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The Value of Goal Setting & How it Will Enhance Your Career


12/19/2011 12:18:00 PM

By Vickie Elmer, Glassdoor.com

If you’re like a lot of American workers, you are required to set and get some goals. They’re part of your annual review or your management program, but they don’t stir your passions or incite you to wake up an hour early to achieve them.

Maybe you’re not setting the right goals – for the right reasons. Maybe you need HARD goals – as in heartfelt, animated, required and difficult. That acronym, from Leadership IQ President Mark Murphy‘s book of the same name, makes a case that the best goals come with emotional attachments. “The heartfelt piece comes first. If that’s not there, it’s hard to make the rest of the goal work,” said Murphy.

Making the goal difficult means you’re setting a high standard for achievement. “They were big. They were scary. They were out of our comfort zone,” he said. And they produced some amazing results, whether you’re losing 35 pounds or creating jobs for 21 women in Detroit or Delhi or seeing your photos in a major museum exhibit. Some may be 10-year goals or lifetime goals – not something you’re going to achieve in a year.

Murphy thinks most corporate goal-setting is far too perfunctory – and doesn’t allow enough room for passion and amazingly positive results. When I spoke to him for a Washington Post Capital Business article last year, he told how he took up running even though he has “zero natural running ability” because of his health goals and his wife’s interest. He sets plenty of business goals too – but those are fueled by passion and keen interest.

Here then are five things to consider as you start planning your personal or professional goals:

1. Take time to consider and play with various goals.
Sometimes the best goals show up a day or three after we’ve submitted them to our boss. Or sometimes they show up in the middle of your morning commute or while watching a movie. Start now on a list of possible goals, and be prepared to discard many of them.

2. Create difficult goals, especially those that require us to learn.
“If we’re learning and challenging ourselves, our brains will be wide-awake and our performance will rise to the level of the challenge,” Murphy said. Ask yourself: “Why do you want to do this goal?” and “Is it worth it?”

3. Write your goal as a positive, precise statement.
An excellent post on MindTools reminds us that we need to base goals on personal performance, areas where you have control. And state your goal affirmatively: “Learn to collaborate with everyone on my team” is better than “Find ways around that difficult so-and-so.”

4. Schedule in our goal-steps.
Or as Heidi Grant Halvorson wrote in a popular Harvard Business Review blog post: “Achieving your goal means grabbing hold of these opportunities before they slip through your fingers.” Decide you’re going to spend 20 minutes every day – then schedule it into your daily calendar or to do list.

5. Come up with a goal-buddy, or two.
Murphy suggests finding someone to check in with once a day – or once a week – and who will ask a few questions about your goal and the progress you’re making.

What if your most heartfelt and difficult goals have nothing to do with your day job and the company that gives you a paycheck? That could be your signal to develop a slash career or a second source of income. It could signal your need to create some balance in life, something new and joyful. Or it could be your indication that you need to add or find a new job, one that seems HARD and beautiful, in the year ahead.

Like your goals, only you can decide which ones to believe in and pursue.

Check out the latest Career Insider eNewsletter - December 22, 2011.

Sign up for the free weekly Career Insider eNewsletter.


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