Playbook for Setting and Achieving Professional Goals

Setting professional goals is generally never a problem for people. The majority of people aspire to do better and achieve more. They set goals for who they want to be as a leader, how their businesses should ideally perform, and the next steps for their professional careers.

Setting professional goals for a successful year is not the problem.

The difficult part is reaching them.

This lies in the execution. A gap exists between the planning and the executing. Professional goals can be frustrating for many people because they don’t understand why they can’t seem to reach them.

They are successful. They are driven. So what is the problem?

The answer normally lies in some combination of stress, motivation, and accountability. Any one of these things, if allowed to take over, can derail you from making progress toward a goal.

Fortunately, I have a playbook for alleviating this three-headed, goal-killing monster.

Break professional goals down into smaller pieces.

We are guilty of setting mammoth goals. If this sounds like you, understand that large goals are not achieved in one fell swoop. Breaking your goals down into smaller, more manageable pieces allows you to “cross it off” — which in turn allows you to feel the progress you are making.

Start breaking down larger goals by looking at them from the end. Work your way to where you are now. By logically working backwards you can obtain a better perspective of what you need to do to make your goal achievable, and set a plan of tasks accordingly. This will also help you create a timeline — if reaching your goal by a certain date is important.

Write down professional goals.

I talk all the time about the value in writing things down. Your goals are no different than your daily to-do list. If you don’t write a task down, it is less likely to get done. Period.

Writing your goals down also helps give them life; it makes them feel more real. Write your goals down, not in a manner or location that suggests they are something “to do,” but as inspiration — to remind yourself on heavy days what it is you are working toward.

Make your professional goals specific.

Another mistake people make is setting goals that are too broad or vague. To work toward a goal, you have to define the outcome and how you will achieve it.

If you have a hard time defining your goals, it’s a sign that you don’t understand them or don’t have much excitement for them. This combination will severely affect your commitment to seeing them through.

Share your professional goals.

One of the most significant issues in not meeting goals is accountability. Turns out, we are horrible at being accountable to ourselves. The good news is, we don’t necessarily have to be. By simply sharing your professional goals with others, you increase your external accountability.

Not only will you have someone (or more than one someone!) inquiring how it’s going, but you’ve invested in your future goals. Colleagues, peers, and mentors offer invaluable outside perspectives, and may see possibilities that your proximity blinds you from. This investment will provide not only motivation and accountability, but revive your excitement in your goals.

Understand your obstacles.  

Identify any roadblocks in your way! Performing a “Check up” on your goals is an effective way to reveal any obstacles that might be between you and your professional goals. You may find that the obstacles in your way do not directly relate to the goal specifically, but rather in some form of the aforementioned three-headed goal-killer: Stress, motivation and accountability.

Cut this monster off in its tracks before it has time to attack. Success will be yours in no time. Once you master this cycle, it becomes easy to duplicate. Implement it for the year, and keep me posted on how you have eliminated the gap between the planning and execution of your professional goals.

Dave Ferguson

Dave FergusonVerified account

Executive Coach, Speaker, and Author at Livingtolead.com
Dave is an executive coach, speaker, and author, in the areas of leadership, sales, and personal development. He helps senior executives, top management leaders, and political leaders transform how they communicate, connect, and grow in their leadership roles.
Dave Ferguson
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