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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

1. Define Career Success for Yourself

Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

What does career success mean to you?

This is about defining your career success:

  • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
  • Not what people may think of you
  • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
  • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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  • Work-life balance
  • Opportunities for growth and advancement
  • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

  • What do you mean by work-life balance?
  • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
  • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

  • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
  • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
  • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

  • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
  • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
  • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

2. Know Your Values

Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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  • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
  • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
  • Put the words on your fridge
  • Add the words on your vision board

Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

  • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
  • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
  • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
  • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
  • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
  • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

  • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
  • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
  • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
  • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

4. Determine Your Top Talents

What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

What do you notice?

5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

Keep these words visible too!

Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

“These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

7. Manage Your Own Career

Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

Summing Up

For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

  1. Define Career Success for Yourself
  2. Know Your Values
  3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
  4. Determine Your Top Talents
  5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
  6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
  7. Manage Your Own Career

“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

Good luck and best wishes always!

More Tips on Advancing Your Career

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ami Au-Yeung

Workplace Strategist | Career Coach | Workshop Facilitator | Writer | Speaker | Past Business Professor

7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success How to Learn at Work in the Most Effective Way Top 10 Interview Questions for Hiring the Best Managers Is People Management the Right Career Path for You? 7 Ways to Ensure Effective Communication at Work

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Published on January 20, 2020

What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives

What are Goals? Achieve More By Changing Your Perspectives

As simple as it sounds, the question, what are goals, is a very important question to answer if making the best out of our daily lives is something of great concern.

Anyone will assume they already know what goals are, they’ve probably been setting goals all their lives. However, when we get too familiar with certain concepts, we tend to forget their real meaning and essence. Hence, it is not surprising that people set many goals but achieve too little.

When you don’t understand what goals are or what they are meant to be, you might scribble anything on paper and call them goals and then get frustrated when you fail to achieve them.

There are different perspectives on goals and what they represent. However, this article looks into the real meaning of goals and provides clarity on some misconceptions about goals. It also suggests better ways to look at goals; in a way to use them as progress markers rather than yardsticks for measuring success or failure.

What Are Goals?

There are different definitions of goal(s) out there, however, let’s look at this one from the early pioneers in goal-setting theory:[1]

A goal is an idea of the future or desired result that a person or a group of people envision, plan and commit to achieve.

Goals represent the decisions we make and the commitments we take in order to reach attainment, break some bad habits, adopt useful habits or achieve more in different areas of life.

Goals enable us to achieve focus in life by helping us to determine what we want. They keep us motivated and propelled, constantly putting us in state of action.

Goals, when properly conceived and pursued can help us to maximize the one and only life we have to live.

Goals can be applied to different areas of our lives and they can also be based on a time range. For example, life-based goals can be personal development goals, career goals, educational goals, health goals, family and relationship goals, spiritual goals, social goals, etc.

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Moreso, goals can be set based on time and duration such as life-time goals, long term goals, short term goals and even stepping stone goals which are small unit goals that we undertake in order to achieve the short, long and lifetime goals.

Common Confusions About Goals

In order to put goals in their proper perspectives and make the most of them, certain clarifications are required between goals and its related concepts.

The following are often confused with goals, although they have their own relevance on goals and goal setting:

Goal vs Dream

Dreams are aspirations fuelled by desires. They exist in the realm of imagination and often give us inspiration.

However, goals are action-based. Goals stretch us and help us to achieve results. Our dreams can only be actualized by setting realistic goals and working diligently to achieve them.

Goal vs Vision

Visions are important in life but they are not the same as goals. Your vision represents where you want to go or be in life, a destination you aim to arrive at. However, the paths that will get you to that destination are often undefined until you break them down into goals.

Goals help you to understand and quantify the steps you will have to take in order to actualize your vision. Having a broader life vision will help you to achieve more goals.

Besides, vision will bring focus to your goal setting when your goals are directed at getting you to the final destination of your vision. When this happens, you will not only be satisfied with achieving a particular goal, you will view your progress and success in terms of their contribution to your overall vision.

Goal vs Expectation

Goals should not be confused with expectations. Expectations are things that we think we should have or heights we feel we should attain. It is said that expectations can generate frustration when you feel you aren’t performing up to your potential.[2]

Do you notice that when some Olympic teams are being interviewed before a tournament, many of them expect to win a medal? But do all of them win medals?

