Smart business leaders understand the value of goal setting, especially in navigating their company in the right direction. I learned the importance of setting goals long before I started my own business. As a child, I attended an alternative school where grades and rewards were based entirely on setting and achieving daily, weekly, quarterly and yearly goals.

This practice carried over into my adult life, and after graduating college, I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve in the next years of my life. I decided upon three basic goals: 1) learn a trade, 2) build a business around it and 3) retire from my business by the age of 35.

Now that I have reached all three of these goals, I use my knowledge and experience to consult business owners and their employees on the significance of goal setting.

Whether your goal revolves around a earning a promotion or securing new business, follow these tips to help make it a reality.

1. Choose the right goal. Think about what’s important to you in your business. Being listed in Inc. 500 | 5000 by 2020? Making over one million dollars in sales within two years? Whatever it is, your goal must excite you in order to be successful.

Aside from generating enthusiasm, your goal must be S.M.A.R.T. That is, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely:

Specific goals answer the following questions: who, what, where, when, which and why. You must be able to measure your progress towards each goal you set with concrete criteria. Make sure your goal is realistic. Aiming high is a good motivator, but if you don’t feel the goal is attainable, you’ll be discouraged from even trying. Lastly, there should be a sense of urgency around your goal, so set a timeframe when it should be accomplished.

2. Write it down. This makes your goal official. Put it in a place that you will see it often, adding to your sense of commitment. Some people even make boards with photos to help them visualize what it looks like when they have accomplished the outcome.

3. Create a plan. How will you achieve your goal? Don’t just run with it; devise a step-by-step plan and timeline to reach it. When you measure your progress, you stay on track. Celebrate small victories and share your progress with colleagues, friends or family along the way

4. Keep focused, but stay flexible. In order to succeed, you must put in the necessary work and stay focused on the result. Check in with yourself regularly to assess what is working and what is not, and adjust as needed.

Remember, things happen, but don’t let unexpected circumstances deter you from reaching your goal.

There is no perfect time to start working towards your goal. Don’t wait until the next quarter or the New Year. If you have one in mind – own it – and use these guidelines to fit it into your lifestyle.

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