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How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

Several years ago, after years of trying, my husband and I became parents to 3 kids within 19 months. I became fiercely determined to have a totally fulfilling life as a mom, and be very present for my kids, and also reach really big career goals. That was my definition of having it all – and I was on fire to figure out how to make it happen. I quickly discovered I wasn’t alone. In fact, many people are seeking a sense of balance in their lives. As Stephen Covey says,

“The challenge of work-life balance is without question, one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.”

It can be incredibly difficult to feel a sense of balance when we are juggling careers, personal responsibilities, family time, self-care, recreational activities, social time, community service, and more.

I knew in order to achieve huge career goals and also be a very hands-on, present mom, I would need to streamline my life. I would need to eliminate the non-essential activities I was doing. I would need to cut out the time-sucking, empty activities like mindlessly scrolling through social media or checking email a million times per day, and be very intentional with my time every day. Each and every day, it would be important to tell my time where to go.

It required significant focus on my priorities, and a ruthless elimination of many time-sucking activities, but I stuck with my determination to achieve career success and also a fulfilling personal life, and I made it happen. By being very focused and purposeful about where I spent my time and energy, I achieved the elusive sense of balance, and now I help other entrepreneurs and driven professionals achieve it too.

People who have achieved fulfilling, successful lives have specific habits. While most people find it very difficult to be amazing and satisfied both at work and in their personal lives, the successful, fulfilled people know it’s not impossible. Learn from the habits of successful and fulfilled people to reach higher levels of fulfilling success:

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1. Have clarity about what you want

Successful, fulfilled people know exactly what they want to achieve. They know what’s important to them and set crystal clear targets to aim for in their careers and lives. These people don’t have vague aspirations. Instead, they set very specific goals that align with their priorities, and they direct their time and efforts toward achieving these goals.

Find out more about how to identify the thing you want most in Why I Can Be the Only 8% of People Who Reach the Goal Every Single Time.

2. Define success on your terms

Successful, fulfilled people define success their own way. They understand they can only be satisfied if they achieve success that truly matters to them. While they appreciate the value of hard work, their definition of a successful life is often more holistic than just achieving financial results.

3. Stand your ground

Successful, fulfilled people understand the importance of saying “no.” They set boundaries so they can focus their lives and work on what matters most. They avoid falling prey to enticing goals that don’t align with their true purpose, priorities, and passions.

4. Be highly productive

Successful, fulfilled people know how to get things done. They know in order to have “it all” and balance their careers and personal lives, they need to avoid wasting time. When they aspire to do something, they get it done.

Take a look at how successful people stay productive in 10 Habits Successful People Give Up to Increase Their Productivity.

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5. Be strategic with time

Successful, fulfilled people are intentional with their time. They strategically fit their work into their ideal lifestyle. As a result, their hard-earned success doesn’t feel overwhelming.

Try to perceive time differently and you will start to make every second count. Read more about How to Gain More Time Like Making Money.

6. Make decisions confidently

Successful, fulfilled people powerfully make decisions. They make choices that align with who they are and what they truly want. They courageously turn down opportunities that don’t line up with their values.

The best way is to start to build confidence from within, check out this article about How to Build Confidence From Scratch.

7. Know your priorities

Successful, fulfilled people have clarity about their priorities. They work hard, but avoid a “succeed at all costs” mentality. While they achieve great results in their careers, they also are high performers in the other areas of life that matter to them.

Learn to organize your life by setting the right priorities for yourself in How To Organize Your Life By Priority And Not Urgency.

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8. Don’t get jealous of others

Successful, fulfilled people congratulate and praise the achievements of others. They don’t feel threatened by the success of others. Instead, they are happy to create their own version of success and they greatly enjoy their lifestyle. Read more about the impact of endless comparison with others in The Cost of Envy.

9. Be disciplined

Successful, fulfilled people know they are in charge of creating their best lives. They realize that ultimately, they are in control of what they do with their lives, and they accept this power. They see the vision of who they want to be and they stick to their plan.

Learn more about the importance of self-discipline in Why the Conscientious Mind Is a Successful Mind.

10. Know how to delegate

Successful, fulfilled people declutter their lives. They delegate tasks at work and in their personal lives. As a result, they can enjoy more time freedom and do more of what they love.

Going is alone doesn’t work. If you want to know more about the benefits of delegating tasks to others, read The Delights of Delegation.

11. Be grateful but not complacent

Successful, fulfilled people appreciate what they have. However, they also strive to achieve more of what truly matters. They do this because they know they will use their success to make a positive impact on the world.

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A fulfilling life is not an aspiration, but an everyday habit

Building habits takes time but you can start with these small things:

Get clear about your priorities.

Who do you most want to be? What do you want your life to be like? These questions can be tough and can be an evolving process, but when you are clear about what matters most to you, you can start eliminating the activities that don’t align with what matters most.

Write out a schedule for your day.

When you tell your time where to go, you can decrease the time spent on time-sucking, empty activities. Being intentional with your time can help you achieve your career and personal goals.

Decrease the noise.

We are bombarded every day by thousands of distractions that threaten to take our time away from what matters most. Very simple (yet not always easy) strategies such as shutting off our phones, or only checking email at set times, can help us be more present, productive, and fulfilled.

Achieving high levels of career success while having a satisfying personal life is definitely possible. I’ve done it, and so can you.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

More by this author

Dr. Kerry Petsinger

Entrepreneur, Mindset & Performance Coach, & Doctor of Physical Therapy

Feeling Stuck in Life? How to Never Get Stuck Again How to Find the Purpose of Life and Start Living a Fulfilling Life Don’t like your job? Here are some solutions. How People Make Decisions That Are Bad For Them How to Have a Successful Career and a Fulfilling Personal Life

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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