Much as we would all like to have magic wands that put us instantly right where we want to be, in the perfect situation, surrounded by the right people, in reality we have to work towards it. I read a lot of biographies and find that the majority of so-called overnight sensations take many years of preparation and hard work to pay off. How do you make sure the work you are doing is helping towards your goals?
The first task of course is to have goals. What outcome would you like to see?
I would say most of us go through our day to day responsibilities not giving much thought to where we hope to end up. We have ideas of what makes us happy, provides enjoyment and fulfillment or things that energize us, but in terms of concrete ambitions I find they are rare.
It is fine to have vague goals if they motivate you sufficiently but the vaguer the goal the harder it is to track progress towards it. For example, say your goal is to be “rich”. Each step you make towards the goal could put the goal further out of your reach as your definition of what “rich” means would keep changing as you earned more money.
Be specific. What do you want to achieve and what is necessary to get there?
Many people will disagree with me but in my experience it is better to have a few complimentary ambitions, some more “achievable” (as you will see, sometimes we are really not a good judge) than the others. I know there are life coaching experts who say you should have laser-like focus on one thing, but that assumes everything happens in an A, B, C straight line. I just feel like life is a bit more random.
Through my life I have had a series of ambitions and I have achieved almost all of them. Some were very small, such as passing my driving test, some seemed unachievable at the time I set them but happened almost by accident, like having a book published, etc. Other ambitions I decided were not meaningful for me any longer, such as earning a degree.
While you are working towards a big ambition, it helps to be able to tick off smaller ones.
Even small successes should give you a sense of achievement and confirmation you are on the right track. As it happens with me I get little pride out of my achievements, I am one of those people who thinks “If I managed it, then how hard can it be?”.
For me all of my sub-goals work towards my main goal of getting my family back over to Canada. The big dream would be for us all to be living happily in North Shore Vancouver, with a view of the sea in front of us and mountains behind, but right now somewhere on the continent would be a big start. (deep sigh). Everything I do needs to put me closer rather than further away. While there are setbacks on the way, I can keep driving forward while I know I am headed in the right direction.
Are you doing right now work that makes you closer to your goal?
We don’t always have the luxury of doing exactly what we need to be doing according to plan, but there are times when we have a choice of what work we take on. If you are looking for your next job, or a freelancer taking on contracts, which role or project you do next can have an impact on your ambitions.
In general you want to be doing work that provides you with …
- More time – If you can earn the same or more money in less time then you have more free time to do exactly what your goals require, or you can have a much nicer lifestyle with more free time.
- More motivation – Tasks that motivate you tend to be easier to accomplish and more enjoyable. It always helps to want to get up in the morning to go to work.
- More energy – Can you do work that is less draining? I have worked in jobs that sucked the energy right out of me. I am so glad I escaped!
- More contacts – A really good gig will put you in touch with good people to know and expand your network. If the work sucks but you get to know good people then you might still come out ahead.
- More visibility – Getting your name out there can help land bigger and better opportunities. If you can earn decent money at the same time then all the better.
- Confidence – I find one of the key traits that hold people back is their own self confidence. Sometimes getting to a certain level, breaking through to a milestone or achieving a task can make you feel more confident for the next, bigger one.
- Expertise - Can you learn from the work? Will the job stretch you and build your knowledge?
- Experience - Is this something you can leverage for future work?
If you find people who have goals that align with yours, work with them.
Projects shared are much easier than trying to do everything on your own, and I really do believe that who you know is as important as what you know. Sometimes other people can have a massive impact on your goals.
Sometimes it is only when we look back that we see the thread of how everything we do fits together to get us to where we are. Little pockets of experience, chance encounters, little bits of news, the story of how we get to where we are can seem random at the time but in hindsight is like dominoes all falling into place.
Even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time, you can be working towards your goal. Fix firmly in your mind where you want to be. Know the kinds of things you need to be doing or learning.
Either with strides or inches, keep moving forward and one day you will get there.