One of the most valuable lessons I have learned early on in my career is that you need to take responsibility and complete ownership of your own development process. Let’s face it – nobody else will. Your manager will attend to his or her responsibility and ensure some goals are set on your behalf, but you are in the driver seat of executing the tasks to complete the journey toward realising those goals.
So, I thought that a little extra practice on setting targets and working on achieving them couldn’t hurt outside the workplace. New Year’s resolutions presents a nice opportunity, however the idea of setting goals can be carried out at any time, right?
But where to begin when setting goals? It’s not always easy to figure out what to focus on and why. With a couple of friends I developed a simple framework for thinking about goal setting in four different areas:
- Capability development – goals to acquire new skills to enable further career growth or personal satisfaction. Could be e.g. courses to attend or subject specific books to read.
- Professional development – goals to further your career. Could include getting a promotion, or getting a new job, getting into the company talent programme etc.
- Health – goals to ensure a healthy and functioning body. Could be dropping weight, completing a race, signing up in the local soccer club, attending the gym x times a week etc.
- Personal development – goals in your personal life. This can be more or less anything not fitting into the above categories. So, it can range from travelling to seeing family. In essence anything that is important to you.
With this framework in mind you should be able to set some targets. Try to be as concrete as possible – this means that you should be able to follow up, in e.g. a year, and decide if you have achieved the goal or not. This means that you are not allowed to set goals such as “Study more” or “Eat healthier”. I like to use the SMART principle when setting goals. There are several versions, but the one I oftentimes use is as follows: In order to have SMART goals they should be: Specific, i.e. detailed and unambiguous. Measurable, i.e. it must be possible to objectively assess if the goals is achieved. Attainable, i.e. it should realistic to achieve. Relevant, i.e. the goal should be about something you really care about. Otherwise you will lack motivation. Time-bound, i.e. specify a specific date when the goals should be achieved.
Basically there are two approaches to setting the goals. If you have an overall aspiration in your mind about a long term goal you want to achieve, then set goals that get you on your way. If you don’t have a clear aspiration for your career for example, it’s okay; just set goals that you feel will give you a sense of accomplishment if nothing else. Of course the former would be the best way to go, but in case that’s not an option it need not stand in the way of the progress that setting goals can provide.
Writing down your goals on a piece of paper or some other place where you keep your other notes is a great way of making it a bit more formal and official. It will make it more real for you, in the sense that it acts as a kind of contract with yourself and I would argue that you feel more obligated compared to just talking about it or even just thinking about it. Some of the goals might even benefit from being shared with a couple of close friends in order to raise the stakes a bit further and put yourself on the line.
Happy goal setting