extra time you’ll need to accomplish your goal.
When I made the switch to Squarespace and changed my website domain to byemilyscott.com, I was completely unprepared how long it would take me. But I knew this change—this goal—was important to the success of my business, so I made more time by doing less. I gave up blogging for a couple of weeks and kept my newsletters short and sweet. I wasn’t as active as I usually am on social media, and I even cut back personal activities like writing, watching T.V., and painting—just for a few weeks.
I had a decision to make: What was important at that moment? My website. So it had to come first and all other activities had to come second.
No matter what goal you are working on, you should always know WHY it is a goal and why it matters to you to accomplish it. If a goal is priority number one, make the time to complete it, even if that means you have to give something up or put in extra hours each day for a short time—if a goal really matters to you, you’ll make it happen.
To know if a goal is important, ask yourself:
- What is my goal?
- Why is this a goal?
- What would happen if I complete it? How would I feel?
- What would happen if I don’t complete it? How would I feel?
- What am I willing to do to make sure I accomplish this goal?
Challenge 4: You Shared Your Goal Too Soon
Challenging yourself to grow is exciting. You want to share that excitement with others. But you’re goal changed, you’re not on track to meet your original deadline, or that goal is no longer important to you and you don’t want to admit it to the people you shared that goal with.
- Example: I’m going to start offering freelance editing services.
- Reality: Wait, I don’t want to spend my time editing. Actually, I’m not even sure I want to be a freelancer. Crap. I told my entire newsletter list I was going to do this!
DON’T do this: Lie, pretend, or force yourself to complete that goal.
In this situation, it really is best to be upfront, especially if you told your goal to someone/some people who trust you.
I have probably driven my author newsletter subscribers crazy with my inconsistent goals about blogging. Yes, I’ll blog. No, I won’t. Wait, yes, but in this way. No…wait...in that way. Heck, I’m still unsure what my author blogging goals are, but I’m always upfront with my audience about what’s going on. If something falls through, I tell them why. I’m a real person who makes real mistakes. Guess what? So is my audience. Just like me, I’m sure they make mistakes all the time, so it’s okay when I admit I’ve made one.
And while it’s important to keep an honest, open line of communication with your community, in the future, think before you share your goal. Instead of sharing your goal with everyone, maybe you should just share it with a "biz bestie" or your mastermind group. You may even want to wait until you’re well into the middle (or near the end) of you goal before you start sharing it. Even though we all make mistakes, it isn’t always easy to admit it. If you feel uncomfortable telling your audience one thing then having to backtrack and tell them the opposite is, in fact, true, keep your lips zipped for the time being.
Or you can do what Jenna Moreci does with her quarterly goals: She shares what they are, making sure her audience knows full well that she may not accomplish all these goals. The following quarter, she tells her audience what goals she achieved and which ones she didn’t. Then she shares her goals for the next quarter. Even though Jenna is sharing these goals with all of YouTube, she does in a way that challenges her but also gives her permission to not hit every goal. She doesn’t feel ashamed by admitting that some of her goals never happened.
Challenge 5: Your Goal Wasn’t Specific Enough
- Example: I’m going to grow my email list.
But you haven’t given yourself a concrete goal to reach. Technically, getting one subscriber this week would be a growth to your email list, right? But I’m guessing you want more growth than that. If you don’t know exactly where you want to end up, you’re going to have a tough time getting there.
Without concrete goals, you’ll find it difficult measuring and figuring out if you’ve met or haven’t your goal.
S. J. Scott suggests using S.M.A.R.T. goals:
Specific: You have to specify exactly what you want to achieve and WHY.
Measurable: How much? How many? Growing your email list isn’t clear enough. Increasing your email list by 20 subscribers a week is. Increasing your email list by 100 subscribers a month is.
Attainable: Set goals you can truly achieve. If you’re starting with a new site and nothing else—no opt-in, no blog posts, no social media presence, then you’re going to have a tough time gaining 1,000 subscribers in a few weeks. It’s absolutely okay to push yourself but push your limits just slightly. If you think gaining 100 subscribers this month is manageable, then challenges yourself to gain 200. But 100 subscribers a day probably isn’t possible right off the bat.
Relevant: Your goals need to be important to you. If your heart isn’t in it, you’re not going to achieve them. Or you’ll be unhappy and resentful the entire time you try. If you want to grow your email list simply because that’s what the “experts” say you should do, you’ll find it difficult to reach this goal. You have to WANT the goals you set for yourself and your creative business, and you have to know WHY you want them.
Time-bound: Your goals need deadlines. “I will grow my email list by 40 subscribers each week, and will have my first 1,000 subscribers by X date.”
Before you set a new goal for yourself, run it passed S.M.A.R.T.:
- Is my goal specific?
- Is my goal measurable?
- Is my goal attainable?
- Is my goal relevant?
- Is my goal time-bound?
What goal-setting challenges are you currently facing? Let’s chat about them!