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Your Professional Goals

Lesson 7 on "Connecting the many pieces of the puzzle of you" is all about us taking time to identify your professional goals. We will be working with the familiar S.M.A.R.T. acronym.

Top achievers do not let life just happen to them. They make things happen. They are conscious, intentional, and focused goal-setters. They create what they want to do or want to achieve now (in the short term) and in the future (the long term), however, that time is defined.

Top performers reflect on and face their dreams and fears. They take time to know themselves. They are aware of their strengths, developmental gaps, and their obligations to other people. They know what resources they have and the information and assistance they will need from others to achieve their goals.

If your professional and personal goals are in synch and represent what you truly need and want out of your life, you will be more motivated to do what it takes to actually get them, and even more likely to be successful in achieving them.

Your professional goals provide you with a roadmap so that you can structure your daily activities to actually be in sync with what you want to accomplish. Your personal roadmap helps you to progress from where you currently are to where you want to be.

Goal-setting is an ongoing process that demands your attention, commitment, and perseverance. It requires you to determine your priorities to know what you want and be passionate about it, and what it takes to achieve whatever that goal is.

Goals are dynamic and they change as you change. This could be a reason why you may not have reached a goal in the past. If you didn't have clarity around what you wanted and why, you probably couldn't see any benefit you would receive if you took a risk to achieve the goal. It takes a certain amount of courage to set and meet goals.

Consider the following as you begin forming your professional goals:

  • What is meaningful to you?

  • What is manageable by you?

  • What changes do you want to occur in your life?

  • What do you need and/or want?

  • What is motivating you and why?

  • What are your expectations?

  • What are the expectations of your organization, your manager?

Now, let's review the Guidelines for Setting Goals. We're going to use the tried and true acronym S.M.A.R.T. as a useful way to create and set goals. We are using this acronym even though it has been used over and over and over because it works!

The "S" is for Specific. Construct a clear picture of your goal and focus on a specific idea. Like a target market for an advertising campaign. First, the market is determined, and then the campaign is launched. The same principles apply to achieving a specific goal.

To help you create specific goals, work with the "W" questions. Start with:

  • What do I want to accomplish?

  • Where do I want to be or am I able to work on this goal?

  • When do I want to achieve this?

  • Who else is involved for me to meet this goal?

  • Which requirements, expectations, barriers need to be addressed?

  • WHY do I want this?

  • What benefits will I receive?

  • What benefits will my organization gain?

It's all very specific stuff! At this point, you want to be specific.

Then "M" is for Measurable. Design what needs to happen so that you know you are meeting your goal. Create concrete progressions that will either keep you on track or provide clear indicators that you need to redirect your efforts because of some unexpected barrier. Develop your own metrics including target dates and numbers that indicate progression and what gets measured by what gets done. To help you create measurable goals think about dollars, percentages, inches, hours, weight, days, height, or any other metric that makes some kind of sense to you.

Ask yourself:

  • What needs to be quantified? How much do I require? How many do I need?

  • What are the intermediate small victories on the way? How will I know that I actually succeeded in meeting my goal?

Then go into the attainable and actionable as you meet the "A" part of the acronym. Your goal should be challenging for you and achievable by you, yet is not limiting to you. Make sure your goals are somehow within your capacity to attain them. Make them actionable. Map out logical steps to realize your goals. Even though there may be a stretch between what you want to happen and your current resources, be imaginative in developing your plans and leveraging the resources you have or can tap into.

Then look at the "R". How much are your goals relevant and realistic? You must be willing and able to do what it takes to achieve your goal. You must want it and know why you want it and be very aware of what really motivates you to reach the goal as we've said in the past. It's all the puzzle pieces we've been talking about. Know what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve it. Because everything comes at a cost. Be clear if your goal is in sync with your basic values, or are willing to challenge your assumptions if they are not. Make sure your goal is manageable by you or the resources you can muster up, and within the realm of possibility for you to achieve.

Then, it is necessary to have timed and time-bound limits. When it's timed, you're more likely to do it. Your goal needs a deadline for completion. Always work with the end in mind. Create a timeline starting at the end and working backward to determine what needs to be done when to accomplish your goal. Set an actual date that your goal needs to be reached. By doing this, you are forcing yourself to take action. There are times when you must reevaluate the progress you are making and readjust your time frame. Consider this acceptable as long as you are making progress and not just extending the deadline as a form of procrastination.

Once you have set your goal or goals, make sure they are formally written. The purpose of writing them down is to move your thoughts from a passive wish to an active target. Write out a goal statement. A goal statement is a clearly written declaration of what you specifically want to achieve including any metrics that will help you define your desired outcome.

State your goals positively when you write them. Visualize and experience them as something you have already achieved. You can form a clear picture of yourself doing something, but it's really difficult for your mind to visualize not doing something. See yourself as reaching the goal and taking the steps necessary to get there.

Figure out small celebrations to congratulate yourself as you meet the mini-milestones on the way to your goal.

Determine a method that works to keep you on task. There are all kinds of things you can do. Consider taping up pictures, cartoons, poems, motivational or inspirational sayings. Listen to motivational music, post a list in an area where you will see it on a regular basis. Hopefully, that's not inside a refrigerator. Place your goal statement in a visible location where you will see and read it every day. It will act as a reminder of where you are headed. You know you. Do whatever works best for you!

Remember that attaining even your smallest goals is an accomplishment. The greater value, however, lies in what you become during the goal process. You strengthen your ability as a professional when you take risks to set goals, organize, plan for, meet deadlines, redirect your efforts, and ultimately achieve what you set out to do.

Your next challenge lies in creating your personal goals and then integrating your professional with your personal goals. And that's what we will be doing in Lesson 8.

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Written by

Sylvia Gaffney, PhD