I remember a friend saying to me years ago, "If you don't know where you're going, you can't create a roadmap to get there."
That line stuck with me, as it's so true. I tend to be a strategic, big idea thinker. But what I've learned is that though the big idea way of thinking can be a beautiful thing, at the same time, it can be the end of beautiful things before they even begin. Big idea thinking and spirit might be inspiring, but it is not sustainable unless you have a plan of action and goals to get you where you want to go.
This is even more true when it comes to setting goals at work. In other words, to know you want to be a manager one day is wonderful, but how are you going to get there? What steps will you take between now and then to support you being promoted? If you plan on being promoted to a senior level position quickly, again, how are you going to get the attention of senior leadership to do so? Or maybe you know you want to land a position in a new field or team before a certain age, so what goals can you set to make that happen? Knowing what you want and setting realistic goals to achieve them with a plan of action is required.
According to international speaker and author on human success and goal setting, Douglas Vermeeren, only 20 percent of the population set goals for themselves, and of that 20 percent, nearly 70 percent don't reach them. That can be a bit disheartening to read, but it can also set the stage to help you understand why.
Developing an understanding of why people don't achieve goals allows you to set the foundation to avoid those pitfalls, so you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. Often, it's the way we think about setting career goals that creates the environment to fail.
What types of career goals are destined to fail?
Unrealistic goals: You need to make sure you're setting realistic goals. In other words, if you do the work and put in the time, you can achieve them. Otherwise, you're setting yourself up for failure before you begin. If your goals are too big initially, then break them down into smaller, more manageable goals to set yourself up for success.
"Shiny object" goals: This term is often used in Internet Marketing. It's easy to get caught up in the "shiny object syndrome," because there's always some new type of gadget or technology that is supposed to make your life or doing business easier. In reality, the shiny objects aren't worth the investment in the long run and only make you feel or appear "cool" for a brief period.
When it comes to setting realistic goals, you want your goals to be influenced by what you desire and want to do with your life, not what appears to be "cool" or what might get attention or accolades just because it's what others want at the time or think is "cool" for now.
Goals influenced by others: Society, our friends, our siblings and our parents often have plenty to say about what they think we should or should not be doing with our lives and careers. It's important to realize that anytime anyone gives you "advice" on what you should be doing, it stems from what they think you should be doing because it's what they would be doing. It's about them, not you.
I suggest taking in "advice" as information you can use to make informed and educated decisions, but keep your career goals in alignment with what you want to do in your life and not what others want you to do. When you obtain goals influenced by something or someone outside of you, then you're destined to fail because you won't be happy in the long run--you've sold out on the goals you want to achieve that someone else wants for you.
Setting goals at work without a road map: As I mentioned previously, goals are great, but you need a roadmap to take you from point A to point C. Without it, you might land somewhere in the land of B, but you won't make it to point C.
Setting goals at work without a timeframe: When you set career goals, give yourself a timeframe within which to complete them. This sets the stage for success as it helps to light a fire under you and puts you into action mode. It also allows you to break bigger goals down into smaller milestones to meet your deadline. Without a timeframe within which to complete a goal, then it could take you twice as long or longer to complete it, or worse, you won't meet your goal at all.
Setting goals at work for which you don't feel worthy: This point could be a psychology post in and of itself, but in brief, if you set goals and don't believe you deserve to reach those goals, whatever they might be, then you are destined to fail. Whether you want to be promoted within six months, want to be a board member of a non-profit in two years, or you want to win Employee of the Month within a year, you need to know and believe you are worthy of such titles and deserve them as much as anyone else.
If you don't believe you can do something or find it difficult, then continue to put in the work and effort and continue to imagine your life after you've completed your goals. In taking this approach, you'll still be helping yourself along the goal-reaching path. This is what I did for a while in my career, and fortunately, others believed in my ability because I took this approach, and with time, so did I.
The S.M.A.R.T. system makes goals setting easier with improved, long-term results.
Many organizations use the SMART method for setting goals at work, which I've seen be effective when utilized correctly.
S = Specific: The more specific you are, the clearer your goal is. I want to be a millionaire is vague, whereas I want to achieve $30K in commissions each month is specific.
M = Measurable: You need to know when you have met your career goals. When goals are measurable, the physical manifestations of your goals are obvious, as are the verbal affirmations you receive.
A = Attainable: This goes along with the point I made about your goals being realistic above. If your goals aren't attainable, then you're setting yourself up to fail before your begin.
R = Relevant: This goes with my point on your goals being influenced by others above. If your goals aren't relevant to you and what you desire, then they'll be more difficult to achieve. Even if you do achieve them, you likely won't be happy in the long run.
T = Timely: As mentioned earlier, goals without a timeframe are difficult to achieve, so make your goals timely.
Career goals allow us to move forward and achieve the desired success we seek over time. Knowing when you're making your goals difficult to achieve will help you overcome obstacles in achieving the career you desire. Consider the S.M.A.R.T. system, or do your own research to find a system that works for you, so your goals are attainable. You can also seek guidance from your supervisor or the human resources department when it comes to resources to help you set effective goals for your career and line of work.
Finally, sometimes goals and plans change, and that's OK, too. But if you have original career goals and plans in place, then it makes changing them easier to do when needed.
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