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When you listen to the real winners after the tournament, they will tell you how their goals helped them to structure their attention and focus, and keep them involved to strive for excellence.

Goals demand more focus and clarity whereas expectations are often not realistic.

Goal vs Desire

We all have desires, they represent the things we want. However, in order to get our desires, we might have to set goals.

While desires are usually pleasant, goals may not be.

For example, slimming down feels good, but exercising does not. But it takes a reasonable amount of exercise to burn fat.

Vacationing on a cruise ship feels good, who doesn’t want it? However, working extra hours to save money for the trip is hard.

Goals are the specific actions we set to accomplish in order to satisfy our desires.

Goal vs Objective

Objectives are the tasks we must accomplish in order to achieve our goals. It will be more useful to differentiate between goal and objective by looking at the differences between a broader term G’SOT which stands for Goals, Strategies, Objectives, and Tactics.[3]

  • A goal is a broad primary outcome
  • A strategy is the approach you take to achieve a goal
  • An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy
  • A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy.

The Intel example below is also useful to illustrate the difference:

Goal: Make our Core PC microprocessors a category leader in sales revenue by year X

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Strategy: Persuade buyers that our Core processors are the best one the market by associating with large, well-established PC manufacturers.

Objective: Retain 70 percent or more of the active worldwide PC microprocessor market, according to Passmark’s CPU benchmark report.

Tactic: Through creative that underlies our messaging, leverage hardware partner brand awareness to include key messages about the Intel Inside program.

What Most People Are Wrong About Goals

According to a study, only 8 percent of people get to achieve their goals.[4] When goals are not properly conceived or when we go about goals with the wrong perspectives, we might not be able to achieve our goals and even get frustrated as a result.

Some people have abandoned their goals or given up on setting goals altogether as a result. Others have gotten to the point of staying frustrated for failing to achieve their goals. These are not unconnected to the misconceptions that many have about goals.

Let’s look at the misconceptions about goals:

Goals Are Used as the Only Measure of Success?

When goals become our only measure of success, we might get obsessed with the results we want to achieve that we don’t consider the process that will lead us there.

Process goals and outcome goals come to mind on this. Most people set outcome goals rather than process goals. Outcome goals are only based on results while process goals are based on undertaking the right activities that will eventually lead to a great outcome.

Let’s say I currently make $1000 a week and then I set a goal of making $2000 but only ended up with $1300 after putting in all the work and strategies. If this is an outcome goal, I would probably be unhappy for not attaining my goal. However, if it’s a process goal, I would be happy that I have improved on my earning and would be motivated to do more.

Goals Are Connected with Happiness?

Another myth about goals is that achieving them brings happiness. Of course, it feels good to shed the weight or spend a vacation on a cruise ship. However, there are no guarantees that you will always be able to achieve all your set goals.

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In order not to get frustrated often, choose to always be a happy person rather than letting outcomes determine your happiness.

Redefining Goals

So, what really are goals if you want to succeed with them?

Goals Aren’t Connected with Deep Ambitions

Many people have the wrong motivation to set goals. They might have been genuinely inspired by what they see other people achieve, however, such goals may not connect with their deepest ambition. This might lead to a lack of the required motivation to pursue and achieve the goals.

Genuine goals must connect to a bigger and broader life vision. Goals are not an end in themselves, they are supposed to be stepping stones to achieving something bigger.

Goals Have to Be Achieved to Prove Commitment

If the target is to achieve ten and you are only able to achieve six, it doesn’t mean that you are not committed. It might have been that there are greater obstacles you didn’t think would come up.

This is why your goals must be flexible, adjustable and reflective of current realities.

The Bottom Line

Hopefully, the ideas shared above will help you to set the right goals and put them in the right perspectives.

You have seen that it is more appropriate to set goals that fit into a larger, broader vision of your life. This will help you to begin to see your goals in terms of the progress you are making towards your broader vision rather than on specific outcomes. You will become happier, knowing that you are taking specific steps in the right direction irrespective of what the immediate results look like.

All these will altogether help you to love setting goals again, and enable you to make the most of them in order to make your life count.

More About Goals

Featured photo credit: Dan DeAlmeida via unsplash.com

Reference

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