Achieving career goals

 6 October 2011

Nina Grunfeld is the founder of successful self-development workshops known as 'Life Clubs'. She looks at the importance of setting goals and how to set goals that inspire.

In 2004 Nina started weekly self-development workshops called Life Clubs around the UK.
In 2004 Nina started weekly self-development workshops called Life Clubs around the UK.

I remember reading the late advertising guru, Paul Arden’s, wonderful book It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be and coming across this sentence: "Without having a goal, it’s difficult to score".

Setting a goal gives you a wonderful feeling of control over your life.

It was one of those ‘lightbulb moments’ for me. I’d run a small graphics company and written over fifteen books and yet I’d never set a conscious goal – never thought that the word ‘goal’ had any relevance at all in my life.

I’d always thought about doing something and somehow done it – or dropped it. And yet Paul’s words made total sense. Clearly goal-setting was something to explore.

Today I run a company called Life Clubs which encourages people to set a small goal every week and I consider myself more of an expert on the subject of goals. In this short piece, I’d like to help you discover what I’ve learnt for myself.

Whether you want to learn to play the piano or change your career, these steps will help you. And, if you don’t know what goal to set, imagine writing your CV in 2018. What would you like to have on it? Simply day-dreaming about the future can help you work out how to get there.

7 steps to foolproof goal-setting

1. Don’t kid yourself

Many of us – a classic example is the New Year’s Resolution – set goals we think we ought to do. A goal that sounds like ‘I should go to the gym’ or ‘I think I’ll learn to drive’ probably won’t ever be achieved.

A powerful goal has a ‘want’ in it. ‘I want to go to the gym’ or ‘I want to learn how to drive’. And if you can’t put your hand on your heart and say your goal with a ‘want’, it’s probably not a goal that you really ‘want’ to achieve.

The more passionately you feel about your goal, the more likely you’re going to do it. A goal is most effective when it hits your values and you really know what makes you want to achieve it.

For example, if freedom is a strong value for you and you’d like your goal to be, ‘I want to get a job’, think about how you get a job and still value that freedom. Would it be by getting a part-time job, or a job where you can work outdoors or a freelance job?

If you don’t really want that goal, don’t bother even starting.

2. Don’t involve others

My teenager came home from school the other day and told me they were thinking about what goals they could set as a form. Someone had suggested that they tried to get 30 gold stars by the end of the term. My son told me that he’d replied, "goals have to be about something you can achieve. That goal depends on teachers giving us the gold stars".

That nicely sums up the second rule of goal-setting: make each goals something you can achieve on your own.

If you’re setting a goal as a team, break it down into a different action for each team member, so that everyone is accountable to themselves as well as to the team.

3. Don’t set yourself up for failure

We often set goals that are so big they feel overwhelming. Break it down.

We often set goals that are so big they feel overwhelming. People come to Life Clubs and decide they want to write a chapter of their book that week. Well, maybe they will, but more likely not.

Break it down. As your goal for the week, decide that you’re going to make a storyboard or a spider diagram of what you want in that chapter. Make your goals realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

4. Don’t make it negative

A brilliant example of a negative goal that I’m sure you’ve heard people setting is, 'I want to stop eating chocolate'.

But thinking about stopping something is a bit like being told not to think of a pink elephant. All you can think about is pink elephants. Similarly, 'stop eating chocolate' makes you focus on the ‘chocolate’.

Instead, flip it around and think of the opposite. Maybe ‘I want to eat healthily’. Now where’s the emphasis?

5. Don’t be woolly

SMART is one of those mnemonics I’m sure you’ve used in the workplace, but it’s surprisingly effective if you use it on a goal you want to achieve – either for yourself or for your career.

  • Specific
    Instead of ‘I’m going on a road trip’, make your goal ‘I’m going to travel by train with my brother across the Yukon Territories to go whale watching’(or whatever it is you really want to do).
  • Measurable
    ‘My goal is to have a successful small business’ is pretty vague (what is ‘successful’?). But if your goal is ‘I want to double my profits for three years running’, you can easily see if you’ve achieved it.
  • Achievable
    Focus on one goal and make it achievable (see ‘Rule 3: Don’t set yourself up for failure').
  • Relevant or Resonant
    Rule 1: 'Don’t kid yourself’ - make sure it’s the right goal for you, right now.
  • Timely
    Write down the start and finish date of your goal and go for it. The finish date will let you know you’ve succeeded and can celebrate.

6. Don’t be modest

The more passionately you feel about your goal, the more likely you’re going to do it.

It’s a little trick, but sometimes writing down a goal in the present tense – as if you’ve already achieved it – can help you get there.

‘I am interviewing for my first TV show’ can not only boost your confidence in order to help you achieve that goal, but it can also help you plan for that same goal.

By imagining that are already interviewing, you can understand all the steps you’ll have to take to get there: watching shows to see what’s out there, creating a format or going with someone else’s and writing off to directors. You’ll suddenly know what it takes.

7. Don’t be put off by failure

Every cloud (or at least most of them) does have a silver lining. If you fail at your goal, think about what you’ve learnt about you and about your goal and simply set another one.

Setting a goal is proactive and gives you a wonderful feeling of control over your life. And remember to praise yourself when you’ve achieved your goal. You’ll deserve it.

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