What 30 years of goal setting has taught me

I remember it like it was yesterday.

The year was 1993, I was 15 and we had just got our first home computer….a Macintosh no less.

Now let’s get one thing straight, we were not a wealthy family, and that computer was our Xmas gift for all 6 of us…and I think my Aunt had managed to get a staff discount or something.

I can’t tell you how excited I was.

I was going to use it to write my 2nd book…my first one I had pain stakingly typed out on an old typewriter, and I knew because of the computers at school what a difference this was going to make to my future publishing career.

The problem was, our time on the machine was rationed, there were 6 of us of course who all wanted to do different things on it, and mum was conscious of the electricity it was costing, and how much paper and ink cost…YES it even had a printer!!!

So instead of starting on my book, I started on a list of goals.


I have been doing annual goal-setting ever since, and here are my top lessons from doing so.

1. New Year is a perfect time to think about what you want
Resolutions have gotten a bad press over the years, but the start of a new year is the perfect time to think about what you want. Why? Because the new year creates containment, a hard and fast line in the sand, structure, and a time frame to put things in place and review your progress. Putting pressure on yourself to be perfect from January 1st is where we set ourselves up to fail…but getting clear on our desires…NOW is perfect for that.

2. Dreaming Costs Nothing
Whether you are a 15 year old with no real income other than babysitting and a few shifts of washing up at your local Wimpy, or you are a forty something juggling the cost of living crisis and a declining business…the fact is Dreams cost nothing.

Money is often a blocker for desire… what’s the point in wanting that if I know I can’t afford it. What I have learned over the years is that where there is a will there is a way.

In 2018 I dreamed about taking my 5 year old to Disney….however, I was in no position to pay for that, but later that year I did a collaboration with a running company which gifted me 4 Eurostar tickets and passes for EuroDisney in exchange for me writing about their race series….I took a team of my clients with me (and my sister and nephew) and it was seriously one of the best long weekends of my life. 

Ironic that Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it you can achieve it” right?

3. The HOW is not as important as the WHY
I have set and achieved so many BIG goals in my life, it can become a bit addictive. Some people warn against this, saying its toxic productivity or overachieving…I have had people in my own friends and family group literally say “What’s wrong with you, why do you always want more” 

But here’s the thing, setting goals isn’t about lack, it’s about harnessing potential, and living a life full of adventure and creativity.

Having a goal beyond the goal, ie an overarching legacy aspiration means you don’t get caught up in the “MUST DO ALL THE THINGS” loop

5. It’s OK to NOT get what you want
I never get EVERYTHING I want, but boy oh boy have I managed to make a lot of exciting things happen in my life, even under some pretty challenging circumstances.

The things you don’t get are almost as important to those you do.

When I don’t achieve something I really investigate why. Is it because I didn’t want it enough, is it because I didn’t take enough action, is it because the time isn’t right?

6. Annual goal setting isn’t enough

A lot of people set goals at the start of the year and then forget about them by February, and then occasionally look back in December and thinking,

“Well that was shit”

Having your goals somewhere visible, like a vision board can be useful. I have all of mine stored in my Solopreneurs Dashboard...because I look at that every day. (use discount code 2023Prices if you’d like this tool)

But more than that, I actively investigate what I want with my 12 in 12 coaching tool, which I use with all my clients. 

It’s simple really, it just means every 12 weeks I ask myself what are 12 things I really want. I also look back at what I have achieved and what I haven’t and if it’s still an active desire for me

7. Goals are most powerful when you share them with others…but not EVERYONE

Some people suck the joy out of your goals, dreams and desires before you have a chance to fully embrace them…we all know someone who is a candle blower-outer right?

Share your goals with folks who get it, folks who are also following their dreams, that can hold you accountable, and celebrate when you achieve things that are important to you.

I remember wanting to have a go at stand up comedy and my ex at the time laughed and saying “Oh so now you think you are funny”, I went on to become an award-winning comedienne…and that skill set has helped me in my speaking career and in my writing…SO YES I AM FUCKING FUNNY YOU LOSER!!!!!…who is laughing now??

8. Encouraging your loved ones to dream and to achieve their goals is the greatest gift

Many of us grew up with phrases like, “you get what you are given” and “Ask don’t get”, or “It’s sods law” when you don’t get what you want.

Teaching your kids the power of intentional goal setting, and gratitude and patience and the law of cause and effect, will set them up for the future.

Giving friends and family, and work colleagues, peers and clients, the space to talk about what they want helps with understanding them.

9. Don’t be afraid to THINK BIG

When I was 10 years old I declared “I want to be a writer when I am older” most of my family laughed at me, my teachers probably thought “YEAH Right, with that spelling and grammar??” and yet here I am my published books have been read by thousands around the world, and my articles and blog posts read by millions. 

I had a great uncle, my Uncle Leslie Jerman…he believed in me and became my pen pal and sent me books on how to be a writer…you only need one person to have faith in you, when you don’t have much faith in yourself

10. Don’t be afraid to THINK small

Nobody gets to decide the scale of your ambition, BIGGER, BETTER, FASTER isn’t always the way.

In the last 12 months I have realised that it is many of the smaller things I wished for as a child that I am finally allowing myself to have that makes the biggest difference… freshly picked wild flowers, home made bread, laughter, a beautiful bond with my daughter…the smaller things are often the BIG things.

So in summary….

It is easy in life and business to think about goals setting in binary all-or-nothing ways…there are lots of different ways of being intentional, and we have plenty of years to explore what works for us.

I will never stop writing what I want down, declaring my desires, and allowing myself to dream. I have a whole cupboard filled with journals, diaries and goal setting lists, and it is incredible to look back at everything I have achieved even if I didn’t know how it would all unfold. 

I started life in a very different place to where I am now, and the power of intentional thought, and fearless imperfect action is what has got me this far.

You can’t get this stuff wrong.

Just keep dreaming

Julie Creffield is a business legacy strategist known as The Solopreneurs Champion, she has worked in change and transformation for almost 30 years. Her latest book How Not To be Broke shares how she escaped poverty in her childhood, and some of the tools and techniques that have kept her solvent as a Solopreneur for all of those years. 

She is also known for running the global plus size fitness business Too Fat to Run, and is founder of a life coaching business called The Year to Change. The photos in this article are probably from a little earlier in her life, she couldn’t find any of herself at 15…well not any she was willing to share lol

Fancy joining me for some gentle goal setting this weekend?

Dare to Dream is my annual goal setting challenge, this year I am easing my way into the year and opening this up to anyone who just needs some time, space and inspiration to think things through.

Although not strictly speaking a business challenge, the fact is life and business are often intertwinder, and we often set up businesses to give us the lifestyles and experiences we desire.

Most of the work happens in a pop up FB group that opens this Friday, and all of the sessions are open to you dropping in, or watching the replay, and following along in the workbook.

Plus it’s totally FREE…cos remember what I said earlier Dreaming doesn’t cost ANYTHING Lol

Looking for a business legacy strategist for 2024?

If you are a solopreneur doing all of the doing, AND all of the thinking, and have got yourself in a bit of a pickle. I might be able to help. As a business legacy strategist I help solopreneurs to get clear on their vision, their strategy and the best tactics to deploy, but most importantly I help them turn their ideas into sustained, successsful action…before it’s too late and they have run out of time or steam to reach their full potential.

I have been a solopreneur for close to 30 years, and have been supporting freelancers, artists, coaches, creatives, experts, speakers and sole traders of all kinds of proffesions for more than 20 years. I am a keynote speaker on the topics of productivity, purpose and profits and the author of the books How NOT to be Broke, Leading from the Back, and The Solopreneurs Roadmap.