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Working for Your Goals

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. 

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Comments

  1. Great post!

    I’m a big fan of SMART goals and of “starting with the end in mind”, I’ve accomplish many things that way, but it’s also a little bit frustrating when you don’t reach your goals, as F. Covey says “It’s one thing to come up with great strategies and goals, but is quite another to actually get them done” :)

  2. Great post!

    I’m a big fan of SMART goals and of “starting with the end in mind”, I’ve accomplish many things that way, but it’s also a little bit frustrating when you don’t reach your goals, as F. Covey says “It’s one thing to come up with great strategies and goals, but is quite another to actually get them done” :)

  3. Good point :) The difficulty I have with SMART is the “achievable” bit, we often do not know what is and isn’t achievable. I felt sure I could pass my driving test (achievable) but thought working for top fortune companies was remote. As it happened reality saw it the other way round :)

  4. Good point :) The difficulty I have with SMART is the “achievable” bit, we often do not know what is and isn’t achievable. I felt sure I could pass my driving test (achievable) but thought working for top fortune companies was remote. As it happened reality saw it the other way round :)

  5. I agree completely about only seeing the threads by looking backwards.

    If I hadn’t been fired from my first job out of college, I wouldn’t have ended up moving and meeting my wife six months later.

    Something very painful at the time led to something very good.

  6. I agree completely about only seeing the threads by looking backwards.

    If I hadn’t been fired from my first job out of college, I wouldn’t have ended up moving and meeting my wife six months later.

    Something very painful at the time led to something very good.

  7. I break down my goal into smaller, achieveable chunks, so that I don’t go to bed feeling guilty and all. For example, during the last month of my thesis-writing, I broke my goal (which was to finish writing the thesis as scheduled) into smaller portions (I must finish discussing a chapter in 5 days).

    I think that applies for blogging too. Though I still don’t have an idea how to give my blog a goal.

    Sad.

  8. I break down my goal into smaller, achieveable chunks, so that I don’t go to bed feeling guilty and all. For example, during the last month of my thesis-writing, I broke my goal (which was to finish writing the thesis as scheduled) into smaller portions (I must finish discussing a chapter in 5 days).

    I think that applies for blogging too. Though I still don’t have an idea how to give my blog a goal.

    Sad.

  9. Chris,

    I totally agree with you about the difference between working on multiple goals simultaneously as opposed to the whole “laser-sharp, single minded” approach.

    I do a lot of life coaching and goal setting with my clients who are predominately creative people — writers, musicians, artists — the “single project at a time” is a damaging myth for certain personality types.

    Depending on who you are and how you work and what you’re trying to achieve, having multiple plates spinning at the same time can be the key.

    I encourage everyone to check out the work of Barbara Sher, in particular a book called Refuse to Choose — discovering the “permission” to work toward your goals in a different way has been absolutely life-changing for me.

  10. Chris,

    I totally agree with you about the difference between working on multiple goals simultaneously as opposed to the whole “laser-sharp, single minded” approach.

    I do a lot of life coaching and goal setting with my clients who are predominately creative people — writers, musicians, artists — the “single project at a time” is a damaging myth for certain personality types.

    Depending on who you are and how you work and what you’re trying to achieve, having multiple plates spinning at the same time can be the key.

    I encourage everyone to check out the work of Barbara Sher, in particular a book called Refuse to Choose — discovering the “permission” to work toward your goals in a different way has been absolutely life-changing for me.

  11. One of my on-going challenges has always been to decide which jobs / projects to take on, which will move me forward toward longer-term goals and which won’t be anything more than a source of income — essential, of course, but not by a long shot the only factor to weigh in the balance. What’s you’ve come up with here is a great checklist against which to measure the available options: I’m going to find this very useful in a practical day-to-day way. Thanks much!

  12. One of my on-going challenges has always been to decide which jobs / projects to take on, which will move me forward toward longer-term goals and which won’t be anything more than a source of income — essential, of course, but not by a long shot the only factor to weigh in the balance. What’s you’ve come up with here is a great checklist against which to measure the available options: I’m going to find this very useful in a practical day-to-day way. Thanks much!

  13. Thanks for the motivational reminder Chris! Sometimes the day ends and you feel like you didn’t make much progress, like you’ll never reach your goal. It’s good to remember to think long term, keep up the daily work and eventually the big goal will become a reality.

  14. Thanks for the motivational reminder Chris! Sometimes the day ends and you feel like you didn’t make much progress, like you’ll never reach your goal. It’s good to remember to think long term, keep up the daily work and eventually the big goal will become a reality.

  15. Hi Chris, thanks for helping me clarify some of my thinking. I have been working on this topic for a while now, as I have gotten pretty good at creating plans – less so at executing them. The question, “Are you doing right now work that makes you closer to your goal?” is one that I ask myself every day. It is also part of my Quarterly Review, in regards to identifying Next Actions to get closer to achieving the long-term goals.

  16. Hi Chris, thanks for helping me clarify some of my thinking. I have been working on this topic for a while now, as I have gotten pretty good at creating plans – less so at executing them. The question, “Are you doing right now work that makes you closer to your goal?” is one that I ask myself every day. It is also part of my Quarterly Review, in regards to identifying Next Actions to get closer to achieving the long-term goals.

  17. There’s a possible (happy) contradiction in your list, Chris. You talk about having “more free time to do exactly what your goals require, or you can have a much nicer lifestyle with more free time”. Now here’s what I’ve noticed, people who have or increase the other things you mention – more motivation, energy, more contacts with good people to know, confidence, expertise, etc. – tend to work more, not less. When I enjoy and am enriched by (most) of what I do the distinction between work and play becomes blurred and the need for more free time doesn’t appeal. The trick it reach this high-energy place – your tips are tops.

