You know you want to be successful, but do you know what it will take to get you there?
I know a lot of people who are ambitious, but who struggle to identify concrete goals that they can really be working towards. I talk to many people who are early on in their careers and who are afraid they might never figure out what exactly they’re “supposed to do” for a living.
And as a result, these people delay taking a next step because they aren’t sure what their goals are and they are afraid to take an opportunity that might take them in the wrong direction.
After all, what if you take a job as a software engineer and then realize in 3 years that you actually want to be a product manager?
So they waste time and don’t make progress towards any goals at all; either they hop from entry level job to entry level job in different industries trying to find a good fit, or they hang out at one company waiting for their golden opportunity to come their way.
But you can’t let not having a concrete goal hold you back from making progress or feeling excited about your career. If you wait until inspiration strikes, you might be waiting around for 10 years or more! (Not to mention the fact that inspiration rarely just walks up and knocks on your door; you usually have to be out there getting things done for it to arrive.)
So is there a solution? I think so.
Today I want to talk about a new approach to setting goals. Instead of thinking in terms of job titles and salary ranges, what if you designed your goals around the feelings and experiences you want to have in your ideal life? What if you designed your work life to fit your dream life?
What do you want your experience to be?
It can be really hard to set a goal if you don’t already know exactly what you want to do with your life. I know when I started working with KateM, who has always been a super career- and goal-oriented person from a young age, I felt really embarrassed not to have a full-on career plan already. I couldn’t even tell her what I thought I wanted to be doing long term.
“Umm…writing?” was the best I could come up with.
Over the last few years, though, I have realized that having a goal isn’t just about knowing what job title you want to achieve or what company you want to work for.
Creating a really satisfying meaningful goal is about knowing what kind of life you want to have, and then forming your career plans around that. [ click to tweet this! ]
After all, why shouldn’t your work life fit your real life?
For me, being able to work from anywhere and having a culture that supports and challenges me are two of my non-negotiables for career satisfaction. I want freedom, and I want people who push me to be great.
Beyond that, it matters less whether I am the co-founder and content lady of a startup (like I am now) or if I am, for example, a travel blogger or a stay at home mom or any number of other careers. Each of these options can fulfill the specific needs I know matter for my work satisfaction, so I am not tied down to one career path or one title that is driving me forward.
Creating goals around your ideal life
So in order to start setting goals, you’ve got to think about the kind of life you want to live. Then you’ve got to think about how you can apply your greatest strengths to putting those dreams into action.
After all, you are reading this blog, which means you are someone who cares about being a superstar and huge value-add for the people you work with. Your career should be about making a big impact by utilizing your strongest skills in an environment that makes you fulfilled.
Once you combine your ideal life with your biggest strengths, you can start to form clearer pictures of what your goals should be. In fact, in a way, this is actually an anti-goal – rather than picking the one thing you are working towards, you are creating criteria that help you judge opportunities and decide if you want to take them.
(Because if you are someone who works hard, adds value, and is a person other people want to be around, opportunities will be all around you.)
To get these areas sorted out in your mind, answer the questions below – and write it all out. A huge part of why people with no goals or clear direction get so overwhelmed by goal-setting is because everything seems so cloudy and when it’s jumbling around in your mind.
Writing it out forces you to turn it into fully formed thoughts and sentences, which helps you take the random thoughts in your mind and make them something you can actually work with.
Answer as specifically as possible. Really make yourself turn vague ideas and feelings into words and sentences.
In order to help pin down your strengths and biggest value-adds, ask yourself a few critical questions:
- In what way do I want to contribute?
- What do people appreciate most about my work today?
- If my boss were to recommend me to someone, what would they say about me?
- What would I want them to say about me?
- When was I happiest at work recently? What made me so happy?
Then write down answers for your what your ideal work life looks like:
- Where do you work?
- When does your day start?
- Who do you work with?
- What does your office look like?
- Who appreciates and values what you produce? How do they show their appreciation?
- What do you do in your free time?
- Where do you live? What does that space look like?
- Where does most of your energy go?
This gives you a super valuable metric you can judge any opportunity or new job by. Once you know the life you want, you can begin to know which people, companies, jobs, side projects, and everything else will either move your towards that life or away from that life.
It gives you a way to make decisions, and by making decisions, you’ll get more and more of the experience that will help you clarify your goals even further.
And all of a sudden, you just might find yourself with a dream job and a life you love. And that’s a pretty good goal to aim for, if you ask me.
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