Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Working Life: New Year's Career Resolutions:
Setting Goals for your Career

The Radio Show Recap...

In today’s segment of “The Working Life,” Carol Blymire and I talked about the importance of making New Year’s resolutions for your career. The advent of each new year is a perfect time to pause and not only reflect upon the past year, but also look forward to the coming year. A recent survey reported that a surprising 85% of people that set New Year’s resolutions, don’t set goals for work or career above and beyond what their employer requires of them! So Carol and I discussed how to set reasonable goals for your worklife, whether you love what you do, or want to make changes.

Carol's Question: Everybody knows that we all make New Year’s resolutions, and most of us break them by January 2, if we were even ever serious about them at all. Why is it important to set these kinds of goals for your career?

My Thoughts: It is important to set goals because your career should be something created by you and not imposed upon you or done to you. This means you must take an active approach in creating the life and career-life you want. Setting goals is an important element in career creation. Goals provide milestones and markers for you your career. Creating goals or resolutions helps focus your attention and energy upon your career. By articulating your goals you are setting your intention towards making your desired future happen.

By the way, writing down your goals is extremely powerful. There is something about putting them in a concrete format that actually helps propel us towards them. I’m always shocked that the goals I’ve written down almost always come to fruition. Its kind of freaky, really.

Carol’s Question: Can you talk us through some steps that our listeners can use to think about their past and current work-life situations, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and then set some goals for the coming year?

My Thoughts: Reflection and evaluation of the past and present is a key element. Just as you might take time to reflect on your personal life—take time to reflect upon your career-life. The simplest thing you can do is to create some modified plus/delta lists:
  • Write down everything you’ve loved about your current (and past) work lives
  • Write down everything you would like to do more of (for example—I love doing this show and would like to do more of it) or new things you might like to try
  • Write down talents, skills, activities that you would like to use in your career
  • Write down everything you would like to be different—or things you might like to change
Taking the time to reflect in this way provides you with real data and truthful insight into what you want to bring forward into the future. These insights, of course, will lay the groundwork for creating goals that are truly meaningful for you.

Carol’s Question: Can you talk about the broad scope of work-life New Year’s resolutions: job, education, family time, personal enrichment, etc.

My Thoughts: I always think it is better to create career goals in context with life goals. Most of us spend the majority of our waking hours at work. Therefore, I always try to incorporate personal and professional goals into one master goal setting exercise.

Try using the Wheel of Life to find areas where you may need to do some goal setting. Simply draw a circle (or several circles) and create “pie slices.” Then label each pie slice with a topic. Some ideas for slices: Career, Money, Health, Friends, Family, Significant Other, Personal Growth, Fun & Recreation, Social life, Spiritual life, Physical Environment, etc. Once you have the slices labeled, draw a line across the slice at how satisfied you are with that element of your life—think of the center as 0 and the outer rim as a 10. You’ll quickly see where in your life you might need to set some new goals.

Once you know which elements need attention—simply ask yourself:
  • What needs to happen in this area to make this a 10?
  • What would I like more of?
  • What would I like less of?
Once you do that—set your goals. Once you set your goals—make sure you create some action steps to achie your goals.

Carol’s Question: Is it important to set some goals that are attainable, some that are a reach, and others that are dreams?

My Thoughts: Absolutely. In coaching we call this setting the big “A” Agenda and the little “a” agenda. In fact, I advocate using 3 levels of goals: long term, mid range, and short term goals.
I believe this is important for several reasons. First of all, having long range—Big A—goals keep you thinking about your big picture—it helps move you towards your ultimate life goals. Having smaller goals helps guide you towards your destination: use them as a road map. Your final destination (Big A goal) is going to be marked by the little goals along the way. Think of it like taking a cross-country trip—while your ultimate goal may the other side of the country—your daily goals are going to be the cities, states, and towns you pass through to reach your destination. Short and mid term goals can serve as action plans for your Big A goals. And finally it is important to have smaller, more manageable goals for practical psychological reasons. Sometimes the Big Goal just seems too big. Breaking it up into smaller, bit sized goals makes the goal feel more doable. It removes a huge psychological obstacle that helps you to then see a practical path. Additionally, breaking the big goals up into smaller, bit sized goals enables you to experience real progress towards your big goals which in turns creates more positive energy, confidence and momentum.

Carol’s Question: How important is writing down your goals? What about sharing them with friends or close professional colleagues?

My Thoughts: I think writing down is key. There is something “official” about writing it down. Writing down creates some kind of inner/outer alignment. I’m always amazed that it works. I also think sharing with colleagues can really help. Trusted friends and colleagues can be a great resource for identifying and achieving goals. Anything that helps you take action on your goals is a good thing. Think about how this is done at organizations—creating and sharing goals is key for aligning resources and intentions towards accomplishment.

Carol’s Question: Is there value in pulling together a small group of friends to do this together? Brainstorm ideas, do monthly check-in lunches, hold one another accountable?

My Thoughts: Having a goal setting party or “club” is a fantastic idea. Not only can they help hold you accountable—but they can also help get you “unstuck.” Most of us lose motivation when we get stuck or we can’t see how to get to the end zone. Friends can help you strategize and move forward.

Friends can also be a wonderful “reality check.” They can remind you of your strengths, weaknesses, and underused talents. They can also keep you honest about what you say you want and what you really want. For example, if I told my friends that I wanted to fly around the country giving more keynote speeches—they would immediately roll their eyes and remind me that I hate to travel and that packing completely stresses me out (I never seem to have the right “travel” clothes…).

Carol’s Question: Should you set up a reward system for achieving some of these goals, or sticking to these new resolutions?

My Thoughts: This really depends on who you are. If you are a person who responds to self-rewards, celebrations, etc., then absolutely! But if you’re like me, and celebrating just feels like one more item on your to-do list—then don’t bother. Find what works for you and go for it. Just make sure that when you reach one goal—you have another goal ready and waiting in the wings!

Carol’s Question: Is it okay to change your mind about some of them, as you progress into the year, or is that akin to giving up?

My Thoughts: Absolutely! Your goals should be serving you and not the other way around. Changing, altering, or throwing out goals is perfectly fine. You don’t want to “stay the course” just because you set that goal—if it becomes clear that you really don’t want that goal in your life—then change it. Avoid changing your goals out of fear or insecurity—if that goal represents something very important to you—then dropping it because you are afraid may just set you up for regret and disappointment later on in life. It’s better to try to find a way to incorporate the important elements of that goal into other goals.

Closing Thoughts: Remember achieving your goals requires action. To ensure your career goals come to fruition you must take some action—any action—towards your goals every day. At the end of each day, ask yourself—did the actions I take today move me closer to my goals or further away? Commit yourself to the actions required to accomplish your goals.

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1 comment:

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