When I launched my planning firm, my goal was to add one client a month, so that by the end of my first year in business I would have 12 clients on retainer. My wife challenged me about this goal the other day, asking if it was too aggressive. But that made me think: Have I made this goal too aggressive, or not aggressive enough?

Every year, I try to set various professional goals for myself -- to push myself to become a better and more successful financial planner. Now that I run my own practice, my initial goal is to grow and help more people. I know where I’d like my firm to be in five years -- and that will take a total of one new client every month.

I know this won’t happen in a linear fashion: Some months will bring no clients; others will bring in three. I may even lose some along the way, and need to add more for the same net result.

How can you tell whether your own goals are appropriately aggressive? Two things helped me understand this:

My goal isn’t comfortable: Adding 12 clients during my initial year feels daunting. I would love to have made a goal to add six clients. But that feels comfortable, and I know it will make me lazy and prone to procrastination. Having an uncomfortable goal means I’m always pushing forward, looking for the next place to introduce myself, and try to find some more leads.

But if I miss my goal, I’ll still be satisfied: My goal is 12 clients on retainer, but I also have hourly services available. If I add eight clients on retainer, but then work with four people on an hourly basis, that will be OK, as long as I tried my best. It could be even lower -- maybe six on retainer and two hourly.

What I really want to happen, when I look back on the year, is to know that I did everything I could to succeed.

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