Undoubtedly, 2020 was filled with circumstances and challenges that no one could have expected. But it also created opportunities for growth and learning for business owners and CPAs alike. By understanding how to take time for reflection and shift to a better mindset, you can turn the obstacles in 2020 into rich life lessons that will propel you forward into 2021 and beyond. 

You may be wondering how to set goals for your business after such a crazy year. How can you plan for the unknown? That is exactly what coach Amber Setter specializes in. Amber is a former CPA turned ICF credentialed coach who loves helping professionals dream big and get unstuck. 

As a former CPA and now professional coach, Amber has been a valuable resource for others at CPA Academy, a platform where people can stay up-to-date on everything related to accounting. Amber’s webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Goal Setting for 2021 After a Year of Disruption,” featured goal-setting techniques and visualizations. 

CPA Academy hosted the webinar live, and you can check out the full playback here. This thought-provoking session provides you with the experience of working with a professional coach, with guided exercises to help you identify your personal and professional leadership goals. If you want to learn more about reflecting on 2020, make sure to check out Part One of this webinar here. 

Why is goal setting important?

You may think you set plenty of goals at work, but are you measuring the things that really matter? Amber recommended a more holistic approach for goal setting: 

“The majority of my coaching clients are accountants who are very well versed at looking at past financial performance to predict the future business results. But that doesn’t always work so well with our life goals. There’s a lot of power that comes from reflecting, not just on quantitative metrics, but on qualitative experiences. So as you think about 2021, how might you apply this learning to design and create your best year yet?”

Amber Setter

That’s the key word — design. It’s empowering to believe that we hold the keys to our future happiness and success. We just have to create it from the inside out, and we do this by goal setting. 

Designing your internal space

The first step in setting realistic goals is to take inventory of your internal world. 

The external world is continuing to change at an accelerated and rapid pace. So in order to thrive, you must take on responsibility for the design of your internal space.”

Amber Setter

This means that you are in control when something external happens that you don’t like because you can choose how you respond. You can be upset and let it defeat you, or you can choose to recalibrate and make a different, empowered choice. 

Two males sitting beside each other talking about professional leadership

Amber also talked a lot about consciousness, but not in the esoteric framework that we’re used to hearing it. She said that consciousness is about learning how to see yourself, your colleagues, your family members, and perhaps your clients in a deeper and more meaningful way. This deeper awareness of what someone else is going through is critical in today’s business world in order to make lasting connections. 

Another important growth concept is that of “completion,” meaning the ability to close the door on one chapter and open up the next, without any unruly loose ends. Amber related this concept to trying to run a marathon with a pebble in your shoe. It’s a distraction and will hold you back. In order to move forward at full pace, you need to get that pebble out of your shoe and let it go.

“When we have incompletions in our life, we can’t really run through life with fast-paced velocity and ease because we have all these underlying incompletions.”

Amber Setter

What lessons did you learn from 2020? Did you learn to have more patience? How to hire better talent? How to run a more efficient payroll? It’s important to complete the chapter of the previous year by reflecting on lessons learned, identifying what you want to bring into the new year, and choosing what you want to leave behind.

When you design your internal landscape, you are able to create a workplace that empowers a better life and cultivates personal prosperity and peace. 

Beyond SMART goal setting

You may have heard about SMART goal setting at some point in your career. Here’s a quick reminder of what it stands for: 

  • S — Specific
  • M— Measurable
  • A — Achievable
  • R — Relevant
  • T — Time-bound

Amber challenged this long-held framework saying it’s limiting, boring, and completely basic because goals are not often considered achievable or relevant, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t attainable.

“I have a strong bias. I do not like the billable hour. I think it’s inhumane and it makes us look at the wrong things. We’re just looking at numbers instead of a human being’s experience in a professional setting. So if a client comes and wants to talk about performance evaluations and billable hours, I will own if I have a bias, and I will also try to keep it out of the way if it’s in service of what they need from the conversation.”

– Amber Setter

Amber suggested that a better way to do goal setting is to think about big, impossible goals and not worry about if they are achievable or attainable yet. Don’t obsess over the hours it will take to get there. She guides her clients through experiencing what it feels like to attain those goals and to align everything they do around that pure experience. 

“So thank goodness Mark Zuckerberg did not ask himself if becoming a billionaire by age 23 was a goal that was achievable and realistic. I’m an actualization coach. I help people transcend what they believe is possible. And I don’t ask my clients to limit themselves to what might be realistic. So yeah, I have a bias to get people to dream really big. And again, inviting them to the space of creation and pure possibility.”

