“Do you know where you going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know? “ – Diana Ross
We all have our goals and dreams, don’t we? But some of us seem to be more successful at achieving our goals than others. We can chalk it up to natural talent, the right connections or just plain dumb luck. Sometimes those reasons are valid, but more often than not, people who achieve their goals are people who chose the right goals in the first place.
If we really want to be successful in life, we have to choose the goals that are right for us. We are all unique individuals and our goals and our journeys through life should reflect that. If you want success in life, you need to choose goals that are congruent with your values, your strengths, your passions and your desired lifestyle.
Most of us go right to the lifestyle. “Hey, I want to drive a Jaguar and live in a big house like Joe Blow…he’s a lawyer, so I should become a lawyer, right?” Wrong. Joe has the gift of gab, he has a natural gift for debate and he loves to schmooze at the Country Club. You get nervous when you have to speak in public, you hate conflict and your idea of fun is taking quiet nature walks. Becoming an attorney was a natural choice for Joe. That doesn’t mean it will be for you.
So how do you choose? What do you need to do to make sure that your goals suit you, thus virtually guaranteeing yourself success? You need to ask yourself the following questions:
What are my values?
Your goals must be consistent with your values. For example, if you want to travel, make lots of money and work flexible hours, you could choose to do many things – including becoming a hit-man. But if you value life, and everyone’s right to it, you’re not likely to succeed.
Okay, so that example is a bit extreme, but you get the point, right? Your values will take priority over any other desires you have. So, think about what is most meaningful to you. Organization, cleanliness, beauty and art, social welfare, wealth, compassion, self-expression, family, etc. What are the things that are most important to you? Be honest…nobody is watching. If wealth and beauty are more important to you than family, say so. Becoming an art dealer who travels the world without worries of family obligations would be a much more achievable goal than being an art teacher who tries to work her life around her kids.
What are my strengths?
This doesn’t mean taking an inventory of your skills. Skills are things that you have already learned how to do and, while the skills you have may come into play, new ones can always be developed. Strengths are more or less things that you seem to naturally possess. Some people have the gift of gab, some can seem to solve any problem or puzzle, some have great mechanical ability – they can take any machine apart and put it back together. Your strength might be good judgment, open-mindedness or an ability to gather others together and gain consensus. A great way to figure this out is to take a Strengths Inventory which you can do for free at the Authentic Happiness website. A goal that taps into and utilizes your strengths is a better bet than one that doesn’t.
What do I love doing?
For some of us who have spent a lot of time doing what we should be doing or what we have to be doing, this question can be a tough one. Think about when time flies. Sometimes we get so lost in what we are doing that we lose track of time. This happens when we are doing something we love.
Still can’t think of anything? Think back to when you were ten or so. What did you spend your free time doing? What did you do when school was over, homework was done and it wasn’t dinner time yet? Yes, you may have changed somewhat since then, but taking a little trip back in time can help us to uncover passions that we have abandoned and forgotten. I loved to draw and to read and take walks in the woods. I liked to collect leaves and have picnics. Maybe you loved to build forts. Can you think of ways that these passions could be put to use now? Publishing, writing and illustrating children’s books, painting landscapes, becoming a park ranger? How about carpenter, architect, playground designer, volunteering as a camp counselor?
What do I want my ideal day to look like?
If you like to putter around in the morning and do most of your work late into the evening, you don’t want to become a preschool teacher any more than you would want to tend bar if you like to go to bed no later than 10 p.m. Make sure that the reality of what you think you want to do actually meshes with the way you like to operate. Take some time to outline your ideal day. What types of things would you do and when? Use this schedule as a test for any goals you may be considering. How well will they fit into your day?
What’s required to reach this goal and will I enjoy the journey?
This may be the most important question of all. While it is true that sometimes you have to do some hard work and make some sacrifices to achieve your goals, if everything you must do to achieve your goals is a struggle and a sacrifice, you’re simply on the wrong path. It won’t be long before you start to veer off the road and give up. It’s important to remember that those goals we have will provide only a brief moment of enjoyment when we reach them. We soon adapt to our new life, get bored and look for something else to work towards. It’s human nature. The majority of our time is spent on the journey itself. Remember this. If the journey is not going to be enjoyable, why bother? You will not only likely fail to ever reach your goal, but you will also make your self miserable in the process. Trust me, I know this from years of personal experience.
