Career Goal Setting

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Why You Don’t Feel Successful

Let’s get this out of the way first. If you don’t feel successful, it’s your own fault. I don’t say that to make you feel bad or to imply that you haven’t accomplished anything. But because you need to take responsibility for your own success.

Answer this honestly — How can you expect to be successful if you’ve never taken the time to think about what success means for YOUR life? How would you even know when you arrive at “success”?

No, the problem isn’t what have or haven’t accomplished. It’s that you never set clear expectations for what “success” looks like for you, so you don’t have a way to measure it.

Accomplishments always seem less impressive in the rear view mirror. So no matter how much you achieve, it’s hard to feel successful. There’s always someone out there doing better. So you move the goal post and feel like a failure. You’re left with a sense of accomplishing nothing, and you never get to enjoy your accomplishments.

Goals Are a Compass, Not a Roadmap

Success is a journey with a constantly changing destination. It’s natural for your goals to change over time. It’s silly to expect there to be a roadmap laid out for you. Instead, set clear goals to use as a compass which points you in the right general direction. Then be ready to make adjustments as you learn and grow over time.

Imagine your journey to success as a round of golf. Even if you’re on a hole with a hill, you still know the right way to the pin. Keep hitting the ball in the right general direction and eventually you get where you want to be.

No one hits a hole in one every time. Sometimes you duff a shot or hit a tree. It happens. just roll with it and learn from it. Along the way you may decide to quit and play a completely different game. Ending a round of golf early to go play with your kids isn’t failure. And neither is reevaluating your career goals in light of your changing personal goals.

Priorities change over time, and so will your definition of success.

You Must Set Goals

You’re constantly moving forward. But are you going the right direction? Without clear goals (both professional and personal) you have no compass.

  • You work long hours to get a promotion. When you hate your job.
  • You buy expensive cars and a big house. When all you need is an apartment and an old Civic.
  • You binge drink on the weekends. When you’ve always wished you could play an instrument.

None of these things is inherently wrong. But they may be wrong for you, right now. And unless you take a couple minutes to reflect. You’ll drift through life or follow other people’s goals. And you’ll be a failure without even knowing it.