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Q&A: How do you develop goals that are stretching but at the same time realistic?

Continuing on with the Q&A series on blogging I started a few weeks ago, Christa asks:

How do you develop blogging goals that are stretching, but at the same time realistic to meet? My husband has encouraged me to make monthly/yearly blogging goals {he’s my cheerleader in this!}. However, I’m concerned that if I make goals {such as 1000 Facebook likes by the end of the year} that I’ll 1) have no idea how to actually achieve them and 2) get discouraged if they don’t happen. -Christa

Great question and I think it’s one that many people wonder about! I don’t have a five-step plan to give you for determining what blogging goals will be best for you, but I can share with you what I am learning about goal-setting and how to actually follow-through with goals:

1. Set Goals That Scare You — At Least a Little

I think we should set goals that scare us at least a little. It’s good to take risks. It’s good to do hard things. It’s good to push ourselves. And it’s good to step outside our comfort zone.

If we always stay where it’s easy and safe, we’ll miss a lot of interesting and exciting opportunities in life. Plus, we’ll never reach our full potential. If you stay where it’s safe, you also become stagnant.

When I set a goal to start video-blogging, I was almost sick to my stomach over it. But I just made myself do it week after week until it stopped scaring me so much and I grew to somewhat like it (speaking of which, I’ve been meaning to bring back more video blogs because I know some of you have missed them).

When I first set a goal to accept speaking engagements, I was sick to stomach over it. For weeks, I carried a knot in my stomach over actually standing up in front of a crowd and talking. But if I had never set that goal to do it, I would have never discovered that I actually enjoy public speaking — especially the opportunities it opens up to get to have fantastic one-on-one discussions with people afterwards.

And here’s the thing: when I’m a little (or a LOT!) scared, I’m highly motivated. For instance, I’m working on my next book right now and it’s scary — scary to put myself out there, scary to know how much my publisher is believing in this project, scary to know how many people are pouring into this project, scary to know how much is riding on this.

Being scared drives me toward excellence. I’m giving this project my all. I’m welcoming every piece of criticism of it I can get from others so that the finished product is the best it can be. I’m not going to stop perfecting it until I know that I’ve done everything I can do to prepare, hone, and polish the manuscript.

It won’t be perfect and not everyone is going to love it like I love it, but at the end of the day, I’ll know that I’ve given it my very best. And that’s what matters most.

Pin this quote here.

2. Ask Questions — Of Everyone

I’m reading One Question by Ken Coleman right now and I’m so inspired by his ability to ask well-crafted questions. One quote from the book that I loved was: “Good questions inform. Great questions transform.” Getting the right answer often starts with asking the right question.

Always ask questions. All the time. Of everyone.

But don’t just ask broad and vague questions. Figure out what you’re wanting to learn first and ask specific questions. Then, genuinely listen to the answers and ask follow-up questions. I promise you’ll learn so much!

Also, never assume that because someone doesn’t have as large of following as your blog does or doesn’t even have a blog that they don’t have valuable information to share. In fact, it’s often those very people who will have some of the best ideas.

Jesse suggested that I start a Facebook Page way back when they weren’t the “thing to do”. I kind of thought the idea was crazy, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt try. Well, his idea turned out to be brilliant… to the tune of 228,000 Facebook followers! His seemingly crazy idea turned out to be a crazy-good idea! 🙂

3. Sit at the Feet of the Greats

If you are trying to figure out how to increase your Facebook Page followers, go sit at the feet of people who are killing it on Facebook, watch what they are doing, analyze how they are doing it, and go experiment with what you see is working for them (but please make sure and don’t just “rip” their idea; the world needs a lot fewer carbon copies and a lot more original models!)

Right now, I’m working on honing the craft of public speaking. Some of the ways I’m doing this are by: taking advantage of every opportunity I have to sit and listen to great speakers, analyzing every speaker’s talk that I listen to, and asking every single public speaker I have the chance to meet for advice, suggestions, and ideas. I also attended a speaking conference, hired a speaking coach, and I’m asking trusted people in my life to give me their gut-honest criticism of my talks.

Don’t try to figure out life on your own. Whenever possible, find someone who’s already been there and stop to ask for directions. They are usually more than happy to give input — especially if they see that you are a teachable person!

4. Focus on the Progress You ARE Making

When you set goals that scare you, you are not going to hit them every time. I don’t say this to discourage you; I say this to encourage you.

