Everything I Need to Know About Setting Goals I Learned from Sesame Street

Everything I Need to Know About Setting Goals I Learned from Sesame Street

Many people mark the start of a new year by renewing their commitment to improvement and growth. Setting goals is a practice most entrepreneurs have – you wouldn’t have started a business if you didn’t have some kind of life goal in mind. 

But where most people fall off track is by not having a plan in place to help you reach those goals.  I’ve seen a lot of people get so laser-focused on planning and goal setting that they forget to do one thing: celebrate their achievements, no matter how micro they may be.

Whatever your ambitions are for 2022 – new sales channels, more income, more downtime – give this episode a listen. It’s all about setting SMART goals, taking the steps to achieve them, and having the right support system in place to keep you motivated. 

Join me in Episode 45, as I talk about growth, setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, the importance of accountability and support system, and breaking down your sales and marketing goals to create milestones to celebrate.

Virginia Foodie Essentials:

  • In your business, your goals may be to reach certain production levels or to pay yourself that dream salary.

  • Big goals need to be broken down into smaller, achievable mini-goals.

  • Celebrating milestones is important for staying on track and motivating you to reach your goals.

  • It's okay to set a goal and then not reach it, because just the act of measuring your progress toward a goal will encourage growth.

Key Points From This Episode:

  • What I learned from the Sesame Street Challenge

  • Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

  • Breaking down big goals into small, achievable ones

  • The importance of celebrating your milestones and achievements

  • Why accountability is important

  • Measuring your progress

  • Embracing failures as a part of the process

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Full Transcript:

[00:00:00] Georgiana Dearing: There's no way I could walk a marathon without putting in a lot of preparatory work. And in my professional life, I'd already learned that big goals, like a marathon, need to be broken down into smaller achievable mini-goals.

[00:00:16] Welcome to The Virginia Foodie Podcast, where we lift the lid on the craft food industry and tell the stories behind the good food, good people, and good brands that you know and love. If you've ever come across a yummy food brand and wondered, "How did they do that? How do they turn that recipe into a successful business? Then we've got some stories for you.

[00:00:41] Hello, Foodies, Happy New Year. I hope your holidays have been restful and your year's off to a good start. It's that time of year when it's okay to take a little space and pause and reflect on last year, and to think about what's coming next. And while I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, I am a huge fan of goal setting. And January is a natural break for checking in, and perhaps resetting those life and business goals.

This time last year, I set a personal goal to someday walk a marathon. As 2021 wound down, I was thinking about all the things I learned about goal setting during my walking experience. And I want to share with you the things that I learned from using Sesame Street characters as a way to encourage me to stick to my commitment.

[00:01:27] When I was growing up, Sesame Street was one of my favorite shows. There's something so comforting about the friendly Muppets and their adorable pals. Not to mention, all those great songs that have stuck with me on into adulthood. So when my pandemic-inspired goal of walking a marathon was born, I was happy to discover the Get To Sesame Street Challenge from Virtual Running Club. What better reward for my hard work than to get some cute pins featuring my childhood heroes, plus some of the proceeds to support Sesame Workshop.

Now, I didn't pick that marathon goal from thin air. After a few months of lockdown and staring at the walls and my husband, I realized I needed something to move me off the couch and out of the house. I revisited some of the life goals I had when I was in college. Skydiving, too scary. Running a marathon, I hate running. Backpacking through Europe, not with travel restrictions in place. Plus, I do have to earn a living. So even though I truly hate running, adapting my marathon goal to a walking event seemed like a great fit for me.

[00:02:34] When I hatched this plan, I didn't just jump on it right away. I tested the waters by saying out loud to some friends. I think I want to walk a marathon one day. And as I talked about it, I realized that I really want to follow through with it. It would be rewarding to close the loop on an early dream and have at least one marathon accomplished in my lifetime. I was excited by taking on a new personal challenge, and I'm curious to see how it turns out. So far, I've learned a lot of things about myself and about goal-setting in general.

The truth is, given how sedentary I've become in the first few months of the pandemic, there's no way I could walk a marathon without putting in a lot of preparatory work. And in my professional life, I'd already learned that big goals, like a marathon, need to be broken down into smaller achievable mini-goals.

[00:03:25] Many of my clients will come to me with similar aspirations. Maybe you want to reach a particular personal income. I want to earn X thousand dollars a year, you might say. Well, that can certainly be inspirational. That total income is not a very realistic objective when it comes down to exactly how you might reach your end goal of earning a living from your food brand.

My marathon goals started out a bit like that. Just an idea of the end result. So after I settled into believing in my goal, I started to think of all the things that need to be in place for me to be successful at it. I took the big idea of a marathon and broke it down into some basic measurable parts. You can do the same thing with your sales and marketing goals.

[00:04:09] If you want to set and reach your business goals, it's helpful to follow SMART goal-setting guidelines. That's S-M-A-R-T: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. In your business, your goals may be to reach certain production levels or to pay yourself that dream salary.

In the case of my personal goal, completing a marathon by walking is pretty specific. Marathons are 26.2 miles long. So being able to walk that far in a reasonable amount of time would take a lot of training. The average completion time for running a marathon is about four and a half hours. Walking a marathon is going to be more like nine or even ten hours. Training to run a marathon takes months. For me to walk a marathon, I've got to dedicate several hours every day to training during the months leading up to the event. That could be an overwhelming commitment if that's where my goal-setting ended.

