How to Define Personal Goals and Commit to Them

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to create and maintain personal goals effectively?

Establishing goals is critical in developing the personal and professional areas of your life. As an accountant, you need to hone your ability to identify and fulfill your goals. By planning and accomplishing objectives, you’ll be able to advance your career and develop your firm. 

Here at Gusto, we aim to give accountants the tools they need for developing their careers, and that’s why, along with our partners at CPA Academy, we delivered an informative webinar all about setting goals for career and personal development. Our webinar “Intentional Goal Setting For Your Career” can be watched in its entirety here.

In this article, you’ll learn valuable insights from Amber Setter, a non-practicing CPA and executive coach. This webinar article includes informative highlights from Amber’s presentation, including defining your goals, using the hierarchy of needs to establish objectives, and why you should not limit the scope of your aspirations. 

How to define your personal goals 

Defining personal goals is a critical step in formulating your career plans and taking control of your life. You can set personal goals by determining what’s important to you in your life. 

Amber observed that when setting personal goals, you can ask yourself what’s working in your life so you can bring awareness to what isn’t working: 

“Uncover a goal that’s really going to have you inspired to be in consistent action. The first thing [to ask is] … what parts of your life are going really well … [that] don’t need any change. That’s a domain maybe you don’t need to hit on.”

Amber Setter

You can bring more direction in setting your goals by determining what is working and what is not working in your life. You can outline the challenges that you’re facing and determine the effects of those challenges:

“What challenges do you have right now? … What is the cost of these challenges? … What are you not able to do because of those challenges? If you’re really tired and you’re feeling burned out, what don’t you have the energy to do? And how does that impact other things?”

Amber Setter 

Your challenges may negatively impact certain areas of your life. If one of your challenges is overworking, that can negatively impact your relationships and health. In addition to immediate effects, challenges can also pose opportunity costs. You may not have time to pursue what you want professionally and personally because your challenges consume the time and energy that you could spend improving other areas of your life. 

Male accountant sitting at his desk working at night.

Your challenges may negatively impact certain areas of your life. If one of your challenges is overworking, that can negatively impact your relationships and health. In addition to immediate effects, challenges can also pose opportunity costs. You may not have time to pursue what you want professionally and personally because your challenges consume the time and energy that you could spend improving other areas of your life. 

You can determine your goals by evaluating what you want and contemplating how your challenges keep you from the things you desire. Once you determine what you want, you can consciously choose to make changes and strive towards your goals: 

“What do you want instead? What do you long for? … How committed are you to making a change? … When you look at the different facets of life, just ask yourself, ‘Where am I at? How willing am I to make [a] change?’ And that might help you prioritize what goals are most important to you for now.”

Amber Setter

You can define your personal goals by determining what areas of your life you want to improve. When you bring awareness to your willingness to change certain areas of your life, you can prioritize the things you want and determine your goals. 

Using the hierarchy of needs to establish long-term personal goals 

When determining what areas of your life you want to change, you can focus on your unmet needs. Everyone has different categories of needs in their lives, and different challenges can keep you from fulfilling particular needs. 

Amber discussed the psychologist Abraham Maslow and his “hierarchy of needs” pyramid. The hierarchy of needs revolves around the idea that people need to fulfill different areas of their lives to reach self-actualization. The pyramid prioritizes our inherent needs and categorizes them into the ascending groups: physiology, safety and security, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. 

The pyramid’s ultimate goal of self-actualization is all about self-discovery and finding meaning: 

“Maslow defines self-actualization as the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life. And for Maslow, he says [that] a person is always becoming, and they never remain static. … Self-actualization is about a person who comes to find a meaning [in] life that’s important to them. … So really uncovering what’s most important to you and how to design … a plan or goals to reflect that.”

Amber Setter

People work their way through the hierarchy of needs to discover what’s important to them and experience personal growth.

The bottom of the pyramid in the hierarchy of needs is physiological needs, which deals with basic needs for keeping you alive, such as food and water.  

