How to set professional goals – and actually reach them

In a documented Harvard study, researchers found that only 13% of the graduates from the 1979 MBA Program had clear goals, and an extra 3% had the goals written down. 10 years later, the 13% group were earning twice as much as those who had no goals, and the 3% that had the goals written down, were earning 10 times as much as the other 97%.

G – O – A – L – S (Don’t run away just yet!)

As many others, you may fear this word, and the reason why is because you may be afraid to fail to accomplish it, because you are intimidated by thinking that your goal is far too daunting, or maybe because you are just happy with your status-quo or simply not motivated.

One day someone ask you about your professional goals and you have no idea what to answer. You get back home and want to draft your goals. When you are about to start thinking, you believe that the best idea is to write it down in that notebook that you got as a present 5 years ago and would very likely be in the bottom drawer of the cabinet. On your mission to find it you come across 20 other things and finally it’s time for lunch – game over! (don’t worry, we all procrastinate).

Here is how to set your professional goals and actually achieve them (at some point in the future):

  1. Start with your Ultimate Goal: Let yourself dream. Envision your future; where do you want to be? How will you be earning your money? What kind of company will you work for? What new skills will you have learned?
  2. Figure out what will it take to you to get there: Any special skills or experience? any training or certification? Anything else?
  3. Review your most recent performance review: If you are not sure about what can you start improving, look back at your last review and check the topics that you were told to work on. If you have not had a review yet, ask your current boss or preferred person in your career environment, “if I could improve one thing in the next year, what would you say it should be?”
  4. Set SMART goals: You are probably still quite confused at this point. Your ultimate goal looks so far away… It’s normal; you now need to break-down your ultimate goal in smaller pieces that can be achieved in the short/mid term. You need to build-up the path that will bring you to the next level, and all those milestones must be:
    • Specific: What you want to accomplish, why, who is involved and where.
    • Measurable: You need to be able to track your progress.
    • Achievable: It needs to be realistic in order for you to succeed.
    • Relevant: It needs to matter to you and to your long-term plans.
    • Timely: Every goal needs a deadline to keep you accountable.
  5. Create a strategy: Break down the SMART goals into even smaller ones. For example: if your goal is to become a safari photographer, you may first want to start by buying yourself a camera (and researching which one to buy), doing a course on distance photography and getting proficient at handling snakes and driving off-road vehicles.
  6. Find time to pursue your goal: Allocate time in your day/week towards your goal.
  7. Regularly check-in with yourself: Make a regular appointment to track your progress. How are you feeling? Were you able to reach your SMART goal? Why not? What have you learned from it? How can you make it happen? How did it feel when your reached it?

Remember that goal setting is not only aiming the ultimate success (that will come in many years!) but enjoying and achieving every small goal that will bring you there. In addition, you need to understand that as you grow, learn and experience things, your mindset will also evolve and change, and that is the beauty of it!

Enjoy, and take care,


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