One of the most frequent discussions that I have had with leaders is how to strategically develop and work on set goals. The next step, after setting some developmental goals for one’s improvement and growth is to find ways to keep the goals. The keeping of the goals, much like Jerry Seinfeld’s famous episode of “keeping a reservation”, is the hard part. To paraphrase Jerry's dilemma in our goal-setting context, "anyone can make a goal, but the keeping of the goal is the whole point of having the goal in the first place". A frequent suggestion I make is to find some intentional rhythm and accountability by the concept of FIRSTS.
FIRST OF THE DAY
Ideally, a leader would review his or her own goals in the FIRST part of the morning. Before the onslaught of meetings, phone calls, and the tyranny of the urgent overtake the calendar and divert one's attention, consider carving out a few minutes at the beginning of each day to review goals. If they are top of mind at the top of the day, there is a better chance steps will be taken to move the needle towards achieving them.
FIRST OF THE WEEK
Since this practice can be hard to do consistently for most of us, the next strategy is to review one’s goals on the FIRST day of the week, Monday. This seems far more doable and for me will forever be the day that I will most likely reach for the goals (written or electronic) and do a specific review of them. Much like the first part of the morning, dedicating time for goals on Monday can help to dictate what happens in a given week, and will make goal completion more likely.
FIRST OF THE MONTH
The next strategy is the FIRST days of the month. The days with low numbers….1st, 2nd, 3rd, … these are the key days for goal review. I have also found that these are good days for tackling the more routine aspects of life like changing filters, checking due dates and managing other calendar type reminders to keep life running smoothly. This way the filters are not neglected in the home or office for months, and the goals stay a priority even after significant time has passed.
FIRST OF THE YEAR
Finally, on should focus on the FIRST months of the Year. January and February are the best times for annual planning, reviewing previous goals and updating or creating new ones. Take some time...some significant time...to do annual plans, to mark the calendar for off days, vacation days, travel days and other key days that must be noted and planned out early for the best strategic approach. Many have found that to block out family graduations, birthdays and anniversaries is also helpful to get all “locked and loaded” early on so that family disappointments are minimized and if possible avoided altogether. The first part of the year is typically when goals are set, and thus is an ideal time to build as much structure and support around those goals as possible.
Chances are that not all of the FIRST’s will be remembered or observed, so take advantage of the ones that work for you. For me, when those low numbered days that pop up, they grab my attention and remind me to stop, take out the calendar or the phone to walk through the month. The gift that comes with this strategy is that you can be sure that life is being lived forward, well planned and intentional. The Wisdom of Firsts results in finding purposeful and joyful results and memories made, rather than a life of regret.
Chances are you have spent more than a few hours trying to find the answer to one massive question: What are you going to do with your life?
This is a struggle that many college students feel on an intense level, and for good cause! Discovering what you are passionate about can be daunting, but I have a few tips that I have learned in my years as an executive coach that can help you enjoy the process and arrive at a career that you love!
1.Align Your Skillset With Your Anticipated Role Skillset.
Early in my college years, I loved seminars. That may sound strange to you, but I invested quite a bit of time both attending them, getting others to attend, and even putting on small seminars or retreats for various groups. It was much later in life that I realized just how passionate I was about the seminar experience. I had no idea that putting on seminars might be an aligned any sort of business activity! To this day I have not only attended hundreds of seminars and training sessions, but creating, promoting and leading seminars is a core role in my current profession.
The great news is you don’t have to wait until you are well into your career to focus on what brings you joy. Invest some time now into finding what careers actually require the skills that you love, that you read about, that you think about and enjoy. My daughter has always loved the idea of home, as well as decorating and visiting new beautiful places…and today she is in the real estate industry. I wish I could say we saw this coming years in advance, but we didn’t! Yes, we observed, but it took longer than you might think to make the connection between her skills and passions and the career that she has chosen.
How are you aligning the skills that you know you have with your future career choices?
2.Ask Others To Point Out Your Unique Interests.
