New Year New Goals: How to Approach Setting Professional Goals Positively
New year, new me – we often get caught up in this message from a personal point of view but what about professional? The new year often serves as a natural time for reflection at work for several reasons – the end of the calendar year generally invites us to reflect on the past year and what’s ahead, there may be annual performance reviews, organizations may announce new objectives for the coming 12 months. Also, December can be a good opportunity to take some time off over the festive periods, allowing us time to rest and recharge before returning to work with a renewed focus and motivation.
Setting professional goals for the year ahead is important and it is essential these are approached in a healthy way, or we run the risk of overloading ourselves with unrealistic expectations or perhaps comparing ourselves to others.
So how can we approach setting professional goals positively?
8 steps to positive goal setting:
- Values first – Do you know what your values are? Values are what bring us meaning in life, and goals can be far more satisfying if they are aligned with our values. Take the time to reflect not only on your organization’s values but also your individual professional values.
- Make them SMART – This means Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound. This helps us manage expectations and set deadlines to motivate us.
- Break them down – Once you have a SMART goal, break it down into smaller more manageable steps, to help reduce overwhelm and increase sense of control. Once you have a step-by-step plan for your goal, schedule it! Plan when each stage could ideally be completed by, make appointments with yourself if necessary.
- Visualize success – Have you ever noticed Olympic athletes stand for a moment with their eyes closed before they do their thing?? They are visualizing themselves succeeding at what they are about to do, and research shows this can be effective, as visualizing something activates the same bits of the brain as actually seeing/doing it. Try it out sometime and see how you feel?
- Lean in – The journey of working on your goals will likely be filled with ups and downs and often the downs can be perceived as “failure” and impact our motivation. We can learn to ‘lean in’ to the challenges and consider them a learning and growth opportunity. No one is perfect right!
- Seek support – Feedback from others whilst you work on your professional goals can be invaluable, as well as enlisting practical help for various steps where needed.
- Celebrate progress – This is an important one, and one we tend to forget to do! Celebrating progress along the way is key to help retain motivation and drive.
- Evaluate – Evaluate each step, and if the step or goal hasn’t been met by the intended deadline, how come? What did you learn, what can be done differently and so on. Be mindful of the way in which you talk to yourself whilst reflecting – catch any critical and judgy narratives – think “lean in!”
As you can see, setting meaningful objectives isn’t merely a ritual tied to the calendar but a deliberate act of self-investment and growth. The journey will likely be a dynamic one, with ups and downs but if we focus on our values and lean in to challenges, we pave the way for a year of healthy development, learning and achievement.
So, what are your professional goals for 2024?
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Written by: Dr Gurveen Ranger