Set Yourself Up For Success

Many of us have a difficult time setting and sticking to goals. But don’t beat yourself up about it; it may say more about your ability to set good goals than your ability to achieve them. Make goals specific, measurable, and controllable. Sometimes, our goals are simply too vague. It’s much easier to stick to—and be accountable to—a goal that is specific and measurable. Rather than making your goal “reach out to LinkedIn network,” consider making the goal “email 3 people in LinkedIn network each business day.” Also, keep the goals within your control. You can’t control, for example, how many interviews you will get in the next 3 months. You can control, however, the number of resumes and applications you send out, the number of networking contacts you make, and the number of recruiters you reach out to—all of which eventually lead to job interviews.

Make goals ambitious, but achievable. Often, we set goals that are too hard to achieve—and then beat ourselves up for our failure to achieve them. There is little point to setting goals that cannot reasonably be achieved. Likewise, there is little point to setting goals that can too easily be achieved. The key to goal setting is to make goals ambitious enough that you have to work hard for them, but realistic enough that you know that your dedication will (or, at least, can) pay off. One way to make a big, long-range, dream goal achievable is to break it up into smaller, short- or mid-range goals. Making each of these smaller goals will serve as an important way to build your confidence and keep your momentum and spirits up. Plus, even if that big, long-range, dream goal is never achieved, completing the smaller goals will likely be worthwhile in themselves.

Add incentives. Many of us need rewards for good performance in order to give our best; sometimes the achievement of the goal is just not enough in and of itself. So, just as you might expect your employer to give you a bonus for achieving goals in the workplace, it’s fair to reward yourself for achieving your own goals. Just make sure that the reward doesn’t undermine the goal—for example, completing your goal of walking 5 miles a day only to reward yourself with a double fudge sundae.

Don’t be afraid to change goals. Of course, your goals should make sense when you set them. But that’s no guarantee that those goals will always make sense. Circumstances change; don’t be afraid to change with them. Sticking rigidly to nonsensical goals isn’t a show of strength or determination; it’s an exercise in stubbornness that will likely lead to frustration and wasted efforts. So periodically review your goals—not with the eye of letting yourself off the hook—but with an objective eye that can assess whether a goal should be revised or replaced with a more productive one.