It happens every year, doesn’t it? You think up some ‘resolutions’, maybe set a personal goal or two, but by the time Thanksgiving or Christmas rolls around again, you realize with a big sigh you haven’t accomplished what you had hoped. So you ‘resolve’ once again to do a better job next year. Maybe the problem last year was that your resolutions or goals were not specific enough…or worse, not written down.
Get a load of this: A study was conducted a few years ago of graduates from a well-known business school. Only three percent of grads had clearly articulated and written goals…but those grads earned ten times more than the 83% who had no goals at all. Even those grads who had some sense of their goals, but had not written them down, earned three times as much as those who hadn’t given goals a second thought. How’s that for motivation to get your goals down on paper?
To begin defining your goals, set aside several hours of quiet time (possibly over several days, if necessary) and write these headings on separate sheets of paper: Career, Money, Life (or Lifestyle). Many people's main focus is their career, so we’ll start with that. If you can’t get the quiet time you need at home, lock yourself away in one of those study rooms at the local public library. You won’t regret it!
Think of where you want your career to take you. Write it down. You may have more than one idea; write them down as well. Allow your thoughts to be ambitious, but remain realistic (for instance, if you know you can't endure a decade or more of additional education, don't plan on being a surgeon). These are your long-term goals.
The next exercise is to determine what intermediate steps must be accomplished to reach your long-term goals. If you want to be, say, president of a corporation, determine what skills a president needs—experience in finance, marketing, and operations, perhaps. There are some goals for you.
Continue working backward chronologically (from president to senior management to junior management to supervisor to team leader, for instance), listing the skills, education, and professional contacts needed to hold the positions you have listed until you find yourself listing skills, education, and contacts you currently have. Don't get bogged down in details—you should be outlining the major milestones which must be accomplished. These are your mid-term goals.
After outlining the major milestones, the final step is determining the specific actions needed to accomplish them. Write down those things which can be done in the next six months—these are your immediate goals. They might include joining a professional association or researching graduate programs. These goals develop into your daily or weekly To Do list.
Next, list those things which you intend to accomplish within the year—your short-term goals. Again, talk to counselors, network contacts, and librarians if you don't know exactly what might be involved in accomplishing a goal. Although the example here was career goals, the same exercise should be done for your financial and lifestyle goals as well. Immediate financial goals may be to open a money market savings account and conduct research on stock mutual funds. Short-term goals may be to commit to putting $25 per month into your savings account and to join the 401(k) retirement plan with your employer.
Lifestyle goals can be trickier to define. Do you want to have a wide circle of friends who are involved in cultural activities? learn to cook like a gourmet? vacation in the Caribbean each year? marry an intelligent, active, funny person and have three children? Some of your lifestyle goals will be tied into financial goals, such as the annual vacation. Others will have mid-term and short-term goals which may include such tasks as participating in community activities, joining social clubs, or committing to an exercise plan.
You may find that you need several sessions to complete this exercise. Make the time and do it now. It is vital to your success and worth the time and effort expended. Guaranteed. To stay active in the pursuit of your goals, mark off immediate goals as you accomplish them, and develop new ones which relate to your short-term goals. As you accomplish your short-term goals, develop new ones based on your mid-term goals, and so on. Continue this process of gradually moving goals up on your lists so you are always working on a piece of a task which will propel you toward your ultimate goals.
Okay! You have your goals written and assigned to a timetable. You're set, right? Not so fast. What will you do if one of the planned events doesn't happen-you don't get promoted to supervisor or an unexpected car repair costs several hundred dollars? These events can prevent you from reaching your goals. Now what?
Don't wait until a roadblock is thrown in your path before planning on how to get around it. Devise a contingency plan, a Plan B. For each of your major milestones, develop an alternate set of goals which you will implement if the milestone cannot be met. This is not to say that you should devise an entirely different scenario for yourself. “If I can't move into the manufacturing department, I will never be president, so I'll open a daycare center instead" is going a bit far.
If you miss a promotion, or an opportunity you were hoping for doesn't materialize, perhaps the answer is to move to another company. Another very real possibility in today's business climate is being laid off. Your Plan B will be a guiding light for you in this situation. In searching for a new position, review your plan to determine the right place to pick up the path toward your final destination. You won't make panic-induced decisions if you have a contingency in place-keep your cool and continue to move ahead.
This is a slow time of year—if you can, slip away and get the roadmap for your success laid out on paper for a prosperous 2006!
Kathryn Marion is the President of Education for RealityTM, a company dedicated to helping young people Sidestep the School of Hard KnocksSM by providing unique resources that are jam-packed with savvy advice on every facet of life on their own. Their bestselling ebook, Success in the ‘Real World', covers everything from careers and money to legal matters and cooking, all in an easy-to-read and -reference bulleted format which makes finding what you need fast and easy. The book also includes live links to over 100 additional online resources, making this the most thorough and useful resource available for students and graduates. Sign up for Education for RealityTM's free, monthly newsletter, Dose of RealityTM, on their website: http://www.EducationForReality.com . Profitable fundraising and affiliate opportunities are also available for groups and individuals.