I have heard on more than one occasion that an extremely small number of people have specific written goals—as low as five percent. As another way to differentiate yourself, be among the five percent to lay out your path for success on paper. Whether it is personal, professional, academic, health, or any other aspects of your life, you should write out your goals.
The likelihood of you taking the appropriate actions to achieve the goals goes up exponentially when you have them written. The goals should be specific so you know if and when they have been accomplished. Each goal needs to also be aggressive or it is not worth shooting for. The aggressive goal, however, should not be so far out of reach that it is not attainable. You should set progressive goals so you can see the small wins piling up. You need to understand that you may not achieve one-hundred percent of them—at least on the first try. The idea that you can go back to achieve a missed goal may refine the quality and outcome of what you are trying to accomplish. The fact that they are written allows you to see your progress and creates action plans to attain them.
If you achieve your goals, you should build on those successes and set more goals. These goals should be expandable for future steps. For example, I wanted to progress up through all of the phone positions in my line of business, and then move on to the somewhat natural progression of assistant manager, manager, and beyond. The goal of what I wanted to accomplish was set.
In addition, I set timelines for when I wanted to achieve them. The timeline has always been the hardest part for me. I have always wanted to get to each of the next steps as quickly as possible. There were many hurdles that delayed my ability to achieve my goals and I missed many of my expected timelines.
When establishing timelines, you need to account for potential roadblocks. Not everything will be clearly laid out for you. As previously stated, there were the two times in my career when I was asked to move in the other direction, to lower roles, because leadership didn’t feel I was effective or prepared for the additional responsibilities. There were also the times I felt ready to move up but did not interview well. Regardless of the reasons, I needed to reset my goals.
Resetting the goals means many things. It might mean resetting the timeline to the same goal and staying on course. Resetting the goal may mean adjusting the goal metric itself to move in a different direction. This is not always the easiest thing to do, since you may be unfamiliar with the road you are looking down. As stated earlier, pull back on the aggressive timeframes, scale, or intensity of your goals, and set the goals in smaller increments. Again, the increments should be realistic and challenging. The key message is to write down your goals and know they will evolve. Goal setting should be dynamic and fluid. More than twenty years after leaving college as a communication major, I had no idea I would have gone through so many aspects of the financial industry. When you write out your goals, I would suggest using a pencil.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
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