Achievable goals are well-thought-out goals; goals that match who you are, what you do well and what you want out of life. Not sure where you’re going or why? Don’t know what you can achieve? Stop. Give yourself time to think. Look deep inside. That is where the answers lie. Know yourself first, then choose your goals. Choose wisely and success will be yours.
By Kevin Beaver
Have you created your IT career goals for the upcoming year? Do you know exactly where you’re headed and the steps you’ll take to get there?
Sure, it’s easy to come up with goals, but it’s much harder to commit them to paper, regularly review them, and hold yourself accountable to achieve what you desire. But you can do it. One thing’s for sure: You can’t go any further in your career being who you currently are and only knowing what you currently know.
If you want to stand out above the rest of your colleagues, earn more money and take control of your IT career, these eight steps will help you realize those goals and show you how they translate to the real world:
1. Determine what you want to accomplish this year. Doing so allows you to dream up tangible items to steer toward.
Real-world example: I want to earn a salary of $100,000 by year’s end.
2. Document each goal in the present tense using action verbs. This not only outlines what you want but also programs your mind as if you’ve already accomplished it.
Real-world example: You write out “I earn $100,000” (even if you currently earn substantially less).
3. Write out the specific roadblocks you anticipate for each goal. This will ensure you know what to expect and whose support you’re going to need to make your dreams a reality.
Real-world example: You determine the roadblocks, such as your current boss doesn’t understand the value you bring to the table or you’re stuck in a contract position and there just aren’t enough hours left in the year to earn that amount.
4. Set a deadline for each goal. This makes it more tangible and holds you accountable.
Real-world example: You determine that by the end of the year, you want to be earning $100,000 a year.
5. Create a roadmap and set your expectations. Write out the steps you have to take to accomplish each goal.
Real-world example: You learn you need to quantify your value and prove to management how you’re contributing in your role. Maybe you realize you need to get a new job or contract position, or if you work for yourself, acquire more clients by doing X, Y or Z.
6. Prioritize all of your goals. This makes you think about the most important thing that will make the biggest difference in your career, the second most important thing and so on.
Real-world example: You outline what you’ve accomplished as priority one, what you intend to accomplish this year as priority two, you set up a meeting with your boss as priority three and so on.
7. Get started now. Lao Tzu said “a journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” Whether it seems like it or not, every little thing matters.
Real-world example: Begin to document how what you’re doing at this very moment contributes to the business.
8. Revisit your goals every single day. This will program your subconscious mind to help you in your decision making and ensure you’re steering yourself in the right direction toward your goals.
Real-world example: You print and review your goals each morning before you boot your computer, check your email, before anything – because your goals are more important than anything else.
Piece of cake, huh? Seriously, it’s pretty simple, but you have to start now. Speaking of getting started, these goal setting and goal management techniques come down to one thing: self-discipline. Writer Elbert Hubbard summed it up best by defining self-discipline as “the ability to make yourself do what you should do, when you should do it, whether you feel like it or not.” Sometimes I don’t feel like getting out of bed in the morning. Sometimes I don’t feel like writing or getting started on a security assessment project. Nevertheless, when these thoughts come into my head I remind myself of what Mr. Hubbard said and it helps me get back on track and motivated to move ahead.
If you remain positive and work on your goals daily, you will start seeing positive changes in your IT career. People attract what they think about. So practice these career management techniques and hold yourself accountable every day. Mark the calendar one year from today and look back and see how you’ve progressed. You’ll be amazed.
By Harry Che
Perhaps the most frustrating and unmotivated thing about working toward a goal is when we don’t see any progress. Or what we see, we are not that sure it is the real progress. When this happens, we must come up with better ways to define and measure the progress.
For example, say our goal is to start a business. For this type of goals, it’s difficult to find a quick metric that can measure our progress accurately. However, what we can do is to create many mini goals, or sub goals, or milestones for it. Whatever you call it, the key is to create a path that lines up the middle points and connects where we are now to where we will be when the goal is reached.
Back to our example, we may create this “progress path” for mapping out how we get from the start point to the end goal, which is that a business is successfully started:
Point 1. Start point, wherever we are right now.
Point 2. Collected a good set of business ideas.
Point 3. Evaluated and decided on one business idea to go with.
Point 4. A product prototype is created.
Point 5. Product prototype received market/user feedback.
Point 6. Product is adjusted or improved based on feedback.
Point 7. A website and sales tools have been set up.
Point 8. Received first order.
Point 9. Delivered the first product.
Point 10. Business has been started.