Thinking about the time I need to spend each day, and the length of the training window is how I settled on my first two achievable and realistic mini-goals. Walking at least five days a week and walking in all kinds of weather, because you aren't guaranteed perfect weather at an outdoor event. So I started with a goal of taking a half-hour walk every day, rain shine, ice, or snow.

By comparison, if you want your food brand to pay you a salary of that, let's say $60,000 a year, it's not realistic to expect that every month from month one through infinity that you'll be able to draw $5,000 a month out of your business. That's just not the nature of a startup. There's a lot of steps between zero income and quitting your day job. And that's where SMART goals come into play.

Hey there, podcast listeners, I've been getting a lot of questions about RangeMe, the leading digital platform for connecting with retail buyers. I believe so strongly that RangeMe is an essential tool for any food brand that's trying to land retail accounts that I want to give you my top tips for free. If you email me, george@vafoodie.com, I'll send you free of charge my Top 25 Tips for Success on RangeMe. So shoot an email to me, george@vafoodie.com. And I'll send you those tips. Not listening at your desk? Then DM me with your email address and I'll still send you my 25 Top Tips for Success on RangeMe for free.

So how do SMART goals work? By the end of 2020, I was a daily walker in all kinds of weather. Once I developed that daily habit, and I had all the gear I needed to keep that habit all year round, I knew I'd need some type of incentive to keep me putting on those shoes each day and hitting the road. And that's where Sesame Street came in. The Sesame Street Challenge can be set for a hundred or 500 miles. Looking at my prior performance in 2020, I set 500 miles of steady training speed walks as my target for 2021. The program is pre-staged with the first reward arriving after reaching just 10% of your total target.

[00:06:37] As soon as I logged 50 miles, I will ship a cute enamel pin with that master of all numbers, The Count. Uh, uh, 50 miles. Step rewards like this really work. After that first 50 miles, I received pins at a hundred, 200, 300, 400, and the final 500. I was thrilled to get that recognition even though I know logically it's just part of a system that I've paid to participate in. I loved getting my pins all year long, so much so that as I worked through it I realized I could adjust my goal from the end of the year to my birthday in October shaving more than two months off my original finish date.

[00:07:18] Celebrating milestones is important for staying on track to reaching your big goals. That's why if you stop your goal setting after only defining the end result that $60,000 salary, for instance, you run the chance of feeling disheartened every single month. You don't have that full $5,000 hitting your bank account. It's much healthier and more achievable to set those many targets that help you build upon each smaller. You began to see and feel the growth.

[00:08:38] The other important component to reaching goals is to have some level of accountability. If you want to achieve something, you're going to need a good support system. This is especially true when it comes to something like setting goals. What does Big Bird have in common with me? He needs his friends around him for help. The same can be said about ourselves and our goals. My experience with the Sesame Street Challenge was great. I set a big target and I hit it early. With the remaining weeks of 2021, I added a stretch goal. I wanted to hit 600 miles by the end of the year. Well, guess what? I didn't have a support system in place to keep me on track for those additional miles.

[00:09:20] Yes, I committed to a 5k turkey trot on Thanksgiving Day. But after that, it was hard for me to stay on track for my hundred-mile stretch goal. I couldn't figure out why at first. It should have been easy. I set a target in my Runkeeper app, which is adding the miles up in the background as I take my walks like it does every day. But after a few weeks, I realized I was slipping down in my weekly averages. In fact, the Runkeeper app started asking me if I wanted to adjust my goal to something lower. With the Sesame Street Challenge, I had a process in place. Each week, I manually log my mileage into the challenge tracker. I literally had to look at those numbers in Runkeeper every week, and then type them into the Sesame Street tracker.

[00:10:04] It seems like a small thing, but that act of looking at my performance and then reporting it somewhere was just enough accountability to keep me thinking about my goal every day that I decided whether to put on my shoes or not. It is well-documented in psychology that accountability works. If you join a group or use an app or even a calendar system that prompts you to state your goal and then record your results, you will perform better and be more likely to stay on track to reach your goals. But guess what? You don't have to hit your goals to grow. It's okay to set a goal and then not reach it. Because just the act of measuring your progress toward a goal will encourage growth. During my Sesame Street Challenge this year, I adjusted my 500-mile target back to my birthday, October 11th, but I didn't make it. I hit 500 miles on the 20th of October.

[00:10:58] But instead of feeling down about it, I'm pretty stoked that I hit that number and I'm still racking up miles. That marathon doesn't look too unrealistic after all. You can do the same with your business. Reverse engineer your sales and marketing goals to create milestones that you can celebrate. It can be very personally rewarding. And if you're looking for a structured way to do this, reach out to me. I have plenty of tools to help you get moving in the right direction, and they're not all Sesame Street. At the bare minimum, you can join our co-working sessions on the third Monday of every month and work along with me to make 2022 a great year for you and your business. So let me know, what are you trying to accomplish in 2022? And thanks for listening to our first Marketing Monday of the new year.

[00:11:46] Thanks for listening. And if you want to learn more about how to grow your own food brand, then click on Grow My Brand at vafoodie.com. If you're a lover of local food, then be sure to follow us. We are at @vafoodie on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Join the conversation and tell us about your adventures with good food, good people, and good brands.