  18. There’s a possible (happy) contradiction in your list, Chris. You talk about having “more free time to do exactly what your goals require, or you can have a much nicer lifestyle with more free time”. Now here’s what I’ve noticed, people who have or increase the other things you mention – more motivation, energy, more contacts with good people to know, confidence, expertise, etc. – tend to work more, not less. When I enjoy and am enriched by (most) of what I do the distinction between work and play becomes blurred and the need for more free time doesn’t appeal. The trick it reach this high-energy place – your tips are tops.

  19. One of my favorite goal-setting strategies is to write a letter just before the New Year, to someone I know (I don’t mail it) and using present tense, write the letter “as if” it were 1 year (or 5 or 10 years) out in the future. In the letter, I say what is going on in my life in much detail. Then I include” “…and here’s what I had to do (obstacles I overcame, things I had to say yes to or no to) in order to get here, and character traits or habits I developed that helped me achieve the things I “now” have. Then I seal the letter and open it a year later. It’s an amazing way to clarify what’s important.

  20. One of my favorite goal-setting strategies is to write a letter just before the New Year, to someone I know (I don’t mail it) and using present tense, write the letter “as if” it were 1 year (or 5 or 10 years) out in the future. In the letter, I say what is going on in my life in much detail. Then I include” “…and here’s what I had to do (obstacles I overcame, things I had to say yes to or no to) in order to get here, and character traits or habits I developed that helped me achieve the things I “now” have. Then I seal the letter and open it a year later. It’s an amazing way to clarify what’s important.

  21. Quite a well written blog on goal setting. I appreciate your thoughtfullness and sincerity. I have been studying Mark Joyner’s Simpleology and his views on goal setting and direct actions and getting from A to B directly have had an influence on me. Born in Southwestern Ontario and one who appreciates the beauty and majesty of North Vancouver I can see that as a wish also.

    I also believe that when dining on elephant, it is always wise to eat one bite at a time.

  22. Quite a well written blog on goal setting. I appreciate your thoughtfullness and sincerity. I have been studying Mark Joyner’s Simpleology and his views on goal setting and direct actions and getting from A to B directly have had an influence on me. Born in Southwestern Ontario and one who appreciates the beauty and majesty of North Vancouver I can see that as a wish also.

    I also believe that when dining on elephant, it is always wise to eat one bite at a time.

  23. Fantastic post Chris.

  24. Fantastic post Chris.

  25. @Tuppy – It’s funny how it works out like that. I got made redundant in late 90s but that lead to a better job with nicer people and I got to spend time with my family when we really really needed to.

    @pelf – Sometimes a blog can be “just because”, not every blog needs a goal. My personal blog is there for no reason, I do not even track any metrics on it. One person or a million could be reading and I wouldn’t know :)

    @Slade – Thanks for the tip, looks good :)

    @Jen – Glad to be of service, I am sure whatever you do will rock :)

    @Ben – Yup and try to enjoy the process. If you get something out of just doing, just being on the journey, then sometimes you look up and find you are nearly there

    @Stephen – Quarterly reviews are a good idea. Unfortunately I am not doing great against mine, but enjoying being on the road anyway :)

    @DrSteve – You are right, I think I work longer and harder now than I ever did in my lousy 9-5 (hyeahright, I don’t think I ever did such a short day, heh)

    @Erica – Great idea, both project planning and affirmation in one :)

    @Rob – Excellent way to put it :) Although you would have to eat the elephant in one sitting at our house, the freezer is tiny ;)

    @Carlos – Thanks Carols :)

  26. @Tuppy – It’s funny how it works out like that. I got made redundant in late 90s but that lead to a better job with nicer people and I got to spend time with my family when we really really needed to.

    @pelf – Sometimes a blog can be “just because”, not every blog needs a goal. My personal blog is there for no reason, I do not even track any metrics on it. One person or a million could be reading and I wouldn’t know :)

    @Slade – Thanks for the tip, looks good :)

    @Jen – Glad to be of service, I am sure whatever you do will rock :)

    @Ben – Yup and try to enjoy the process. If you get something out of just doing, just being on the journey, then sometimes you look up and find you are nearly there

    @Stephen – Quarterly reviews are a good idea. Unfortunately I am not doing great against mine, but enjoying being on the road anyway :)

    @DrSteve – You are right, I think I work longer and harder now than I ever did in my lousy 9-5 (hyeahright, I don’t think I ever did such a short day, heh)

    @Erica – Great idea, both project planning and affirmation in one :)

    @Rob – Excellent way to put it :) Although you would have to eat the elephant in one sitting at our house, the freezer is tiny ;)

    @Carlos – Thanks Carols :)

  27. It’s true that to eat an elephant you have to do it one bite at a time… but In find I have to keep focused on the whole elephant – the goal… else I get lost in the bites!
    Have to keep my mind on the goal, keep my sights aimed high. Else I get lost in the details.
    Working with clients – most have real trouble putting their goals in positive terms (e.g. “I want a job with less stress”) – when they make the shift and can talk about what they want (rather than what they don’t want) – their eyes light up and their energy starts to move much faster.
    Mark

  28. It’s true that to eat an elephant you have to do it one bite at a time… but In find I have to keep focused on the whole elephant – the goal… else I get lost in the bites!
    Have to keep my mind on the goal, keep my sights aimed high. Else I get lost in the details.
    Working with clients – most have real trouble putting their goals in positive terms (e.g. “I want a job with less stress”) – when they make the shift and can talk about what they want (rather than what they don’t want) – their eyes light up and their energy starts to move much faster.
    Mark