As you can see, this path contains 10 points, whenever we reach a point, we will have made a small progress, which in this case is 10%, 20%, …, until we reach point 10, we will have reached 100% of the goal.
Now for each point, we may want to further break it down if this looks too vague or overwhelming. We could use the similar progress path method to list out the sub points for reaching each bigger point. As we complete these sub points, even if we haven’t reached the bigger/parent point, we can still measure our progress. For example, if we add 10 more sub points to point 1, then whenever we complete a sub point, we make progress of 1%, 2%, 3%, etc. So on and so forth.
If we could systematically break down our goals so that they can be effectively measured, then making progress is simply a matter of completing whatever that smallest step we need to take. As long as we keep doing this, consistently and persistently, no goal in the world we cannot accomplish. If there is a path, then we can reach the end goal.
By Harry Che
Most of us want to be successful in life, but only a few seem to truly succeed. There are many reasons we may not achieve what we are capable of, but one thing that tends to separate success and failure the most is how we think about success. It inevitably leads to how we “practice” success.
Even though success may mean different things to different people, it can be generally defined or thought of as a “practice”. It is something that can be “practiced”. Just like one practicing law or medicine, truly successful people practice success. A successful attorney or doctor will treat his or her profession differently than their average peers. They do things differently, even if it’s just small, seemingly trivial things that all lawyers or doctors do. They simply practice their profession differently.
The same principle or idea can be generalized for all professions. In order to succeed in whatever we do, we must practice success. To practice success means we must think, plan, and act as required by success. It means we must acquire the habits that shape our thoughts and behaviors that are conducive to success.
“Practicing success” can also be used as a judgement call in many of our daily situations. When we say something, we can ask ourselves if that is the right thing to say if we practice success. When we engage in some activity, we check if what we do is practicing success. When we treat others, we can think about whether we’re practicing success. So on and so forth.
If we think about success as a practice and consistently commit to it on daily basis, then we are already successful.
Psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews has advice for those who put ‘stop procrastinating’ on their list of New Year’s resolutions: Share your goals with a friend.
Research recently conducted by Matthews shows that people who wrote down their goals, shared this information with a friend, and sent weekly updates to that friend were on average 33% more successful in accomplishing their stated goals than those who merely formulated goals.
Matthews became interested in the study of procrastination about 10 years ago after reading an article in Fast Company magazine about the “1953 Yale Study of Goals.” The premise of the study — that people who write down specific goals for their future are far more likely to be successful than those who have either unwritten goals or no specific goals at all — has inspired the teachings of many self-help authors and personal coaches.
The only trouble is that the study was never actually conducted. The 1996 Fast Company article debunked the Yale study as little more than an often-quoted urban legend.
However, Matthews’ research now backs up the conclusions long attributed to the mythical Yale study.
“With the proliferation of business and personal coaching and the often anecdotal reports of coaching success, it is important that this growing profession be founded on sound scientific research,” Matthews said.
Matthews recruited 267 participants from a wide variety of businesses, organizations, and networking groups throughout the United States and overseas for a study on how goal achievement in the workplace is influenced by writing goals, committing to goal-directed actions, and accountability for those actions. Participants ranged in age from 23 to 72 and represented a wide spectrum of backgrounds.
Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.
Group 1 was asked to simply think about the business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).
Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.
Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal.
Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.
Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.
Broadly categorized, participants’ goals included completing a project, increasing income, increasing productivity, improving organization, enhancing performance/achievement, enhancing life balance, reducing work anxiety, and learning a new skill. Specific goals ranged from writing a chapter of a book to listing and selling a house.
Of the original 267 participants, 149 completed the study. These participants were asked to rate their progress and the degree to which they had accomplished their goals.
At the end of the study, the individuals in Group 1 only accomplished 43 percent of their stated goals. Those in Group 4 accomplished 64 percent of their stated goals, while those in Group 5 were the most successful, with an average 76 percent of their goals accomplished.
“My study provides empirical evidence for the effectiveness of three coaching tools: accountability, commitment, and writing down one’s goals,” Matthews said.
By Harry Che
We all tend to fall in the trap of procrastination in one way or another, from time to time. We will often procrastinate the most on those tasks that are seemingly difficult, unpleasant, boring, time consuming, or all combined. They are the things that I can easily pick out from my daily to-do list. Through some experiments and trial and errors, I have discovered a few things that would help deal with this problem.
