The new year brings a fresh start and ample opportunity to establish goals. But for some, setting short-term or long-term objectives can be a daunting task.
A lot of people struggle with goal setting. With hectic work and personal lives, it often seems overwhelming to think about what’s for dinner tonight, much less what we want over the next year or next five years.
Some of the hesitation may stem from the fact that establishing goals feels like setting oneself up for failure. Things change, and the anticipation of failure or letting yourself down can lead to avoiding goal setting to shelter yourself from the disappointment of not attaining them.
I like to remind myself that a goal is not a promise, it’s not a commitment, and it’s not static. It’s just a target and it is flexible. It can and should change as life throws us curveballs. Some goals might be unachievable due to circumstances outside your control, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still be great opportunities for personal development – even if you don’t reach the originally intended outcome.
A new year is a great reason to think about goal setting or resetting. While many of us might be required to set professional goals by our companies, I encourage everyone to set personal goals as well. These two sets of goals may or may not align, and that’s OK.
Questions to help shape short-term goals
When thinking about ambitions for the new year I like to start by reflecting on the preceding one, turning some of those reflections into goals. This is an especially great place to start if you’re really struggling with setting a goal.
Below, I have outlined a few questions to ask yourself and guide you in establishing your goals.
- What did you have the most fun working on? What are you most proud of?
- Life is too short not to have fun! If you found a project that you really enjoyed working on and are proud to have been a part of, it would only make sense to want to replicate that success. What about that particular project made it special? Was it the people you worked with, the subject matter domain, or was it cross-functional? Try to identify what you loved and find projects that will fulfill you in the same way. If you’ve found a winning recipe you can even take it to the next level and spearhead similar projects within the company so others can enjoy the experience too.
- What did you find the most challenging?
- Creating goals around areas of improvement is a great way to grow and improve your daily life. If there was a particular technology that was challenging to work with, think about creating a goal to find a coach or make time for training. If it was a specific sort of process you found challenging, you can create a goal to improve it, which will probably help more people than just yourself. Alternatively, perhaps there were people or personalities you found challenging to work with, and finding resources such as an Insights-style class could help.
Pointers for setting larger goals
The above tips might help for short-term goals, but longer-term goals can often feel more intimidating. Some examples of long-term goals that I hear people struggle with include getting a promotion, joining a new team, getting comfortable with public speaking, networking, and mentorship.
Getting a promotion
For this, you’ll need to work with your manager to understand their expectations for you to get to the next level. Working with them, you’ll be able to set out smaller goals to help meet the expectations and to find opportunities to demonstrate the skills you need to advance. This is a great time to align with the short-term goals that you identified above by looking at what has historically gone well for you and what you’ve found challenging.
Joining a new team or getting a new job
Whether you are looking to join a new team with your current employer or seek out an opportunity with an employer elsewhere, there are several smaller goals you can put into place. First, dust off your CV and have people you trust, like a mentor or coach, look it over and provide feedback.
See if there are opportunities to “try it before you buy it”. The grass isn’t always greener, and moving jobs sometimes doesn’t pan out as we had hoped. To avoid this, it is great to get a taste of what this change might mean before you jump in headfirst. If you can, talk to people on the new team to learn more about what they’re like to gauge if it’s a good fit personality-wise. Look for opportunities to collaborate with the team ahead of joining them.
Getting comfortable with public speaking
The first thing you need to determine is your current comfort level with public speaking. For those at the beginning of their journey, I would recommend starting small, presenting to your immediate team, and then growing that circle larger and larger.
Look into organizations like ToastMasters that can help build up your confidence and skills. For those that are comfortable with public speaking but are struggling to expand their audience, talk to speakers who are often at external conferences. See how they got involved and ask if they would like to work on a shared presentation next time they are invited to speak. As with most things in life, the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be.
As we start to feel more comfortable getting out of our home offices and back into the real world, we all need to dust off our networking skills and catch up on some lost time. Make a goal to make new connections. Everything discussed in this article comes down to connections – connections to help you overcome your challenges, connections to help you learn about new roles, connections to help you find opportunities for public speaking. Networking and building relationships inside and outside of your team will pay dividends throughout your career.
You might have noticed that I’ve mentioned it’s helpful to review some goals with your mentor or coach. So if you don’t currently have a mentor or coach, then I will give you a goal right now: make 2023 the year you find a mentor to help you navigate through attaining your goals and hold you accountable. Having someone to talk to who isn’t your direct manager can help to give you perspective and advice in a way that your manager can’t.
Personally, I love goal setting, not only to challenge myself but to get in touch with what I want and where I want to be. Earlier, I mentioned that people sometimes fear failing to meet their goals, but the flip side of that is the elation of attaining a goal and getting to check it off your to-do list! And that’s why it’s important to set several objectives because even if you fall short of one goal, you still have others to work towards. Let’s make a plan to make 2023 terrific!