It’s okay not to hit all your goals. Really, it is.

What matters most is that you’re making some progress. Goals will motivate you to step out, try new things, experiment, ask questions, and learn from people who have more experience.

But achieving a goal is not the be-all, end all. Oftentimes, the journey is more important than the destination. In fact, you might complete tweak or throw out some of your goals along the way.

Again, that’s okay.

Focus on the progress you are making, the lessons you are learning, the character you are developing — and not on how you’re coming up short from where you want to be. You aren’t going to make a home run every time, but if you learn and grow while you’re at the plate swinging, you’re headed in the right direction.

Don’t give up! Persistence always pays off… not always in the way that we expect, but sometimes the unexpected benefits of hard work and persistence are so much better than our biggest dreams and ambitions.

 What advice do the rest of you have for Christa?

Do you have a question on business or blogging that you’d love to have me answer as part of this series? You can email it to me here and I’ll be happy to consider doing so.

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  • Crystal, I just answered a lady over the weekend with : Crystal Paine has taught me so much about the importance of goal setting. I mentioned that the goal needs to be more of what you are going to do and less of how you expect people to respond. You can’t control the response. But, you can decide to be consistent with your work habits. Thanks for your awesome direction in this area!

    • I agree with Rachel – set goals that are about what you can do, not how other people respond. Set goals for yourself, not for others. For example if your goal is well behaved children, set goals that you can do that will help them get that way not about the way you want them to respond. In this example ideas might be: take time to really listen to your child, demonstrate how to behave properly and give them opportunities to practice, be prepared to redirect, train and adminish time and time again, behave the way you want your child to behave, etc.

      Often we set goals about how other people will react (I’ll be a sought-after …… or I’ll have fewer complaints from …..) rather than focusing on ourselves! These things may be a wonderful result but we need to focus on ourselves when trying to set personal goals rather than others.


      • Lea, I love your point about changing oursleves. In relation to Christa’s comment, it makes me think that we can do the best at blogging, but we cannot control some factors–such as how many Facebook likes we have. For myself, I took heart in this; I am having a garden tour tomorrow. While I usually sell out and take a waiting list, I still have room for plenty more tomorrow.

        Crystal’s comment about the journey is super important here, too. My garden is super-beautiful right now, and I would love to have a sold-out garden tour. However, I’ve done work in the garden that needed to be done no matter what, and enjoyed my time doing it. Plus, I have a beautiful garden to enjoy every day!

        • Wish I lived close enough to come and tour your garden! Thanks so much for sharing pics on your site – I can live vicariously through the internet and dream about my own spring garden while we have snow on the ground here.


    • Crystal says:

      I love your encouragement that the goal be more about what you are going to do and less of how people are going to respond. Excellent!

    • Great advice, Rachel! This is so motivating to do what YOU can do, and will protect against discouragement over a response you can’t control!

  • K Quinn says:

    Don’t compare your goals with someone else’s. Measure success against yourself and what you want to accomplish. I know a lot of people start up a blog and wonder why they aren’t at the same place another person, who has been blogging much longer, is after a short while. It took time and trial and error to get there. Sure you could be an overnight success but the reality is many more are where you at, you just don’t see them.

    Be organized about it. If your goal is the 1000 Facebook likes by a certain time frame write it down. Then go read some tips on how to get there. Don’t follow all the tips at once. Choose one or two and track your success for a week or so (I don’t have a Facebook page so I can’t offer much advice here). My nephew had a goal for Twitter followers. He was very specific in what he did to get there. He succeeded that goal, started a blog, and is fielding offers from big companies (he niche is trucking) for showcasing, advertising, and testing their products.

    Be encourage and go forth!

  • Nicole says:

    I read you blog for posts such as these. Great wisdom, Crystal, and thank you for sharing. Blessings.

  • I love that last point – my husband is always saying I never focus on the things I’ve accomplished, and he’s so right! Instead, I’m always looking ahead to what I fell short of. Thank you for this reminder to embrace the present, and to be grateful for the little things.

  • Siné says:

    I think I am going to have to see if my library has “One Question”. It sounds like a book that would be really helpful to me. I love that you share what you are reading/have read throughout your posts. It has led me to reading quite a few books. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I had the chance to meet Ken at a conference last week and was *so* impressed with him. He’s such an inspiration and a wealth of wisdom. Definitely ask your library to carry it.

