Visualizing Possibilities and Managing Expectations in Goal Setting

Gusto Editors

Do you know how to set and accomplish extraordinary goals?

As an accountant and a professional, you’re likely looking for ways to advance in both your career and personal life. You can enhance your ability to accomplish great things by being patient with yourself, celebrating your wins, and daring to dream bigger. 

Here at Gusto, we’re always looking for ways to empower accountants in their careers and goals. That’s why we, along with our partners at CPA Academy, delivered an informative webinar all about setting and executing goals. Our webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Goal Setting For 2022 After Another Year of Disruption,” provides lessons equally relevant to any year. You can watch the entire presentation here

Amber Setter, executive coach and inactive CPA, hosted the webinar and gave invaluable information for setting and executing what you want to accomplish. 

Giving yourself grace and managing expectations

Although setting and actualizing goals is critical for your professional development, it’s important to manage your expectations for what you can accomplish, and don’t be hard on yourself if you progress slower than you’d like. Amber noted that you may face setbacks and external factors that keep you from accomplishing something. But you can shift your perspective to recognize and be proud of what you have achieved. Ask yourself, “Why didn’t I accomplish everything I set out to do?” 

“As a coach, I’m always trying to get people to expand their comfort zones, to get on the edge of their comfort zone, and to step out more and more and more, but do it in a way that’s safe and sustainable. … If you notice that there’s something that you didn’t do, let’s just kind of talk through these word prompts that I have here.”

Amber Setter
An employer discusses career readiness with an intern.

Amber’s words prompts are as follows:

“I didn’t…”

“Due to…”

“Yet I…”

You can strive to accomplish your goals and step out of your comfort zone while also managing your expectations based on your previous year’s accomplishments. Amber discussed her 2020 goals as an example. She wanted to write a book and reach a certain revenue goal, but the initial COVID-19 shutdown forced her to manage her expectations and appreciate the goals that she could accomplish: 

“I didn’t hit my top-line revenue goal … [because] companies just shut down and stopped spending, and so I had to right-size my expectations [in 2020]. All [those] circumstances happened, but there were still things that I did do right. I grew my business over the prior year, even during a pandemic, [and] I didn’t touch my rainy day savings. [Also], I co-parented with grace.”

Amber Setter

Because of external circumstances that she couldn’t have predicted, Amber was unable to write her book and reach her revenue goals. But she was still able to push herself and have a successful year as a business owner and parent. Even if you can’t accomplish all of your goals in a given year, you can still step out of your comfort zone and strive toward professional and personal goals.

Amber reiterated how we can utilize her word prompts (“I didn’t …” “Due to …” “Yet I …”) to manage expectations and continue moving toward your success: 

“Take some time to dig deep and reflect on these prompts for your own life. … Really give you[self] permission to have some grace about what you did or didn’t do, but also you want to continue to just tow that edge of your comfort zone and move your life forward.”

Amber Setter

When setting and striving toward goals, it’s important to step out of your comfort zone, but you also need to cut yourself slack when you can’t accomplish everything and celebrate your wins along the way.

Thinking bigger in what’s achievable and realistic 

Amber delivered invaluable goal-setting insights that you can use moving forward to develop your career and personal goals. She discussed a common tool for setting goals known as S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely—but she observed that we shouldn’t set limitations on ourselves with the idea of what is and is not “realistic.”

“I really don’t like ‘R’ for ‘realistic’ when it comes to setting goals for what’s next because anything’s possible really, right? … Thank goodness Mark Zuckerberg didn’t think it was unrealistic that he was going to be a billionaire by age 23. … In the work that I do, I really try to help people transcend what they believe is possible, and I don’t ask people to limit themselves with what might be realistic.”

Amber Setter
A woman holding a pen while looking through the window.

Rather than focusing on what’s conventionally realistic, focus on your dreams and what you want to create.

“Don’t worry about how you’re going to do it. Just allow your mind to dream really big, and allow your heart to dream really big, and also, … [try not to] worry about the thinking part of it, but feel what it would be like to realize this new thing that you want to create for yourself, whatever might be next for you.”

