The complete guide to goal setting for coaches

The Complete Guide To Goal Setting For Coaches

Everyone talks about making goals.

Personal goals, work goals, fitness goals… the list goes on.

We hear about different methods from the S.M.A.R.T. goals of our childhoods to the 5-step
goal-setting checklist from an online guru. Many of these goal-setting techniques are rigid processes that assume the future will be an exact replication of the past. Or, in other words, that by repeating what you’ve done successfully in the past, you’re guaranteed continual success.

This is simply just not true anymore!

Especially as a coach with an online business; you’re in a field that is growing more rapidly than ever. With the rise of new technologies and ways to connect with people from all over the world, the way you set goals has got to take that into account.


With this in mind, I’m here to share with you the complete guide to goal setting for coaches that will help you set goals that you can achieve in this ever-changing landscape.

Debunking old goal-setting techniques

I’m going to start by going to go over a few reasons why old goal-setting techniques just aren’t going to work anymore for your online business. You must first let go of these old methods in order to fully adopt new ones that will work for you.

They assume you’re the only one who can achieve your goals.

Yes, at the end of the day, you’re the only person who’s going to put in the time, effort, and resources to achieve your goals. However, one mistake that old goal-setting techniques make is assuming that every step of your goal is isolated from everything and everyone else. What I mean by this is that in the past, when you made goals, you always focused on yourself. What skills do I have? How can I achieve this milestone? But, nowadays, we live in a much more collaborative environment.

There’s one reason why this changes the assumption: you could accidentally achieve your goal without having to do any of the steps you outlined. This sounds ridiculous, but it happens way more often than you think.

A recent example I can think of is a social media coach in my network needed updated brand photos for her website, but she didn’t have the extra funds to do so. She had a plan to save the money for 8 months in order to afford a good brand photographer.

Then, one day, she was scrolling down her Facebook feed and saw that a brand photographer was bartering her photos in exchange for other services that she needed… one of which was a social media plan! She ended up getting her branded photos and abandoned her original plan (and had money to allocate towards other goals on her list).

Why is this important? Goals nowadays need to be flexible. Especially with the potential of
growing your networks larger than ever on social media, you never know who can help you
reach your goal faster.

They look too much at the end result and not enough at the journey. Traditional goal-setting is notorious for making you fill out all of the details of what the end result will look like. You know: How many clients are you going to have in 5 years? How much money will you be making? Will you have launched a course by then?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of visualization.

Creating a clear vision is the first step in setting figuring out where you want to take your business.

I think it’s incredibly valuable to imagine where you’re going to be, how you’re going to feel, and who or what is going to surround you. But this isn’t the same as goal-setting. Goal-setting isn’t JUST about where you’re going to end up.

It’s about how you’re going to get there and enjoying that process.
I’ve seen so many people say things like, “One day it’ll all be worth it”, “I have to hustle now so I can relax later”, or “I HAVE to do this NOW or I’ll never be able to have that.” This type of determination is great, but the fixation on the end result is going to make you miss out on a lot of valuable experiences, lessons, and opportunities that happen in between.

Why is this important? Goals are SO important to achieve, but we can’t forget that we still have a life outside of our business goals. Especially with an online business (where the lines between our personal and professional lives often get blurred), it’s difficult to keep your goal from consuming your entire focus. I’d say that goal setting is 80% the journey and 20% the end result.

They are too focused on time.

Time constraints can be important. You should complete your course content by the launch date. You should give your client a 24-hour heads up if you need to reschedule your coaching session.

However, we’re so used to setting time-constraints on everything, that sometimes we set up time-based deadlines for things that don’t need one. For example, if you haven’t announced your course yet, do you HAVE to launch it next month? Or, was there a reason why you needed this many followers by a certain date?

Of course, timelines can be awesome! Self-imposed deadlines can be used to check in on progress, to re-evaluate what we’re doing, and so many other valuable exercises. But, we should stop creating self-imposed timelines just to have one. Sometimes things may just take longer than we anticipated, just like they may take a shorter amount of time (especially if we’ve never done it before and are just ‘guestimating’ at how long things will take).

Why is this important? The point of this is not to avoid accountability or neglect responsibility, but it’s to make sure we’re not burning out, being too hard on ourselves, or abandoning a great project just because it didn’t get finished on time. I want you to consider that time is impactful, but it should not hold so much power when measuring success!

Developing new habits.

Now that I’ve covered a few reasons why old goal-setting techniques don’t work, I want to introduce to you a couple of new habits that you should implement in order to achieve your goals. These habits have helped me and my clients achieve their goals, and I’m confident that they’ll help you start your journey too.


It’s no exaggeration: mindset matters and your biggest enemy is yourself. This isn’t another bottomless plea for the mantras “everything is possible” or “if you put your mind to it, you can achieve your goals” (if you’ve followed me for any length of time, you know that’s not my style). But it IS about believing in taking risks, trying new things, embracing failure, understanding that
difficulties will arise, and facing everything with the mindset that you’re doing everything within your power to do.

Your mindset is crucial to your success. It’s okay to experience frustration, nervousness, or fear about your goals, but at the end of the day, you’ll need to harden that mindset into a positive- the outlook that will propel you toward success.

Full disclosure: this is one of my greatest weaknesses, and I continue to work at this every. single. day. Regardless of my discomfort, I know how important it is to my success (and happiness).

The ability to focus.

As a business owner myself, I know what it’s like to have a million new ideas and want to do them all. I get it! You don’t want to miss an opportunity or leave something too long or someone else might do it before you.
But when it comes to goal-setting, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority (and nothing gets done). When you set goals, you want them to be flexible, so that if things change, you’re able to change your goals with it.

