Always have at least 3 goals

This topic seems so obvious it almost pains me to write about it. Yet, I’ve got to come out and say it. You need to know what you want.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve started a coaching conversation with someone who wasn’t sure what they really wanted.  All too often people take a passive or reactive orientation towards their professional development.  Leading questions like, “where do you see yourself two years from now?” or “five years from now?”, are all too often met with responses of “I don’t know.”

For me, while I always sought higher levels of challenge, my goals had two important characteristics. 

  1. They were specific
  2. They were achievable 

I recommend everyone to continuously maintain a set of personal or professional goals to accomplish.  I’ve found that it’s good to only maintain a handful – for me that’s typically around three at any given time.  Examples of goals that I’ve had have included things like —

  • Get a degree focused on computers and business
  • Obtain experience with ERP (enterprise resource planning) programs
  • Live and work overseas for more than a year
  • Lead a large organization
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Travel to at least 20 other countries
  • Work at a start-up
  • Be responsible for a business P&L
  • Teach a class
  • Be as consultant
  • Work in Silicon Valley
  • Obtain a project management certification
  • Get an MBA
  • Work as a marketer
  • Create a project management website 🙂
  • Etc… 

You’ll notice that the goals themselves are not complex.  At the same time, they are personal and distinct to what I wanted to do at different stages throughout my career.  As silly as it might sound, I always keep a list of my goals on a tiny slip of paper in my wallet.  Something about the writing it down makes it real. It’s a personal commitment to pursue something you want.

If you haven’t formally done this, give it a try. It costs nothing. In spite of all the countless publications on career development and self-help books, simply committing to a few personal goals can make all the difference.