Goal Setting and Career Success

Today is December 1.  We’re getting to the end of 2011.  It’s time to begin setting goals for 2012.  Goals are important if you want to become the life and career success you deserve to be.  I came across a quote on the importance of goals from Robert Heinlein, the great science fiction writer, the other day.

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.”

I like this career advice.  It makes a great point.  Too many people confuse activity – or daily trivia – with accomplishment.  Mr. Heinlein points out that our activity needs to be focused by our goals.

Tweet 23 in my career advice book Success Tweets addresses this point.  “Goals are important.  You can’t get where you want if you don’t know where you are going.”

I once saw a succinct statement on goal setting and goal achievement from Denis Waitley…

“The secret to productive goal setting is in establishing clearly defined goals, writing them down and then focusing on them several times a day with words, pictures and emotions as if we’ve already achieved them.”

I really like what Denis has to say.  Let’s break it down.

1. Your goals need to be clear.
2. Your goals need to be written.
3. You need to focus on your goals several times a day.
4. You need to visualize yourself achieving your goals.

Clear goals follow the S.M.A.R.T. formula.  They are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.  Do your goals pass the S.M.A.R.T. test?  If you’ve written them, it should be pretty easy to review them to see.

Here’s a goal that one of my friends shared with me recently.

To become a millionaire, selling products on the Internet.

Let’s see how well it stacks up to the S.M.A.R.T. test.

Specific? Reasonably so.  This guy wants to become a millionaire by selling products on the Internet.  This goal would be more specific if he had specified the product or type of product he wants to sell, and if he is going to develop the product himself, or resell others’ products.

Measurable? Overall yes, if he defines being a millionaire as having a net worth of over a million dollars.

Achievable? Probably.  He’s a smart guy who has the desire.  And, he is committed to this goal.  I think he can achieve it if he works hard and smart.

Relevant? For him, yes.  The guy defines success in monetary terms, so becoming a millionaire is certainly a relevant goal for him.

Time Bound? No.  He hasn’t set a date by when his net worth will reach one million dollars.

Not bad for a first try.  Here’s how I would make this goal more S.M.A.R.T…

To build a net worth of $1,000,000 by the time I am 40 by being an Internet super affiliate marketer, reselling products in the self-help field.

Specific?  Very.  Net worth of $1,000,000; Internet affiliate marketer; reselling self-help products.

Measurable? Yes.  He can check his net worth on his 40th birthday.

Achievable? Likely, given some hard work and tenacity.

Relevant? Yes.  Money is how he defines success.

Time Bound? Yes.  His 40th birthday is a hard deadline.

Take some time to review your goals.  Make them S.M.A.R.T.  S.M.A.R.T. goals are written and clear – the first two recommendations from Denis Waitley when it comes to accomplishing your goals.

The career success coach point here is simple common sense.  Successful people set and achieve high goals.  They understand the power of Tweet 23 in Success Tweets.  “Goals are important.  You can’t get what you want if you don’t know where you’re going.”  You can get a head start on 2012 by beginning your goal setting process now. Written goals are the first step when it comes to life and career success.  Sharpening your goals until they are clear and concise is the second step.  If you don’t have written goals for 201 get started tonight.  Then check what you’ve written against the S.M.A.R.T. criteria.  Make sure your goals are Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time Bound.  If you take just these two steps you’ll be well ahead in the career success game.

That’s my career advice, inspired by Robert Heinlein’s thoughts on goal setting.  What do you think?  Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment.  As always thanks for reading my daily thoughts on life and career success.  I value you and I appreciate you.


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained.  The first gives you 140 bits of career success advice tweet style — in 140 characters or less.  The second is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail.  Go to http://budurl.com/STExp to claim your free copy.  You’ll also start receiving my daily life and career success quotes.

PPS: I opened a membership site on September 1.  It’s called My Corporate Climb and is devoted to helping people create career success inside large corporations.  You can find out about the membership site by going to http://www.mycorporateclimb.


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  1. Donald Trump said the same thing in one of his books. He said he feels the reason many people don’t achieve their goals is that they lose focus during the day. He asks himself many times throughout the day, “What should I be thinking about right now?” and that brings his focus right back to what he should be doing in order to accomplish his goals. I have that question posted on a white board in my office, which faces my desk, just so I remember to ask myself that question multiple times throughout the day.

  2. You’re right Lynne:
    I aldvise my coaching clients to ask a similar question several times a day. “Is what I’m doing right now contributing to one of my goals?” If the answer is yes, keep on going. If no, start doing something that will help you achieve one of your goals.
    Thanks for a very insightful comment.

  3. Great advice on goal setting.

    You may want to check out http://www.GoalsOnTrack.com, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and supports time tracking too. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

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