We all seem to have many general and even common interests, but what are the interests that are unique, definitive and even unusual about you? What are you drawn to that is different than those around you?
Today as I coach successful leaders from around the world, there are two general groups that I see as it relates to career choices. The first group is the Generalists, and the second is the Targeted. The Generalists are more likely to have broad interests and just feel attracted to a variety of career areas, while the Targeted leaders have only a few interests, and they are usually more specific, there are likely fewer of them and they are often related to one another. An example of Targeted interests would be enjoying math and engineering, accounting and business, or sales and networking.
The key here is to discern what your unique interests are. Take the time to ask others who know you well (parents, coaches, teachers, friends, etc.). What kind of valuable insights might you gain from them that would help you make the highest quality career decision?
3.Gain Clarity On What Is Not Your Best Direction.
Initially this may sound slightly counterproductive. However, intentionally moving away from an undesired career area can be a freeing and clarifying initial step.
Growing up, my dad was a brilliant engineer, and he designed the Alabama International Motor Speedway in Talladega, Alabama. He truly loved math, engineering and all things specific. However, I was quite the opposite and leaned more toward people-specific areas of interest. I clearly saw early on, along with my math teachers, that fields with a strong focus on numbers were not the pathway for me.
Our Coach Trainer, Michael Wallace, is also an Adjunct Professor at a local university. Each semester he has students complete a Simulation assignment that gives them an extended hands-on experience managing social media accounts. It doesn’t take long for the students to know if they enjoy the process of creating content and developing social media calendars. The takeaway here is that whether they find that they love the assignment or realize that they want to get as far away from social media as possible, the process of discovering that truth is invaluable in whittling away at the myriad of opportunities in front of them.
What are you clear on avoiding in your chosen career?
4.Ask Yourself: What Would I Do For Free, Or If I Didn’t Need Money?
When I ask senior people these questions, I rarely get things like, “I would retire, play golf, travel or just chill.” They seem to look up and to the left and do a bit of deep thinking in the more significant corners of their brains. Usually after a brief pause, they tell me that they would focus on doing things for others and giving back, as well as spending time with their family, specifically their grandchildren.
A lot of wisdom can be gleaned from those on the other end of their careers from you. But this question is less about them, and more about you. Think about your first two decades on earth. Not just in the few minutes while you read this ebook, but really think about it. The answer to this question can be transformative as you seek to find fulfillment in a career that will span several more decades.
Whether you want it to or not, your career choice will become one of the first, if not the first, answers you will give when someone asks who you are. Make sure that the identity you are building is more than just a means to support yourself, but that it is fulfilling beyond simply a paycheck.
What career might best enable you do both create income and also touch on the more significant areas that give life back to others? Which direction can you go that will allow for there to be more life in your living until the days when you may be free to fully do what you want and have a more freed up lifestyle and schedule?
5.Get A Coach!
My company, Leadership Systems, Inc., devotes a significant portion of our work to walking with organizations and leaders that have become stuck. To be more specific, they look up to realize they are neck deep in a major problem. Sometimes it is a company that has to deal with personnel issues, and they reach out to us to right the ship. But, just as often, we are brought in to work with a leader who is stuck personally, usually trying to find some of the same answers in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s that you are facing right now!
Part of my motivation in telling you this, of course, is to let you know that we have a lot a great coaches who are experienced with major transition at many levels in an organization. But the more important reason is to encourage you to find someone to walk with you through this process!
This journey of career discovery will start and end with your answers to these questions, but that doesn’t mean that you should walk the road alone. Having a coach to continue asking you the next right question along the way can be the difference between settling and succeeding, wandering and winning, or losing your way and launching into your career!
Who can you rely on that you trust to be both invested and impartial? Finding a coach who can focus on helping you set goals, and keep you accountable to take action on those goals, is a vital step to go from where you are right now to discovering the career that you want!
For more information about the coaching options available with Leadership Systems, Inc. and to learn about our unique Career Coaching Packages, head over to leadershipsystems.com/career.