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A 7-Step Goal Setting Framework

Gusto Editors  
Male accountant writing his goals while sitting at his desk.

Do you know how to create achievable goals and stick to them? 

When you create goals for yourself, you can strive forward and achieve great things personally and professionally, but often, people find it difficult to formulate and accomplish achievable goals. 

Fortunately, Gusto, along with our partners at CPA Academy, presented an informative webinar that will help you establish and fulfill goals to advance your accounting career and other areas of your life. Watch the complete webinar presentation of “Intentional Goal Setting For Your Career,” by visiting this link. The webinar featured the goal-setting expertise of non-practicing CPA and executive coach, Amber Setter

This article will inform you about valuable insights for goal setting, including S.M.A.R.T. goal setting, the 7-step framework for designing achievable aspirations, and how you can remain focused on your objectives. 

The 7-step framework for S.M.A.R.T. goal setting

Establishing goals plays a critical role in shaping your life and moving forward with your career, and you need to use the right tools for creating achievable goals. Amber discussed the 7-step framework for setting goals and the importance of using the acronym S.M.A.R.T to establish goals. S.M.A.R.T refers to creating specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound goals. Amber’s 7-step framework for goal setting utilizes the different elements of S.M.A.R.T and expands on them. The seven steps are: intended results, future vision, skills, resources, milestones, rewards, and action plans.

Intended results

When establishing your goals, you need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve. “Intended results” means that you utilize two components for determining what you’re striving towards: objective and measure. Amber observed that the objective and measuring elements are the head and heart of your plan:

“The heart, or the objective, is your emotional ‘How come?’ Why is this goal important to you? What’s your intention? What is going to make this meaningful for you? The next … [element] is the measure, [or] the head. … You want to consider the who, the what, when, where, and why. … How will you know when it’s accomplished? Is it achievable?”

Amber Setter

The objective is the emotional component of your goal and deals with why you want to achieve it, while the measure analyzes the practical details of your plan. It measures the specifics of the goal and whether it’s achievable. 

Future vision

Visualizing your goals can help you achieve them. You can write out what you want to accomplish in the future to make it a reality. You mentally picture your future and write down what it looks like:

“When you do create your vision, you want to imagine it’s the day you’ve reached your goal and consider, ‘What does it feel like when you wake up? What do you see that you created? Who might you share your success with? … What does it feel like to be in this space having reached your goal?’

Amber Setter

Many successful people heavily utilize the practice of picturing their futures to obtain their goals. One prime example of someone who uses future vision effectively is Michael Phelps. Before shattering the Olympic World Record for the 400-meter individual medley, he repeatedly visualized the perfect race. Once it was time to perform, Michael Phelps’ goggles malfunctioned and hindered his eyesight. Despite being unable to see, Michael Phelps won the race and beat the Olympic World Record for the 400-meter individual medley because he had repeatedly visualized the perfect race. 

Skills

You need to consider your skills to set practical goals for yourself. You can write out skills and refer to them to remind yourself that you’re capable of achieving your goals:

“When … we’re setting goals, it’s just going to be this incremental progress where we go from here all the way up, and we climb the ladder of success. But there might be setbacks and challenges. … [We need to remind] ourselves that we can do this, that we’re smart enough, that we’ve got perseverance, [and] that we have all these different skills that we can use.”

Amber Setter

You can contemplate your skills to motivate yourself to strive forwards towards your goals, and you can also use them to strategize how you’ll achieve your objectives. When you think about the skills you have and don’t have, you can allocate different tasks to others to increase your productivity. For example, if you thrive on performing advising work, but are a slow bookkeeper, you can assign others bookkeeping tasks so you can focus on your strengths and move faster toward your aspirations.   

An offscreen accountant delegating a task to a female co-worker.

Resources 

When you write out a list of the different resources available to you, you can plan out how to use them to achieve your goals. You can separate your resources into two categories: people and assets.

“[The people within your resource category could be] in your workplace [or] people in your family life. Assets [are] these are things that are other than people, … [such as] courses that you’ve taken, books that you have, your computer, your internet. … When you’re really stretching yourself and growing yourself, it helps you to remind yourself of everything that you have that’s going to help you in the achievement of these results.”

Amber Setter

Writing out the people and assets in your life can remind you of the resources you have to achieve your goals, and it also shows you what assets you lack. You may need to acquire additional assets, such as an educational course or certification, to drive forward with your goal. 

