Advance Your Life and Career
Catherine and Stephanie have similar educational backgrounds and skill sets. They both started in similar positions around the same time. At the one-year mark, Catherine had been promoted twice and taken on several new projects, but Stephanie was stuck where she was on her first day on the job.
What’s the difference? One person set goals and worked to achieve them; the other didn’t.
It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day work activities and lose sight of what you really want out of your career and life. Setting goals offers a sharper focus for your energy and fills your life with renewed purpose and meaning. And there’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve achieved what you set out to do!
Goal setting works best when you follow these guidelines:
Match your goal with your vision
What would you like to accomplish in a month, a year, five years? If your goals get you excited and are consistent with your personal values, chances are they’re the right ones to pursue. (They also help you move from a vague sense of your future to something more concrete).
Don’t be afraid to set big goals. If what you want to achieve doesn’t involve much effort, it’s unlikely to make much difference in the long run. But make sure the goal is realistic—something you can accomplish in a set period.
Specific goals work best
“Be a better office professional” is too vague and easy to forget. “Complete intermediary business writing course” is more detailed and offers a starting point to reach your desired result.
Make a plan
What steps will you take to achieve your goal, and by what dates? Design a plan that addresses both short- and long-term action steps that match your desired final outcome.
Your plan should include detailed tasks that relate to your goal. What can you do today to keep on track? What’s on the list for tomorrow?
Any goal you keep to yourself is a goal without accountability. Start by writing your goals on paper. This increases your commitment as well as the likelihood that you’ll stick with them.
Then, let friends and co-workers know what you intend to do. This makes it much harder to give up and walk away, and you can enlist their support if you run into obstacles along the way.
Measure and monitor
Use your short-term action steps as benchmarks to demonstrate your progress (and build your self-confidence). For example: “I will become proficient in creating Excel spreadsheets by the beginning of the fourth quarter.” One benchmark would be completing an online class before that date.
By monitoring your progress, you’ll see where your efforts have paid off and where you might be getting sidetracked. You can also adjust to changing circumstances such as a shift in job responsibilities that might affect your goals. Whatever the situation, reviewing your progress will keep you inspired and energized for the long run.
This is an extension of your measure-andmonitor activities. You commit to meeting certain short-term goals by a specific date. Having this concrete deadline helps you avoid procrastinating and never reaching your goal.
When you hit a specific milestone, such as completing a class, it’s OK to celebrate. Give yourself a little reward for your hard work, such as lunch at a favorite restaurant. And start thinking about the big celebration you’ll have when you achieve your overall goal.
Setting a goal isn’t a guarantee you’ll reach it. (Though if you never set a goal, you can be sure nothing will happen!) You may not achieve a goal in the time frame you hoped for, but that’s no reason to be discouraged. Recognize your progress and set a new goal and time frame. If the goal is worth pursuing, you’ll make sure to see it through to the end.