Hate Setting Career Goals? Try This Instead.

I know what you’ve been told. I’ve been told that too. We all have. It used to keep me up at night. I need to set goals to accomplish something or anything. I need to lay down my five-year plan in order to succeed. I need to hustle. No pain no effing gain, Pardon my French!

Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against goal setting. I am a big ‘goal digger’ myself. But the thing is, there came a time when I realized that my approach to goal setting has been terribly misguided. It was driven by "shoulds" rather than musts—leaving me feeling drained, confused, unaccomplished and sometimes lagging behind on an imaginary race to a destination that I wasn't even sure I wanted to reach.

How many times have you crossed a finish line or accomplished a goal only to realize that attaining it didn’t bring you the satisfaction that you thought it would?

Well, I sure have many times.

Thoughts like: “Well, now what?” or “Is that it?” or “If I wanted this so much, then why am I feeling so meh?” have crossed my mind several times before.

That’s when I realized that while setting, specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely goals is a useful and important practice (to an extent), what’s even more critical is our core motivation for setting a particular goal. In other words, why are you pursuing this goal? And how will attaining it make us feel?

Now my list of career goals looks more like a list of mantras, intentions or statements of direction:

Find what feels good
Create from a place of joy
Seek and share inspiration
Build meaningful connections
Cultivate creative confidence
Never stop learning
Be extraordinary

So how is this different?

At first glance, this list might seem like the sort of list a hipster with an "ohm" tattoo on their left wrist would write, which might be true. No judgment if you want one. But there's more to this approach than that. 

Adopting this approach shifts our focus away from the end result to the process itself, thereby enabling us to immerse ourselves in the “here and now.” It also takes into account that our views, interests and desires might change along the way.

Rather than limiting ourselves to attaining a specific arbitrary target, we allow ourselves to imagine and encounter all the different forms that our goals can take—guiding us on an ever-evolving journey of self-development.

My new list of goals is actionable, motivational and propelling. It reflects my core values, captures how I want to feel and guides my decisions. I use it as a compass or a roadmap for moving forward.

Since I embraced this approach, I realized that I’ve become less passive and robotic and more intentional about getting things done. It also helped me focus on my own journey and my own definition of success. It showed me that I don’t have to reach a certain milestone or attain a certain status or read x number of books to feel good about myself.

Over to you now…

What do YOU think?

I’d love to hear your views, and what works/doesn’t work for you. Tell me in the comments section below!