Goal setting is a fundamental attribute or building block for success. A lot of people define goals at various times in their career but wonder why the achievement of their initially defined objectives is not easily realized. Sometimes, people make goals without putting into consideration the critical success factors of goal setting. Often what are termed as goals, are nothing but wishful thinking that are spontaneously created as a reaction to some other experiences.
Some other people do not define any goals and you find them always complaining and being unhappy with their jobs. You may realize that such unhappiness or job dissatisfaction may be as a result of the employee being unaware of or not giving a deep thought to his or her career goals and objectives. It is said that people with clear, written goals, accomplish far more in a shorter period of time than people without goals. Strategic goals setting is a life planning endeavor which is similar to the creation of a road map for your life.
Setting goals is more than making general and vague statements like – I will increase my skill sets or get a new job. It entails creating a documented plan that includes reasonable and measurable short and long term objectives. It simply means setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. An important aspect of defining your career goals and objectives is having a career goal statement. For example, you may define your long term vision of a career in terms of what would you like to achieve at any given time frame and should periodically set a time limit for its achievement and continually review and check that the transformation of your career goals statements are being realized.
Five key factors have been identified as critical success factors when setting goals, which are indeed key attributes of successful goals setting. The goals must be “Specific”, “Measurable”, “Attainable”, “Relevant” and “Time-based”. The acronym has a number of slight variations, but whichever criteria is used, they are all set to achieve the same purpose. S.M.A.R.T. is a mnemonic, originally used at the objective setting stage in project management. However, in recent years, it has been used in various fields of endeavor, including personal development.
Specific. In order to ensure the easy achievement of your goal, the definition of your goal must be specific, clear, and straightforward. Oftentimes, we set goals that are vague and ambiguous, and then wonder why we fail to achieve them. But really, when your goals are not specific, you really cannot know when you have achieved them. Take for example someone that wants to gain more knowledge about his or her job. Without identifying the particular area of focus, it may be difficult for the individual to channel his or her strength on achieving or gaining the desired additional skill sets and may eventually become a jack of all trades, master of none. However, when you define a specific goal such as learning how to prepare financial statement packages, you can easily identify the tasks required to complete this and measure your achievement of this goal from time to time. This does not mean you cannot have multiple career goals at the same time, but, the specificity of each goal will give you a clear line of direction on all set goals.
Measurable. Goals should be measurable so that you can easily gauge where you are in their achievement at any point in time, which makes it easier for you to hit your target. If you cannot measure it, then you simply will not be able to manage it. Let us assume your goal is to increase your sales force, then you should not end the goal statement there, but include attributes that will make the goal measurable. For example, stating that an increase in the current sales force of the marketing department by 40% at the end of 2010 will be a more measurable goal. This simple statement assumes you know what the current sales force is, and will also help you measure at any defined period during the year, may be quarterly, how far you are to the accomplishment of your goals. As a result, if you realize you are not close to the achievement of this goal by the end of the first half of the year, you will re-strategize and consider other alternatives for attaining this goal at the timeline initially identified. This will further spur you on to muster more courage and continually increasing the effort required to reach your goal.
Attainable/Achievable. Some describe the “A” part of the S.M.A.R.T. acronym as achievable or attainable which means more or less the same thing. The goal here is to set a goal that has an inherent probability of success because it has been defined by giving consideration to the feasibility of its achievement. If you set goals that are way beyond your skill sets, knowledge, capabilities, resources or time, attaining them may be quite difficult, and this failure can then frustrate you in making any extra effort to ensuring the goals are met. Most often than not, the success of a goal depends on how realistic they are. If you set an unrealistic goal, you are simply setting yourself up for failure before an attempt to achieve the goal is made. You need to be true to yourself when setting goals, but this does not mean you should not challenge yourself. However, if you think carefully before setting your goals, you will be able to identify which ones can be easily achievable within the defined timeframe. For others that may seem unattainable right away, you may just require an additional skill or attitude, which when acquired would help you to achieve such goals. In situations like this, you should then endeavor to obtain this additional skill or attitude that will help you in achieving a goal you had thought was unachievable or unattainable. Setting realistic goals is a prerequisite to achieving them. In the pursuit of your career goals, you need to realize that you cannot have it all at the same time. You also need to realize that you must have the ability and willingness to accomplish such goals in order for the goals to be a realistic one. This does not imply that realistic goals are easy ones, but those that are do-able with some personal efforts. It is therefore important to always evaluate yourself, and determine if you have the ability and commitment to make your dreams come true. When setting goals, you need to be brutally honest with yourself. Take a deep inner reflection, and identify your strengths and weaknesses. Do not pretend to have skills, or talents you do not possess, but strive first to develop the skills, abilities, attitudes, personality, and financial capacity that will place you in a better position to achieve them. For example, you may want to become a manager in the next three years, but do you have the knowledge, carriage, smartness, self image, confidence and verbal/written communication skills required of one? You cannot just wake up one morning and say, “I want to become a Manager.” You need to have evaluated where you are now, identify the skills that will take you there, and start working on how to get there. Only after doing this will your goal to be part of management become a realistic one.
Relevant. All of us should create a mission statement for ourselves, and then generate our career goals from that mission statement. Generally, goals are a means of achieving our mission in life and setting relevant goals is the check to ensure the particular goal is in harmony with your purpose in life. In this regard, you need to determine the underlying purpose for your goal. A relevant goal is one that has meaning for you. It is not just a good idea but one that reflects who you are and what you value as an individual. There should be some synergy between your career goals and overall purpose in life. In other words, your career goals should be in unison with your personal mission statement, personality, desires, purpose or direction in life.
For illustration purposes only, an IT professional, who sets a goal to obtain a CPA within eighteen months because those around are doing the same may be setting an irrelevant goal, especially if the basis of the decision is just to add another certification to his arsenals, but would most likely never use this certification may have put him or herself in a time wastage situation. Relevant goals ensure that you are not wasting your time in trying to achieve a goal that would not give you true fulfillment in life, but focusing your efforts towards goals that are in alignment with what you want to be in life.
Setting goals that are relevant does not only indicate the individual possesses the required skill sets to achieve the goal, but that particular goal also has meaning and relates directly to the purpose or vision of the individual setting the goal. When you set relevant goals, it will increase your commitment towards it achievement, which makes meeting the goal a highly motivational tool.
Time-based/bound. Just as we mentioned earlier about the goal of increasing the sales force by a given percentage by the end of the year, this is an example of a goal grounded by a timeframe. This implies that a timeline of one year was associated with the achievement of this goal, assuming the goal was set at the beginning of the year. Every goal must be time-sensitive. Not having a time element attached to your goal robs the attainment of such goals the sense of urgency that is needed to accomplish set objectives in a timely manner. Having goals that are not time-bound also encourages you to make excuses and procrastinate more.
These five attributes of effective goals setting should be applied in the creation of career goals, as this will go a long way in helping you set high quality goals that are designed for success even at the onset of setting the goals. Always have in mind that if your fail to plan, you are more or less planning to fail.
Always keep in mind that the first step to success is knowing where you are heading, the second is creating a plan to get there, and the third is putting the plan to action. Putting these strategies to work will go along way towards helping you in reaching your desired destination in life.
‘Culled from a previous article published in the Golden Icons Magazine.
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