Updated: Feb 26, 2019
This is probably your experience with goals to date: first you write down the goal as part of annual goal setting with your company (or you're making a news years' resolution). You review it with your manager and have a nice chat about how great it will be to accomplish it. Then life happens and you forget all about those goals that you set, do a bunch of things that are meaningful but not related.
A year later you meet with your manager and you share a laugh at how much the goals changed and how irrelevant what you wrote down was.
Does that summarize your experience? If it does, you're not alone. Most of the people I work with have about this process in place, and I know for years this was my experience with goal setting.
It doesn't have to be this way - and in fact, it should not be.
Goals are powerful. Goals are dreams with deadlines (thank you Google for revealing it was Napolean Hill who said that).
There are many reasons why goals, like resolutions, seem to disappear. It might be that the WHY is missing, they may have been inappropriately set, the context may have changed. But when it comes to your personal goals, and especially your career goals, you need a plan to make them stick. There are a few strategies I recommend to keep your goals on track.
Work your way from the end to the beginning.
If you're a fan of the 7 Principles of Highly Effective People (I'm obsessed - if you haven't read it yet, get it now), this is based on the principle "begin with the end in mind." Starting with the end point map the steps you need to take and identify mini-goals or milestones. This is your execution plan - and it will make your life so much easier knowing exactly what you need to be doing and when you need to be doing it. Use your planner, iCal or gCal, whatever works to back in the tasks and milestones to make them happen and give you regular visibility and reminders.
Have a timeline.
Knowing when things need to be done to stay on track is important. Setting deadlines can help motivate and prevent long term procrastination, and most importantly you won't get to the end of the year having neglected the effort needed to achieve the goal. This can be challenging when it's something you don't have 100% control over, like when you receive an official promotion, but having timelines for your own planning and to help frame in discussions with others is helpful.
Be reasonable in your timelines, for instance if you just started a new job you probably aren't going to get a promotion within the next month, but also be aggressive - maybe advancing a rung up the ladder is achievable within the next 12 months.
One company I worked at was growing so quickly that goals that were set felt less relevant 6 months later. There is no point in achieving something that isn't relevant, or worse underachieving when more is possible, so ensure you are reviewing to ensure that what you are working towards is still aligned with the larger picture.
Similarly, don't over define your goal. When I speak with people who are considering the Barrier Breaker program, they often share their definition of career advancement as linear - that is being promoted to management. However, there are many ways your career can advance, and it's not always forward. Maybe career growth is accepting an offer from another company that is in high growth stage, or with a better compensation package, it can even be a lateral move to a different team that is going to hone your skillset and open more doors down the road.
Have a way of being accountable.
One of the biggest advantages of joining a premium coaching program like our Barrier Breakers program, is that you not only have guidance to achieve your goal of elevating your career, you also have accountability of our coaching team and the group. If you're not ready to make the investment in your career yet, finding an accountability partner, having regular conversations with your boss or mentor, or even sharing on social media can also help you stay on track.
What do you do to stay on track? We'd love to hear in the comments.