1. Create-A-List Method
I call this method “Create-A-List”, because that’s what you do when you find yourself procrastinating on a task. Simply sit down and clear your head, grab a piece of paper and a pen, write down a few steps or smaller things that you need to do to complete the task.
A major reason we delay doing certain task is simply because we don’t know enough about the steps, or the actual amount work involved. This vagueness usually appears as a big uncertainty overwhelming us and depriving us the motivation to do something with it.
By creating a small list, writing down a few steps you think will need to make some headway on the task, is a great way to clear up this kind of vagueness. You will feel that you can actually work on a single step right now without worrying about the rest.
2. Give it a Five-Minute Action
Another common pitfall when we procrastinate is that we often overestimate the amount of time required to complete a task. This is especially true with those things we tend to think of as chores or unpleasant drudgery. What I have found useful to deal with it is this. Convince yourself to give it a five minutes work. Only five minutes, no more. Say to yourself you will only work on it for five minute and then you can stop and not think about it.
Often times all that requires is less than five minutes to finish the task already, such as to clear up the table, take out the trash, return a phone call, etc. What’s more, after five minutes of action, we usually find it much easier to continue with it for another five minutes or more. At this point, the task no longer feels that intolerable simply because we now have momentum.
3. Guilt and Reward Method
The last method is really about changing the way you think about the task. When we think about something and are undecided whether to do it or not, our thoughts are often conflicting with one another. When this happens, we can first think about what rewards or positive results completing this task will bring us. Then think about if we will feel guilty if we don’t get to do it. If we can’t think of any rewards, nor will we feel guilty, then simply decide not do it at all. Because we will have nothing to lose. Otherwise, just get up and do it. Because we will either get the rewards in our mind, or we won’t feel any guilt afterwards, or both in many circumstances.
These three methods can be very effective if they are put to good use. But most importantly we must be conscious enough to be aware when we are procrastinating, otherwise no method will help us.
Despite our best intentions, it’s not always easy to stay motivated. Even when you set sensible and empowering goals, it’s easy to forget about them. So the next time you want to achieve something, remember the 3 P’s for committing to a goal.
1. Make It Practical
It’s great to dream big; we need monumental, life-long goals for our lives to feel meaningful. But sometimes, when we’re stuck in the daily grind, it’s easy to lose sight of those goals. This is often when we give up, simply settling for mediocrity instead. So instead of focusing on what you’d like to achieve in the next 10 years, set an ambitious, but achievable, goal for the next 10 days.
We tend to work harder when the end of a project is in sight. Therefore, it’s extremely useful to break your goal up into dozens of smaller projects — challenging tasks you can achieve in the near-term with a little hard work. These “small wins” will help you stay motivated over the long run.
2. Plan It Out
When committing to a goal, we often feel empowered and excited; “Yeah! I’m going to be a millionaire! I set a goal!”
If only it were that easy.
We’re very prone to getting discouraged and giving up when things don’t go our way. Maybe you get a parking ticket that interferes with your goal of saving $500 one month. And then you give up on saving because it all seems so futile; there’s always an unplanned expense.
But setbacks are inevitable. No matter what your goal is, something is going to interfere with you achieving it. The people who are most successful in life anticipate these setbacks and plan around them. They imagine working towards a goal and then predict all the obstacles that will get in their way; then they develop a plan for overcoming them.
When you do this, you’re much less likely to get discouraged. You just see obstacles as a part of the process.
3. Make It Public
I’ve talked before about the importance of stating your goals publicly. When you publicly commit to a goal, you’re in effect asking others to hold you accountable. We’re often held accountable in our careers and in school, but when we set more personal goals, there’s no one we have to answer to but ourselves. This makes it easy to save face and give up; no one has to know about our failure.
But when you tell those you care about what you’re going to do, they’re going to make sure you’ll actually do it. Tell a friend or family member, “I’m going to save $500 this month, and I’d like to put a note in your calendar to follow up with me in 30 days.”
Better yet, do this with several people. We hate disappointing other people, so suddenly the goal will become that much more important.
Committing To a Goal: Summary
The 3 P’s for committing to a goal are practicality, planning, and publicity. When you carefully plan short-term goals and make a public commitment to them, you greatly increase your chances of actually following through. Otherwise, it’s easy to lose motivation or rationalize giving up. So brush up on the process of setting SMART goals, then follow these three principles, and you’ll greatly increase your chances of success.