– Amber Setter

Don’t sell yourself short — you are capable of far more than you realize. 

Ariel view of colleagues planning out smart goals for success

Dr. Joe Dispenza’s incredible story

Speaking of possibility, one of Amber’s heroes is Dr. Joe Dispenza who studied biochemistry at Rutgers University and holds a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in neuroscience. His work explores how our thoughts create our realities. 

“Dispenza’s interest in the space really came from his own life experience, where he had an unrealistic result that he achieved.”

– Amber Setter

In 1986, Dr. Dispenza was in a triathlon race when his bike was hit by an SUV, badly injuring his spine. Dispenza left the hospital against the advice of his physicians, and he spent the next three months mentally and physically reconstructing his spine. In his own words, this is how he healed his spine by using his thoughts:

“For two hours a day, I went within and I began creating a picture of my intended result, a totally healed spine. Nine and a half weeks after the accident I got up and walked back into my life fully recovered without having a body cast or any surgeries. I resumed my chiropractic practice 10 weeks out and was training and lifting weights again while continuing rehabilitation at 12 weeks. Now that it’s been nearly 30 years since the accident, I can honestly say that I rarely experience any back pain.”

Dr. Joe Dispenza

This may sound impossible, but it’s the truth — through the power of positive thinking and visualizing, Dr. Dispenza was able to help his body reconstruct his spine and achieve his goals. The great news is that you can achieve the impossible too! As you go into 2021, set grand goals for yourself, your firm, or your business and remind yourself of them every day.

Clearly see the future you want to create

Dr. Dispenza’s story almost seems unreal, but he demonstrated the power of positive thinking in his body and in his life. When you visualize the life and business that you want, it’s important to feel the elevated emotion of achieving that success. When you think of 2021, how do you feel? Ambivalent? Excited? Overwhelmed? 

Here are a few steps to get started visualizing a successful 2021 for you and your business:

  • To create a new result, you have to imagine a new reality and new emotions around a future success.
  • Get really present with what that result is going to feel like.
  • Do a completion exercise where you bring your past into your future. Close-out past experiences and start thinking about the future as a new chapter. You can view this exercise directly in the webinar
  • Understand why you are in the same patterns of thinking and do the work to dive into that so you can exit those patterns. 

Coaching questions for goal setting

Finally, it’s time to ask yourself some intentional questions about where you want to be in 2021. During the webinar, Amber asked the attendees a series of questions, as she would do in a one-on-one coaching session. Some of those questions included:

  • What was the smartest decision that you made?
  • What is your biggest piece of unfinished business?
  • What are you most looking forward to learning in the year ahead? What’s an area that you’d like to learn more about and be a scholar of?
  • What are you most committed to improving at work?
  • What advice would you like to give yourself?
  • What brings you joy and how will you create more of it? 
  • How will you improve your financial results?

“And that’s really what coaching is. It’s helping people get some altitude to say, ‘What’s going on? What’s working, what’s not working, and how do I make a shift so that I’m happy and full of life and experience?

– Amber Setter

But when it comes to hiring a professional coach to help set realistic goals, you might wonder if it’s worth the investment. Amber shares one client testimonial here that puts the value of a coach into perspective. 

“I had a past webinar attendee reach out to me. She booked one of the initial sessions, and she said her desire was to get a raise and a promotion. Within six sessions of hiring me, she got a 25% raise and the promotion she desired. So coaching is an investment in you. It always ends up paying for itself, which is paradoxical, but it takes the leap.”

– Amber Setter

Learn more about professional coaching sessions and how Gusto can help

To learn more about the value of coaching and how to reflect on 2020 to make strides in 2021, check out Part One of the webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Goal Setting for 2021 After a Year of Disruption” for more information on goal setting and improving leadership skills. 

Speaking of investing in you, Gusto also offers a People Advisory Certification where you can better help your clients by combining your financial expertise with people-focused advising. Learn more about that program here.

How can becoming a Gusto partner help you make better business decisions in 2021? Gusto makes payroll and benefits easy for busy modern employers and their accountants. Local state and federal payroll taxes are filed and sent automatically for businesses of up to 100 employees. Benefits like health insurance and 401(k)s are seamlessly integrated. And plus you can get direct access to HR experts and so much more. 

As a Gusto partner, you get tools to expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights. Not only that, but you also get a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. You can sign up to be a partner here

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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