Amber Setter

Amber discussed an example of someone who dreamed much bigger than what society deems realistic. She told the story of Dr. Joe Dispenza. Dr. Dispenza is a chiropractor who holds a bachelor’s in neuroscience. He claims that the human brain can create extraordinary results that most would consider “unrealistic.”

“What got him into … this idea that the brain can create sort of unrealistic results began after his spine was shattered during a triathlon race. His bike was hit by an SUV, … [and] he decided to just leave the hospital against the advice of the physicians. He spent the next three months mentally and physically reconstructing his spine. In his own words, … ‘I went within myself, 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 had a body cast or surgeries.”

Amber Setter

Although Dr. Joe’s story is inspiring, if you suffer from an injury, you need to listen to medical professionals’ guidance. Otherwise, your injuries could become more severe, and with more extreme injuries, you could die. That being stated, Dr. Joe’s story is intriguing and illustrates that the brain can accomplish incredible feats. 

Rather than placing limitations on yourself when setting goals, focus on what you want to do and create. Even if your goals may seem unrealistic, you are capable of achieving extraordinary things, and you need to believe in your ability to accomplish your dreams. 

Retraining your brain to accomplish your goals

Changing the way you think, feel, and react is important for accomplishing substantial goals. If you’re setting out to create something, it’s crucial that you have positive emotions around your goals and what you can accomplish:

“Our brains memorize emotions, and so it’s really important, … if you want to create something new, to not be like, ‘Oh, accounting’s hard. It’s chaotic. The world is hard.’”

Amber Setter

Rather than approaching your goals from a place of negative emotions, such as fear, you can attach positive emotions to what you want to achieve and believe in yourself.  

“Retrain your brain to be like, ‘I can do this. It’s positive. Life is working for me. … I feel a little uncomfortable here, but maybe I’m being pushed to something greater.’”

Amber Setter
Business people working together in the office.

Amber noted that an incredibly common problem across professional industries is toxic work environments. Rather than dwelling on what’s wrong with your work, you can contemplate what you want and attach positive emotions so that you can find a beneficial, non-toxic environment:

“Instead of ruminating on why it’s toxic, imagine what you want instead. Feel like how it would feel to be in a positive work environment where you’re appreciated. You’re well compensated. You’re happy. You have time for family. You take care of your health [and] feel all those feelings.”

Amber Setter

Finally, Amber addressed a common problem with goal setting in accounting: feeling overwhelmed. 

“If you feel overwhelmed, sometimes it’s like, ‘I don’t even know where to begin.’ Right? I’m going to say to focus on one thing. You can make one thing that’s going to give you the greatest ROI. Maybe that will reduce some of that overwhelm. I know there’s a lot of it because people are feeling burned out and tired and going into a high peak time and [there’s] lots of compliance confusion and complexity in the regulatory environment. But here’s the thing that I know to be true: … If you miss a deadline, … maybe there’s a penalty. Maybe there’s some interest, but no one dies.”

Amber Setter

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you can focus on a single task you want to accomplish to continue pushing toward your goals. Additionally, you can learn to better handle the stress associated with tax season by reminding yourself that if the worst-case scenario occurs and you miss a deadline, it’s not the end of the world. 

Learn more about setting and actualizing goals

Although it’s important to set goals and believe in your ability to achieve them, you also need to give yourself grace and celebrate your successes along the way. Additionally, you can dream bigger and create extraordinary things by not putting limitations on yourself. Finally, you can retrain your brain and emotions to strive forward toward what you want to achieve. 

If you want to learn more from Amber, you can read Part One and Part Three of this article series. You can also watch the full webinar here

Looking for more ways to advance in your accounting career and reach your professional goals? Consider signing up for Gusto Pro! Gusto Pro is a doorway into the future of accounting. Tap into our expert resources and certification program so you can build a resilient firm and support your clients into the future. Learn more about Gusto Pro.

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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