Why Goal Setting Begins with Reflection in the CPA Profession

Gusto Editors

Do you have a specific destination as you travel on your current career path?

It is easy to fall into the daily routine when the opportunity arises. Complacency seems to be the preset mode when thinking about work. Often, contentedness can cloud your view of growth possibilities and cause you to miss out on impactful opportunities for expansion. If you struggle to set specific career goals or want to learn new strategies for goal setting, the strategies in this article can set you on a better path. 

We at Gusto are proud to partner with our friends at CPA Academy to bring you the webinar, “A Coaching Experience: Goal Setting.” This webinar looked into the ins and outs of setting goals to improve your professional and personal life under the guidance of the remarkable Amber Setter.

Amber Setter is an accountant-turned-professional coach who utilizes her passion for inspiring others to help clients become the best possible versions of themselves. During her time in accounting, she realized her greatest strengths lay within the development of people rather than the technical side of accounting and shifted her focus from the numbers of accounting to the people in the profession. 

In this article, we will take a close look at why goal setting is important, view examples of career path goals, and highlight CPA professional development options for goal setting. 

Inner reflection on specific career goals

The first thing to do when setting career goals is to take the time to reflect. Before you even think of what your goals may be, look inside yourself to what you want to accomplish. Taking this time allows you to analyze yourself to develop appropriate and attainable goals authentically.

“Talk through some bigger ideas, and do a little bit of inner reflection before you start writing your goals down. … [Ask yourself] ‘What do I want to create in the next year?’ You get to design your timeline, but before you jump into a plan, you need to do a little more introspection first.”

– Amber Setter

While looking internally, start by asking yourself where you want to go with your life and how you want to grow. Every person is unique, so this will look different for the individual. You may want to expand your firm in the next year, add to your list of clients, or work with your team to optimize what you already have. The goals will vary, but the steps you take toward those goals will look similar.

“The metaphor that I have here is a little plant growing. The first thing to think about is, ‘What is the soil?’ … For a plant to really grow and thrive, what does that take? What are the conditions? You may need more time with family and friends, … or maybe it’s your organizational setting. Maybe you’re feeling the need for something new that might make you feel like you’re flourishing more.”

– Amber Setter
Young woman sitting in an office reflecting on her career goals

After you have determined the basis for future growth, you can start building specific career goals. Just like building a house, the foundation is everything. A proper foundation gives you the ability to take steps in the right direction:

“Once you determine where you want to go and how you want to grow, you can start establishing goals. The goals become the foundation that’s in service of your performance. Goals enable you to move your life to the next level of satisfaction, success, and happiness.”

– Amber Setter

As you step away from your starting point and down your career path, it is essential to maintain a proper mindset. The way you think has an extraordinary effect on how you will achieve your objectives. If you are not careful, you may find yourself moving from a place of reaction rather than making intentional steps toward your goals.

Avoiding reactive leadership tendencies on your career path

One of the most significant stumbling blocks on the way to achieving your goals is having reactive tendencies. When you work from a place of reaction, you lose sight of what you initially set out to accomplish because your focus shifts to the actions of others. Ultimately, reactive tendencies keep you from achieving your career goals.

“All too often, what I notice … is that we are reacting to an external environment instead of creating the life that we want. … They’re reacting to what they’re seeing or don’t like about a job, so they leave the position only to discover they are unhappy at the next position.”

– Amber Setter

When you react to the things around you, its easy to get distracted from the long-term plans that you’ve made for yourself.. Instead, you concentrate on the negative influences within your situation and try your best to counteract those. Most of the time, the easiest reaction is to change jobs thinking that the best path to achieving your goals. However, the problems you found at a previous place of employment tend to exist everywhere.

“The same relationship issues might come up at the next company, the next position, or the next project. … When a person’s in this reactive mode, it is not a powerful place to come from. [They are not] a leader or designing their own life.”

– Amber Setter

To take proper control of your life, you need to move away from fearful, reactive tendencies and transition to where you tap into creative competencies. Focusing on your internal strengths gives you power over your life. Your creative competencies supply you with the ability to work toward something positive rather than running from negativity in your life.

Utilizing creative competencies to take control of your goals

Accessing your creative competencies gives you the ability to defeat a lifestyle of reactive fear. Instead of moving down the path away from the negative around you, you move toward the success you have planned for yourself. Living life from this approach gives you the confidence needed to achieve your goals.

“In Buddhism, they might say that creative competencies are when you’re coming from love and reactive tendencies are when you’re coming from fear. When it comes to goal setting, creative tendencies are when you are creating your life. You are running towards what you are and can see what you want. You have done inner reflection, can see what you want, and are going to go there. Reaction is getting away from things you do not like.”

– Amber Setter
Two people looking at smarphone and having a discussion

Moving forward from a place of love rather than fear empowers you to be intentional with your goal setting. Instead of taking commands from those in authority over you, you complete tasks because of your desire to accomplish your goals. The power gained from living intentionally puts you in control of your destiny.

“[Your] energy shifts towards creating what you want life to be. You become the creator of your own reality, and all of this aligns with intentionally setting goals. You are oriented to action and correct things as needed rather than explain[ing] yourself or feel like you have to explain or defend your position.”

– Amber Setter

Focusing on creative competencies allows you to rise above the day-to-day worries in life. When you can view the world from a higher level, you gain a sense of victory over the daily struggles keeping you from setting intentional goals in your life. The resulting confidence pushes you toward success by achieving your objective:

“Your primary concern is the success of projects and relationships. It’s not about blame or who did things wrong. … [You don’t] spend a lot of energy evaluating how things got to be a certain way. Instead, you focus on effective action … and are really empowered by being the source of your own results. You set a goal and achieve it again and again and again, which leads to a feeling of empowerment.”

– Amber Setter

Working from a place of creativity gives you the tools you need to successfully and repeatedly accomplish your goals. This purpose-centered mindset allows you to restructure your thinking around the way you work and puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. Ultimately this makes it possible for you to set intentions for your career and effectively travel down your career path.

Learn more about the importance of goal setting and creative competencies 

It may seem daunting to shift your mindset to one of empowerment and intention at first. However, your career will benefit exponentially when you can focus on your creative competencies. Instead of worrying about the actions of those around you, you will gain the ability to guide yourself in the most rewarding direction. As a result, your ability to map out a path for your career will lead you to success.

“It’s all about … being agile and course correcting as needed. Now, everyone’s human. Maybe sometimes we agree with other people on how bad things are, and that’s okay. It can be cathartic. However, what you’re [striving for] is self-authoring your life and being the driver and designer of your career path, as well as your internal space.”

– Amber Setter

If you would like to learn more about setting goals for your career and how creative competencies can shape your mindset to gain more control over your life, check out the entire webinar here. Also, be on the lookout for Part Two of this webinar series. We will have even more insight into how you can be intentional with the steps you take in your career. 

Our mission at Gusto is to help accountants and their clients gain peace of mind while on their financial journey. We currently partner with over 4,500 firms nationwide to promote financial security and develop a culture of empowerment in the office. Be sure to look into our People Advisory Program to learn how to connect with your clients beyond their finances. We also provide a partner blog full of resources for all your advising needs. Visit our Gusto for Accountants page for more information on utilizing people-based accounting within your firm.

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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