Once you meet your basic physiological needs, you then move on to safety and security. The safety and security category could mean financial security, personal health, or anything else that affects your protection and bodily wellbeing. If you have unmet needs in this category, you might set specific goals, such as fitness goals, financial goals, or career goals. 

After meeting your safety and security needs, you can then move to love and belonging, which involves your personal connections with others. You may want to strengthen your relationships with family, friends, colleagues, or even your clients. Your goals revolving around love and belonging could be entirely personal, such as setting goals for improving relationships with family members, or your goals could involve business development if you’re attempting to improve your professional relationships. 

The fourth category in the hierarchy of needs is esteem, and this category revolves around gaining respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, and freedom. You could have many different goals revolving around improving your esteem, such as branching out with your accounting businesses to have more freedom and recognition within your profession. 

Within each category of the hierarchy of needs, you determine what areas of your life need improvements and how you can bring out the best in yourself: 

“How do you want to grow? And what’s going to nourish you? Essentially, each of these levels really helps you to distinguish what life looks like when you have become the best version of yourself.”

Amber Setter

What areas within the hierarchy of needs do you need to develop? You can use the hierarchy of needs to find what areas of your life you need to strengthen so that you continue growing personally and professionally. 

Personal goal examples and the importance of dreaming big

Determining your goals to steer the direction of your life is crucial for your professional and personal development, but you might have difficulty coming up with specific goals. Fortunately, Amber outlined many different goal examples that you can contemplate to find your own personal goals: 

“Here are some things that you might want to consider: … Maybe you want to increase your energy, lead a more balanced life, [get] promoted, take on a new project. … You might want to hone your expertise. Think, … ‘How do I have the greatest impact, that feeling of making a contribution in a more meaningful way?'”

Amber Setter

There are many different ways you can improve your personal and professional lives, and you can set different goals to strive towards making a meaningful impact. Your personal goals can also have a positive effect on others. You can help your colleagues develop by improving your ability to lead: 

“Oftentimes, people set goals for role transitions, [such as] either being promoted [or] taking on a new role in an organization. … Some example goals along the lines of improving your leadership effectiveness, [include] … mentoring and developing others [and] delegating for the development of others, [and] that also can grow you.”

Amber Setter

Your personal development can leave a positive impact on others. You can enhance your leadership abilities and make goals for shifting into a leadership role in your organization. 

Female accounting manager leading a meeting.

When determining your different goals, it’s critical that you refrain from underestimating yourself. You can establish large goals that you can work towards: 

“I have observed that people may sometimes really play small when it comes to their goals. They might shortchange themselves with earning potential. … I ask clients that might be thinking a little limiting … to dream big. So what are your highest hopes for this area of your life?”

Amber Setter

Don’t only set small, easy goals for yourself. Determine your big-dream goals for your life and strive towards them, whether that means establishing high financial goals or growing your accounting firm into a major company. Many people set roadblocking pre-conditions for themselves, thinking milestones must be achieved before they can begin to pursue goals. Dispense with those.  Instead, set specific goals for yourself based on what you want, and go after them. Don’t limit yourself when establishing your ambitions.

Learn more about defining and committing to your personal goals

Setting personal goals is critical for developing the different areas of your life. You can determine your personal goals by evaluating your challenges and by assessing how those challenges keep you from what you want. You can also consider your life within the hierarchy of needs and determine what categories you need to work on to continue developing. When determining your goals, don’t limit yourself to easily obtainable objectives—strive towards accomplishing great things in the different areas of your life.

If you’re ready to learn more about how to define and commit to your personal goals, read Part One and Part Three of this webinar article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

Determining your personal goals is critical for your accounting career, but you also need the right tools for reaching your goals. Gusto provides accountants with exceptional tools for serving their clients and developing their firms. We can help your small business clients with full-service payroll, health insurance, and benefits. We also file and send local, state, and federal payroll taxes for businesses under 100 employees. Additionally, you’ll gain access to HR experts and a dedicated Gusto partner advisor. Learn more about how Gusto can help you reach your professional goals by visiting our Gusto for accountants page

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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