As an entrepreneur you’ve most likely been advised to think big, go big or go home, or set BHAG’s, aka Big Audacious Hairy Goals (that one always sounds a bit gross to me!).
I’m as guilty as the next person of falling for the allure of a big audacious goal. After all, outrageous goals, big ideas, and splashy action just sounds sexy and entrepreneurial, don’t they? Consistent action and incremental progress don’t have quite the same ring to them.
The longer I work as a business coach for creative entrepreneurs (and add another year to my own entrepreneurial timeline), the more convinced I become that developing the systems, processes, and habits that support incremental progress toward your goals are the most significant indicators of long-term success.
I’m currently reading (and loving) James Clear’s, Atomic Habits. In it he states:
Could it be we’ve been listening to the wrong advice, or at least focusing on the wrong part (goals) all this time? Could it be that a simple tweak in our focus (systems and habits) could impact our progress and success?
If you’re tired of setting big goals only to find yourself right back where you started, here are 3 ways to make significant and lasting change in your creative business.
1) Focus on identity instead of outcomes
One of the reasons I don’t love traditional goal setting is that it’s often heavily influenced on the outcomes (goals) that people and forces outside of us say are important. Examples include generating a certain revenue in your business (how many times have you been told that six or seven figures is the only way to go?), achieving a certain body type or weight, being a certain kind of parent, or generally being a “better” version of yourself. The problem with this approach is it immediately throws you into a place of not enough-ness and compare and despair. Is it any wonder we don’t stick with something from that mindset?
In his book, James Clear flips this script so it becomes internally driven. He says:
“The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.”
One of the reasons this approach makes so much sense to me is that it automatically builds personal meaning into the goal, which means you’re much more likely to stick with it for the long term, rather than drop off as soon as the novelty wears off or the going gets hard.
In the next step, we’re going to drill down to a specific area where you’d like to create different outcomes.
2) Choose an area you’d like to improve
Another obstacle to creating meaningful change is trying to change too many things at once. That’s why “new year, new you” headlines while sticky never deliver.
In this step you will commit to an area of your business that you would like to improve.
Whether you’re a business of one or a business of 15, the six main areas of a business are:
1. Content creation: The activities involves in creating the service or product you deliver.
2. Content delivery: How you get the service or product to your target client or customer.
3. Marketing: How you get in front of your target client or customer.
4. Sales: How you turn a prospect into a paying client or customer.
5. Administration: The activities needed to keep the whole operation running smoothly.
6. Finance: Making money, spending money and making sure there’s as much left as possible!
3) Define clear habits and actions that will help you make consistent progress towards this outcome
OK, let’s bring identity, meaning, and focus together and create actions that stick:
Starting with your chosen area of focus, ask and answer the following questions. Since I’m a business coach dedicated to helping creative entrepreneurs build profitable businesses, I’ll use finance as an example:
Prompt: What is your desired outcome?
e.g. I’d like to make six figures in my business.
Prompt: Why is that important to you?
Because I would feel more financial freedom. I would be able to support/contribute to my family with more ease. I would be debt-free and I would have plenty of money to live the life I wish to lead, save, and invest for the future.
Prompt: How would making consistent progress towards that goal make you feel?
I would feel empowered, competent, more at ease.
Prompt: What kind of person makes multiple six figures in their business?
- Has clear service offerings and client profiles
- Charges based upon value, not hours
- Delivers a great service or product
- Spends dedicated time working ON their business, not in it
- Markets their services
- Has clarity around their personal finances and a plan to improve them
- Has a budget that supports progress towards their financial goal
- Has a bookkeeping system and software they keep up to date
- Has money conversations with their partner, friends, and colleagues
- Is constantly improving their financial literacy through books, podcasts, etc.
- Works with a financial advisor and accountant
- Has the support of a peer/accountability buddy/coach
And so on…
Do a version of this exercise for your area of focus.
I’d love to hear what came up for you! If you found this process helpful and would like more support as you identify outcomes, define the action steps, and hold yourself accountable to taking consistent action towards your goals, I invite you to check out my group coaching program. Entrepreneurship is hard, and you don’t have to do it alone!