The important thing is that at any given time, you’re able to determine what the most important the goal is and focuses on it.

I can’t remember who said it first, but I heard it first from James Wedmore in his bridge analogy, he said if you’re trying to get to the other side of the river and you’re building multiple bridges.

It’s going to take you a long time to get to the other side. If you stick with building one bridge at a time, you will get to the other side and be able to cross the river, while building the other bridges.

Focus on one idea, one project, one social media channel, etc. at a time until you’ve reached your goal/destination. Then, and only then, you can try building another bridge (a different project, idea or social media channel, etc.)


One thing that the assumption “you’re the only one who can achieve your goals” got right is that you ARE the only one who is going to get the work done that needs to be done (whether bartering services, overseeing a virtual assistant, or doing the critical tasks to reach your goal – you still have to do the work). Successful goal-setters have a way to keep themselves accountable for finishing what they set out to do.

Whether you want to keep yourself accountable or maybe partner up with an accountability partner, it is crucial that someone holds you accountable (but, just a little hint, your BFF or spouse isn’t going to give you the tough love you need to find someone from an online course or mastermind that you’ve participated in and be each others’ accountability buddy).


Starting to set goals

Now that you understand why old goal-setting techniques don’t work and what new habits you’ll need to develop, you’re ready to start on actually setting them.

As a Director of Operations (DOO) and consultant for coaches, I’ve found that every coach has a different way that they like to set goals for their business. I love helping you do your business, your way. If you have a method that works for you, I’m not going to change it! However, what I have noticed is that every successful coaching business that I’ve worked with has included the following components in their goals.

Long term goals that grow with your company

In the past, long-term goals often got stuck in that mindset of focusing on the end-goal instead of the journey.

This led to a situation where you set a 5-year goal and then after the 5 years.

You’re faced with two options:

1) You achieved your goal and then you set a new goal that’s WAY too low because you’re mimicking what you know (which was your previous 5-year plan)


2) You DIDN’T achieve your goal and now you’re left without a plan.

Successful long-term goals should stay long-term. In the past, when you set a 10-year goal for
2030, you would have kept looking back at it every single year, until you got to 2029 when you would have made a new 10-year goal.

Nowadays, this just won’t work.


You want to keep your long-term goals continuously long-term. This means that for a 10-year the goal, you’re still going to want to check back every year to make sure you’re on track, but you’re also going to want to update it as well.

Maybe you don’t need a new 10-year plan every year, but you’re going to want to make a new 10-year plan at least within 5-years of the first one.

Just a quick clarification, when I say long-term goals, I mean big-picture goals. Your big ideas.
This may be a big revenue goal, a change in the business model, the clients you want to be working with, the lifestyle you want to have.

Not a SMART goal or a goal that is broken down into your tasks and projects.

Why is this important? I always say that long-term goals motivate you to complete your tasks.

If you let yourself get too close to the deadline of your long-term goal, you’ll either 1) slow down your work because you’re close to or have already achieved the goal or 2) get discouraged because you’re far from achieving the goal. Having long-term goals that are far away and adaptable keep you inspired to work toward them. Also, a lot can change in 5 to 10 years (both with your vision and technology) so you will need to continue to update your long-term goals, your big vision.

Short-term goals that help you keep focused

In the past, short-term goals were seen as a subset of your long-term goals: in order to achieve your long-term goals, you would complete your short-term goals. Often, as a result, we would create short-term goals that we felt we “had” to do and end up focusing on things that didn’t help us achieve the long-term goal at all!

What I mean by this is that a lot of old short-term goals got really specific with the methods that they would use, the amount of money they would need to spend, and more. Then, better opportunities came up and they missed them! In the current landscape of things, we want to make short-term goals that will keep us focused on our end-game without restricting us on the how. We need to be flexible and able to pivot.

Why is this important? When we are SO boxed into what we think we should do, we lose focus and end up wasting a lot of time, money, and resources. We want to be able to make goals that will keep us focused on what’s important and will help us grow (and remain in alignment with our vision and passion).

Vision and Values

Vision and values are two of the most overlooked aspects of goal-setting that I find to be incredibly important. Your vision and your values should be the determining factor of every single goal that you make. That’s right. Every. Single. Goal.

Your vision represents what you want your business to be. This sounds like a long-term goal, but it’s a bit more about that gut feeling and how you visualize your business.

How are you going to feel when you become the go-to coach in your niche or your community? I want you to ask yourself every time you make a goal: does this goal align with my vision?

Your values represent what’s important to you. You started your business for a reason, and that reason is likely based on your values. It’s important that as your business grows, you remember to stay committed to the reasons why your business was successful in the first place.

I know this all sounds a bit cheesy, but you want to stay true to your roots! You’re core values makeup who you are, and if you end up building a business that isn’t in alignment with those values, you’ll end up feeling disengaged with it or burnt out because it’s no longer what you’re passionate about.

Why is this important? Vision is about getting clarity on why you’re building the business, staying true to your purpose. Values are about staying true to yourself. Having a combination of both to use as a way to decide on your goals will help you create the business that you truly want.

Let’s set some goals!

Setting goals is no easy task. Over time, the more you set goals, the more you’ll become comfortable with the techniques that work best for you.

Having a good understanding of the short-comings of traditional goal-setting techniques, the courage to develop new goal-oriented habits and a solid foundation to setting goals will help you create a set of goals that propel the growth of your business.


Want a workbook to help guide you through this process?
my free Values-Based Goal Setting Workbook and it’ll walk you through figuring out what goals to start with!