The reason goal-setting doesn’t work [and how to fix it]

We all know we need to set goals and plan, right? Yet when I ask a group of creatives how many of them set goals, revisit them regularly, and take consistent action towards them not many hands go up.

Now there’s no judgement here; I’ve tried all manner of goal setting exercises, and I know how easy it is to fall off the wagon, despite my best intentions.  And then I learned why; goal setting, out of the context of something more meaningful, doesn’t work.


It’s not enough to say you want to make a million dollars and be done with it.  You need to connect goals to something deeper; your values and vision. Why do you want million dollars? What would it mean to you? How would it impact your life and the lives of others?

When you’re clear on your values and vision, it’s much easier to define your path forward and create meaningful goals that will turn that vision into a reality.

Today, I’m going to walk you through a couple of exercises that will help you get clear on your values and vision and drill down to what’s important to you. When we know what’s important – our “musts” – we’re able to create goals that are meaningful and STICK! If you haven’t asked yourself these questions before, now’s a great time to start. Building the business and life you wish for depend upon it!

goal setting tips

Step 1 – Define your values

Professionally and personally, it’s important that we get clear about what’s important to us and live by these values, no matter what.  They become your internal compass by which you’ll make every decision. From who you serve, who you work with, how you work, the kinds of business you build, and how you market your business – it’s all driven by your values.

When you are prepared to identify, declare and live by your values, you align with the perfect collaborators, opportunities and customers.

You can have many values, but for the purposes of your business, let’s narrow it down to 3 or 4.

Your values aren’t just words on paper – they are tenants by which you conduct yourself and they should work on the inside as well as the outside. For example, here are my values:


How that works on the inside: When I am clear, I feel at my best. For me, clarity comes in the form of spiritual and self-care practice, meaning enough sleep, eating well, exercising and daily meditation.

How that works on the outside: When I am in good mental and physical shape, I can show up for my clients and family more fully and give them what they need without depleting my reserves.


How that works on the inside: Over the years, I’ve learned that when I conduct myself with integrity (which often means overcoming doubt or fear), I’m able to be more of who I really am. I sleep well at night, have better relationships, and good karma’s a great thing!

How that works on the outside: I will always, to the best of my ability, do what I say I’m going to do and will never take on a client I know would be served better by someone else.


How that works on the inside: I believe that professional and personal development go hand in hand so I’m constantly seeking ways to learn, grow, and let stuff go that just plain doesn’t work. It’s not always easy, but it is always rewarding.

How that works on the outside: My clients come to me for several reasons, but they all come back to one BIG reason. They want to grow; grow their client base, grow their impact, grow their fulfillment, grow their income. You get the picture.  I can only teach what I joyfully embrace myself, and this one’s key.


How that works on the inside: I’m a sociable person and I thrive off the energy and ideas of others.  I also need time alone to work with clients, create new services and programs, and strategize.  Building a community of collaborators, mentors, and accountability partners is key to my sanity and moving measurably closer to my goals.

How that works on the outside: Most, if not all, of my clients struggle with isolation and not having trusted partners to team up with and bounce ideas off. With more than 15 years of experience in creative management, and seven years as a business coach for creatives I have a BIG network of creatives, all of whom are trying to grow their business.  A key part of my work is connecting them with one another, sharing resources, and introducing them to groups they would benefit from being part of.

Now it’s your turn. Write down your top 4 values and define what that looks like on the inside (your own life) and outside (how you do business with others). Here are a few more you might choose from, though you may have others. Go crazy!

Health, Love, Community, Warmth, Integrity, Creativity, Passion, Contribution, Learning, Honesty, Cheerfulness, Freedom, Fun

Step 2 – Create your compass

(adapted from the fantastic book, Designing your Life by Bill Burnett & Dave Evans)

In this assignment, you’re going to get clear on two things; your Work view and your Life view.

The goal is to see where both align and make decisions based upon that clarity.

Work view Reflection

Using the questions below to get you started, write a statement of what good work looks like to you.  Aim for about 1-page (250 words or so)

  • Why work?
  • What’s work for?
  • What does work mean?
  • How does work relate to individuals, others, and society?
  • What is the definition of good or worthwhile work?
  • What role does money play?
  • How much do experience, growth and fulfillment matter?

Life view Reflection

Using the questions below, write a statement of what a good life looks and feels like for you.

  • Why are we here?
  • What’s the meaning of life?
  • What is the relationship between the individual and others?
  • Where do family, country, and world fit in?
  • Is there a higher power? (God, Source energy, the Universe). If so, what impact does this have in your life?
  • What is the role of joy, sadness, injustice, love, peace and challenge in life?

Now, review your statement for each and ask yourself the following:

  • Where do your views on work and life complement each other?
  • Where is there a disconnect?
  • Does one drive the other? If so, how?

Take time to write your thoughts on the integration of the two, as that’s where you’ll get the most a-ha moments.

When your Work view and Life view are in harmony, you gain clarity around what a congruent and meaningful life looks like to you. This will help inform decisions you make as you go.

When we mix reflection with inspired action, the sky’s the limit. I hope you enjoy these exercises and find them valuable!  In my next blog post, we’ll take it one step further and create goals that align with your values and views. Exciting!!

If you’re ready to translate your big ideas and dreams into reality, but are so paralyzed you’re not taking any action, I’d love to chat and see if I can help. Click here to started. I can’t wait to help you take the next step towards your goals!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *