By Pamela Kleibrink Thompson
Real accomplishment requires making goals and planning. There’s a cartoon picturing a guy standing on top of a high mountain and the caption reads “I was just wandering around aimlessly and found myself on top of Mount Everest.” This is funny because we know that something like that takes lots of hard work and you don’t reach the top of Mount Everest by wandering around aimlessly. Goals give you aim and direction.
A new year brings opportunity for a fresh start. Many people make New Year’s resolutions, but as soon as they fail to keep them, they give up. Setting specific goals instead of resolutions will help you stay focused throughout the year. Why is making goals important? I’ll confess, last year I didn’t write down my goals. I felt disorganized, unfocused, and a little irritated at myself. I didn’t accomplish much, although I always seemed to be busy.
A salesman I know sets goals every year for how much he was going to make and every year he made his goal. One year he decided since he always made his goal, there wasn’t much point in writing his goal down, so he didn’t. The year when he didn’t write down his goal was the worst year that salesman ever had. Goals give you motivation.
Here’s how goal setting can work for you:
Put your goals in writing. Goals should be specific. Example: I want to work in television. (Too vague.) I want to be a designer on The Simpsons. (Specific.)
Make a plan on how to accomplish your goal. To accomplish any goal, you must know what you want to do and how you are going to do it. If your goal is to lose 10 pounds by July, what are you going to do to accomplish that? Are you going to sign up at a gym, get a personal trainer, take some exercise classes, walk for an hour every day, drink less soda, skip desserts?
Break down a big project into smaller steps. For example, if you wanted to make an animated short film, your steps might be write a script, decide what media works best for the story, design the characters, find some people to help with animation, etc.
Focus your efforts to reach your goals by making a daily to do list and rank the items in terms of what’s most important: A, B, or C. Do the A items and forget about the Bs and Cs. Are the things in your A list, which you are getting done, helping you toward one of your goals?
Post your goals where you can see them every day. Review your goals at least once a week to make sure you stay on track and to keep your priorities current. What’s important to you in January might not be important in February or March. If you accomplish a goal in February, check it off—it’ll inspire you and show your progress.
Get the tools or help you need to accomplish your goal. To build your portfolio, get the art supplies you need. To organize your studio or office, get the equipment you need. To begin a business, get the professional advice and funding you need.
Don’t set an unrealistic deadline for success. Keep the long-term view and don’t compare yourself to others. Perhaps you and a friend have both decided to build a personal Web site and he has already reached his goal and you have done nothing but answer email and play videogames on your computer. Don’t despair! Ask your friend how he accomplished the goal and determine if there is anything he did that you could implement in your plan that will help you towards the goal. But don’t give up on your goal if it’s important to you.
Don’t let setbacks set you back. Focus on success and don’t obsess about mistakes. If you have set a goal of reading one book a month and May rolls around and you have only read this column, don’t beat yourself up about missing your goal—just start reading books in May.
Use the power of your imagination in a positive way to visualize yourself successfully reaching your goals. Avoid constructing negative what-if scenarios that may not happen.
Keep at it. You learned to walk by being persistent, getting up every time you fell down and trying to walk again. Recapture the persistence you had as a toddler.
Don’t get distracted. Remember Aesop’s story of the race between the tortoise and the hare? The hare raced ahead, taunting the tortoise and, thinking he had the best of him, stopped before crossing the finish line (not meeting the goal) and was distracted (took a nap). The tortoise, keeping the goal in mind (finishing the race), kept plodding along in small steps until he reached the finish line. Be like the tortoise; just keep going toward your goal no matter what. Consistent follow-through will lead to success.
Be creative with how you can meet your goals. Sometimes you’ll be able to accomplish several goals at once and sometimes you’ll have to make a hard choice. Let’s say your goals are to spend more time with your family, do life drawing and attend three industry-related networking meetings a month. In the case of spending time with your child and life drawing, you might go to the zoo and work on two of your goals at once while you teach your child how to draw the animals. And you can do life drawing at the networking meetings too.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get motivated and write up my goals for 2010.
Pamela Kleibrink Thompson’s goals for 2010 include marketing herself to acquire more recruiting clients, career coaching clients and speaking engagements. She is presenting her Career Strategies Workshop at Savannah College of Art and Design on February 11 and 12. You can reach her at PamRecruit@q.com.
Copyright ©2010 Pamela Kleibrink Thompson