“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” asked Alice. “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where–” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. “–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” Lewis Carrol - Alice in Wonderland
Neshica Bheem, founder and director of Coachfluence. 6 November 2021.
This exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat is often paraphrased into "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there.". This profound exchange in the book describes life in general. We cannot make informed decisions on which way to go if we don’t know where we are going. And if we don’t know or don’t care where we are going then, how do we get anywhere?
In the context of a career, not having a goal or an idea of a goal may result in not going anywhere or ending up somewhere you don’t want to be.
To navigate successfully in your career, it is important to set and review goals regularly. Here are guidelines to help you along the way:
1. No pressure – Goals are not static
Some people find goal setting a stressful exercise as they feel by setting defined goals, they limit flexibility. Others are not exactly certain that the goal they write down is really the goal they want to achieve.
Release the pressure!
Goals should never be static, and they can (and should) be modified along the way. If you find later on that the goal you set originally isn’t something you want, then remember there is also value in knowing what you don’t want. And then refine or redefine your goals.
2. Consider yourself as a whole being
When setting career goals remember that your career cannot be separate from your life. Goal setting should always be holistic. When setting a goal, think about how achieving that goal would impact other aspects of your life and if you would be comfortable with its impact. Set goals for every aspect of your life that is important to you, family, finances, career, relationships, health, and spirituality.
3. Don’t be SMART about it, make them EPIC!
We have all heard about setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) goals. And whilst this may be useful in other contexts it can be limiting when setting goals, especially career goals. So don’t have SMART goals, rather make them EPIC (Expansive, Purposeful, Imaginative, Calculable):
Expansive – Allow yourself the freedom to think big. That may mean setting goals that seem unrealistic in your current circumstances. But all great things start out being slightly unattainable until you do it. Or it could mean broadening the scope of your goal rather than making it too specific.
Purposeful - How does the goal align with who you are and, your purpose. This creates the inspiration and the drive to actively work toward achieving your goals.
Imaginative – Goals are future-focused and what may be constraints now may not be in the future. So, imagine the future, your future! Visualize achieving your goals and consider what resources you would need to attain this future state. This will assist when you break down your goals into actions,
Calculable – This is what distinguishes dreams from goals. Think about when you want to achieve the goal and how you will calculate and assess progress. How will you know when you have achieved your goal? What would it look like and how would it feel?
4. Make it a habit
View, review, and refine your goals regularly. Write it up somewhere visible so that you can:
Remind yourself of your goals
Look for relevant opportunities to grow or gather resources
Catch yourself when you veer off-course.
Use your experience to refine your goals
5. Consider an accountability partner
Verbalising and sharing a goal often makes it more ‘real’. Sharing your goals with someone trusted helps create a level of accountability because ‘someone knows’. You can leave it as psychological accountability, or you can formalize it by enlisting the other person to help keep you focused. Coaches make excellent accountability partners as they are objective, external and non-judgemental. Friends or family members who fit that profile can also make great accountability partners.
Life presents various distractions and opportunities. To know the difference between the two, you need to have a destination or goal. Without a goal what may seem like an opportunity may simply be a distraction that takes you somewhere you don’t want to be. Be deliberate about setting goals and working towards them.
Alice thought to herself, "I don't see how he can ever finish if he doesn't begin." But she waited patiently.