Knowing what you want to do in life isn’t always simple. It’s not uncommon to hear people well into their 40s or 50s saying that they never discovered what they wanted to be “when they grew up”. Pursuing a career in what you love, first begs the question: what do you love?
The first step is to take some time for self reflection; think about what you’re good at and what makes you happy. Once you’ve settled on a path, you can begin building the career you want by setting well-developed goals that will support you on your journey. One of the ways to create those goals is by delving into the personal and professional reasons behind your targets, and the strategies you need to achieve them.
Make it personal
A common issue with goal setting is trying to achieve unrealistic goals that don’t match up with your personal values. If your goals aren’t built around the things that make you happy (your core values and drivers), where is the incentive to keep pursuing them?
Many people don’t achieve their professional development aspirations because they take on goals that they feel they “should” do but ultimately they don’t feel a personal connection to them. So tune out the expectations of others and decide what you want in the long-and short-term. Then ask yourself why you want to achieve these things.
Once you know what you want to achieve, one way to move towards your goals is to start off small while still thinking big. For instance, if you were creating a marketing strategy for your business you wouldn’t just write down your desired end result. Instead, you would develop a step-by-step outline of everything you wanted to gain, and how you were going to accomplish it. Goals are no different. You can determine what your desired final outcomes will be, and then plan out the incremental steps forward in how you’ll reach them.
Write them down
Making your goals a visible, tangible thing can be incredibly beneficial – so write them down, and don’t be afraid to get creative by adding pictures, drawings and diagrams. It may sound a tad silly but for most people it works. A study found that when people wrote down their goals, they were 33 per cent more successful in achieving them than those who only formulated the outcome in their heads.i
Make yourself accountable
Saying your goals out load can be intimidating, but sharing them with others will help keep you accountable. A smart way of doing this is by finding someone else you know who is also trying to achieve a set of goals, and putting systems in place to record your processes and celebrate your accomplishments with each other – even if it’s a simple fortnightly email. It might not seem that useful, but the positive reinforcement of achieving regular targets has been shown to keep people (and their goals) on track.i
Once you’ve set your goals, take action. To make this process easier make sure that concrete actions, even if they’re small ones, are written into your goal plan. After you’ve done the hard work you can start to really see change; step by step, little by little. And once you start taking action you can begin celebrating the small wins, which will help keep you motivated to succeed.
i ‘Research Summary’ by Dr. Gail Matthews, presented in May 2015 at the Ninth Annual International Conference of the Psychology Research Unit of Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER).
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