Milestones

You need to break up your goals into achievable components, and this is where milestones come in. If you’re working towards a significant goal, you set different milestones that you’re working toward so you can stay on track with your ultimate objective: 

“When I coach people that are setting a goal maybe for three years out, they’re going to create milestone goals on a quarterly basis. … You can’t be out of sight [and] out of mind at the end of the … three months and be like, ‘Wait, what was my goal? What was I supposed to do?’”

Amber Setter

Establishing time-based milestones helps you continue working toward your ultimate goal. It’s easy to lose track of a big goal because there are often many tasks and components that go into it, so you need to break up your larger objectives and strive towards accomplishing small milestones that push you forward towards your larger goal. 

Rewards

Once you achieve a milestone, you need to reward yourself! Overworking to achieve larger goals can lead to burnout, so you need to reward yourself for your efforts along the way. 

“When it comes to rewards, you want to create three different categories. … You’re going to have your milestones, what you’re going to do, by when you’re going to do it, and you’re going to attach a reward to that.”

Amber Setter

After achieving a milestone by your self-imposed deadline, you reward yourself with something special. For example, if you don’t eat out often or take many days off, you can reward yourself by taking a vacation day and eating at a nice restaurant. Rewarding yourself will help you stay on track towards your ultimate goal. 

Action Plans

You need to establish what actions you need to take to reach your individual milestones. 

“What is the action that you’re going to take after today that’s going to establish this plan for yourself? … Really make [your plan] come to life because otherwise, these are just big ideas, and it doesn’t have you getting into action.”

Amber Setter

You need to create specific action steps towards accomplishing milestones by their deadlines. This will help you achieve your smaller goals that ultimately lead to your larger objective. 

Achieving large goals can often be challenging, but when you evaluate your objectives, desired future, skills, and resources while also setting smaller milestones, you’ll be able to accomplish your aspirations. 

Staying consistent with your personal and professional goals

After creating your ultimate goal and smaller milestones, you need to incorporate different elements to stick to your goals. The first step you can take to increase your likelihood of staying consistent with your goals is overcoming your resistance to change. Often, people don’t realize that they want to stay within their comfort zones. People run on autopilot and avoid taking strides towards their goals because of their fear of change. One way you can embrace change is by bringing consciousness to your life:

(34.3) A 7-Step Goal Setting Framework

“[When they] elevate levels of consciousness … people start noticing the way that they’re operating in life, and … [they realize whether] it serves them or not.”

Amber Setter

Rather than go about your day on autopilot and avoid change, evaluate how you’re living your life currently and determine whether you need to make changes. When you bring consciousness to how you live, you can work towards making positive changes. 

The next step you can take towards remaining on your path to achieve goals is by having visual reminders of your aspirations and your progress:

“I call it ‘seeing is achieving.’ So this is where you want to have visual displays to remind yourself of your goals or remind yourself of your progress on your goals. … Seeing really helps you to achieve your results.”

Amber Setter

You can use various methods of visually reminding yourself of your goals and progress, such as post-it notes, reminders on your phone, and checklists. 

Another crucial method you should adopt when striving towards your goals is sharing your ambitions with others: 

“When you share your plans by saying them and sharing them, it creates more clarity in your mind and in your heart on the results you want to create for yourself.”

Amber Setter

Sharing your goals helps you make them a reality, and it also keeps you accountable. If you share your goals with coworkers, friends, or family, you can find individuals who will keep you accountable for your progress so you can stay on track and continue driving forward to accomplish your larger goals. 

Remaining on course when striving towards a goal can often be challenging, but when you overcome your fear of change, introduce visual reminders, and share your plans with others, you’ll increase your likelihood of moving forward consistently towards your aspirations. 

Learn more about how to set goals

Establishing goals is crucial for your personal and professional development, but you need to create achievable goals that you can continue working towards. Create a S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goal and follow the 7-step process for creating objectives, including intended results, future vision, skills, resources, milestones, rewards, and action plans. 

If you want to learn more of her insights about goal setting, read Part One and Part Two of this webinar article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

If some of your goals include expanding your firm and improving your ability to serve your clients, consider signing up for Gusto. Gusto provides accountants with exceptional tools for helping their clients and offering new insights. We also provide small businesses with payroll, health insurance, and benefits, and we even automatically file and send payroll taxes for businesses under 100 employees! To learn more about how Gusto can help you achieve your accounting goals, visit our Gusto for accountants page

Updated: May 18, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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