Many people make a common mistake when setting weight loss goals: they set the initial goals and begin moving toward them, but they never pause to evaluate how they are doing along the way. Then a month or two or three passes, and they wonder why they haven’t yet reached their goal.
To prevent this from happening to you, set up a daily evaluation process where you can see clearly whether you are still on track with your goals:
The first step in this process is to get an idea of the actual steps you want to take each day to begin losing weight.
Do you need to reduce your intake of fast food? Cut down on sugar? Drink more water? Eat more fruit and vegetables? Work out each day? These are all common methods that are effective for weight loss, but you may also have your own unique methods that work best for you. Write all of these steps down so you know exactly what you’ll be doing each day to move toward your goal.
The second step is to look over your list at the end of each day, and evaluate whether you stayed on track or not.
Do you see any areas that need improvement? Any areas where you need to strengthen your willpower? Any old habits that are creeping back into your day?
When you notice areas that need to be adjusted to stay on track, take steps to improve them.
For example, if you have a habit of drinking several glasses of soda each day and you’re struggling to eliminate it, compromise by allowing yourself one 8 oz. serving of soda each day. Stick to that for a week or two, and then cut it down to 4 oz. Then eventuallyeliminate it altogether. Or go with the old “substitution” method by drinking diet iced tea or lemon water in place of soda.
The methods you use to change your unhealthy habits don’t really matter, as long as you are continuously working on creating better habits. And more importantly, constantly evaluating your progress so you know where your weaknesses are. This is the surest way to stay on track all the way to the achievement of your weight loss goals.
People can have remarkably keen insights into their own behavior. Then again, people can also be remarkably wrong about why they, and everyone else, do the things that they do. And some of those people turn out to be motivational speakers and authors.
No doubt their intentions are very admirable - many genuinely want to help others to reach a higher level of success. But too often, they simply end up reinforcing false notions (albeit intuitively appealing ones) about how motivation works. Here are three of the most firmly entrenched motivational myths:
Just Write Down Your Goals, and Success is Guaranteed!
There is a story that motivational speakers/authors love to tell about the Yale Class of 1953. (Google it. It’s everywhere.) Researchers, so the story goes, asked graduating Yale seniors if they had specific goals they wanted to achieve in the future that they had written down. Twenty years later, the researchers found that the mere 3% of students who had specific, written goals were wealthier than the other 97% combined. Isn’t that amazing? It would be if it were true, which it isn’t. (See the 1996Fast Company article that debunked the story here.)
I wish it were that simple. To be fair, there is evidence that getting specific about what you want to achieve is really important. (Not a guaranteed road to fabulous wealth, but still important.) In other words, specificity is necessary, but it’s not nearly sufficient. Writing goals down is actually neither - it can’t hurt, but there’s also no hard evidence that writing per se does anything to help.
Just Try to Do Your Best!
Telling someone, or yourself, to just “do your best” is believed to be a great motivator. It isn’t. Theoretically, it encourages without putting on too much pressure. In reality, and rather ironically, it is more-or-less permission to be mediocre.
Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, two renown organizational psychologists, have spent several decades studying the difference between “do your best” goals and their antithesis: specific and difficult goals. Evidence from more than 1,000 studies conducted by researchers across the globe shows that goals that not only spell out exactly what needs to be accomplished, but that also set the bar for achievement high, result in far superior performance than simply trying to “do your best.” That’s because more difficult goals cause you to, often unconsciously, increase your effort, focus and commitment to the goal, persist longer, and make better use of the most effective strategies.
Just Visualize Success!
Advocates of “positive thinking” are particularly fond of this piece of advice. But visualizing success, particularly effortless success, is not just unhelpful - it’s a great way to set yourself up for failure.
Few motivational gurus understand that there’s an awfully big difference between believing you will succeed, and believing you will succeed easily. Realistic optimists believe they will succeed, but also believe they have to make success happen - through things like effort, careful planning, persistence, and choosing the right strategies. They don’t shy away from thinking “negative” thoughts, like what obstacles will I face? and how will I deal with them?
Unrealistic optimists, on the other hand, believe that success will happen to them, if they do lots and lots of visualizing. Recent research shows that this actually (and once again, ironically) serves to drain the very energy we need to reach our goals. People who spend too much time fantasizing about the wonderful future that awaits them don’t have enough gas left in the tank to actually get there.
You can cultivate a more realistically optimistic outlook by combining confidence in your ability to succeed with an honest assessment of the challenges that await you. Don’t visualize success - visualize the steps you will take in order to make success happen.