  • Rebekah says:

    Thanks for this advice! I’ve been blogging on and off for a couple years, but am settling in to do it “for real” and have already put some of these goals into practice, even before reading them here. I’m excited for what’s ahead – and a little terrified! 🙂

  • Fantastic post Crystal!! I ask lots and lots of questions..and what I love more than anything is sweet bloggers like you that take the time to answer all my this series!!

  • Sarah says:

    My favorite tip for goal setting (other than to actually write them down) is to limit yourself. 🙂 I am currently sticking to 4 goals a month for my blog, based on how much time I have to spend on it. It is making me really think about where I want to invest my time. So far, so good.

  • Kate says:

    I agree with the commentor before me, don’t set too many goals for yourself. Pick a number, I usually shoot for 3 things you want to accomplish. And always, break it down into smaller goals.

    I want to organize my house, but I have to do it room by room, you know? While I definitely think you should challenge yourself, set your self up so you can have some “small victories” on your way to the big goal so you don’t get too discouraged.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents!!


  • Great topic! I’m loving this series – probably my favorite series yet. Last week when you linked back to your “become a work-at-home mom” series, I reread the entire thing (you should so write a book about that, by the way) and was practically in tears reading the story. I had read it when you first wrote it, but it was so great to read it all in a series.

    Anyway, to the topic at hand. First, it’s helpful to make goals about your own actions and maybe not so much about the results. So if you want more Facebook fans, maybe your goal could be to post 10 times a week on your Facebook page and read x number of blog posts about increasing facebook engagement or something like that. I like to make my goals something I have direct control over.

    Second, yes, totally do things that scare you! I did that last year (and I’m not stopping this year), and it was the best thing I could have done. Along that vein, there is nothing like public accountability! When I was launching my first product late last year (which I was completely terrified of doing and barely had the time to accomplish) I paid a little money for advertising on a bigger (than mine) blog and arranged it for it to include a special deal for my product – talk about some serious pressure to complete the product! If I hadn’t done that, I’d probably still be sitting here doubting myself and tweaking it rather than offering it for sale.

    Third, it’s so hard to focus on the progress your making. Just because you set a goal doesn’t mean where you’re at now is bad. Giving yourself credit for the progress you have made will really help give you confidence to move toward your next goals.

    I’m e-mailing a question that I’d love to read you answer in the series – trying really hard not to make it a novel. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Love this: “I like to make my goals something I have direct control over.”

      Thanks so very much for your kind encouragement and all the wisdom you shared in this post!

  • I agree that you have to step out and do something that’s at least a little uncomfortable. I have had the same experience with video and public speaking. They were both difficult to start and didn’t feel right, but now have become much more natural. Starting my blog was the same as well (probably the most difficult one of all).

    As far as setting a goal and worrying about not meeting it, you can look at it this way: Even if you make it to 80% of your goal, you’ve made it a lot further than you would have otherwise. It’s not a failure, just a goal that you didn’t quite meet but propelled you forward anyway.

  • Ann says:

    I’d add, find someone else with the same goal and work together towards it. That’s how I ran a marathon in January!

  • These are great tips Crystal! Getting out of your comfort zone is always sooo hard, but hard work and research, usually makes it pay off.

    Looking over what you’ve said, the one thing I would highlight is that I (and it looks like you too) usually just pick ONE major thing to focus on at a time. Then you can do really well on that one thing. That may mean other things (like Twitter right now for me) get pushed aside for a while, and that’s okay. Blogging is a long term journey. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I think that’s a great takeaway and I wholeheartedly agree!

      It can be so overwhelming if you try to do a bunch of things at once. Slowly chip away at one area and once you feeling comfortable with that, move onto the next thing.

  • Something I’m learning is that my personal goals aren’t the same as someone else’s. For example, I’ll set a goal to work on my Pinterest profile, then I’ll notice someone else really improving on their Facebook page, and I’ll think, “Man, I’m really doing a sorry job on my Facebook page. What’s the matter with me?” Nothing’s the matter with me – that just wasn’t the goal I was currently shooting for. I have to set my goals, then focus on them, and quit looking around at the goals others are working on for themselves. If I try to focus on every single thing every other blogger is working on all at the same time, I’m going to be at best mediocre at everything and good at nothing.

  • Thanks so much, Crystal, for answering my 3 questions! I have gleaned so much from these posts and look forward to referring back to them {& the comments} more in the future!!

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