Careers are an integral part of each person's life. Not only does one's job dictate their finances, but workplace culture and hours also hold a great deal of power over one's schedule and stress levels, both on the job and at home. Continuing to climb the ranks in one's professional field is still a noble endeavor. However, learning to set the right goals for one's professional development is essential not just for finding a way to manage one's expectations and maintain a healthier mindset, but also to balance one's professional development with their equally important home life.
The Inherent Stresses of the Workplace
Stress is a normal, if unfortunate, part of life, and there is no way to wholly exclude oneself from stressful situations, environments, or thoughts.
However, the workplace is commonly the source of much of this stress, and it can become overwhelming with the myriad of expectations and the importance of maintaining employment and financial responsibility.
Toxic work environments, long hours of exhaustion, lofty expectations, and more can all take their toll on one's mental, and even physical, health. While one's job is closely tied with the rest of their life, there still must be boundaries between one's workplace and the time spent with one's family, friends, or personal endeavors. Creating boundaries informs one's professional goals, and viewing one's time as equally valued in both the personal and professional spheres is paramount to managing professional stress.
Knowing Your Desires
Setting goals starts with knowing what an individual wants to do with their time. Just as making professional strides in the workplace is celebrated, so is spending time with one's family. Reflecting on one's personal desires is important before setting goals for oneself, as it can help an individual focus their energy and expectations to appropriate places. Pursuing professional advancement is a great ambition, but it should not come at the cost of one's ambitions, and it is important that one's goals reflect not only one's desires for professional growth but also limit one's expectations to balance these ambitions with personal responsibilities and familial obligations.
The Importance of Both Short and Long-Term Goals
Setting goals for professional advancement comes in many tiers. Having ambitious long-term goals, such as wanting to advance to a higher managerial position, even working up to vice-president, president, or CEO levels of authority, are all major goals. Others may want to take their companies to new heights by expanding to more locations or extending to other avenues. However, these long-term goals need to be supported by short-term ones, guiding as stepping stones along the journey. Having smaller weekly goals or monthly targets can scaffold one's success and provide the necessary motivation to continue pursuing one's grander ambitions, all the while continuing to focus one's energy on pertinent areas.
Setting SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym set up specifically to guide the setting of effective goals, applicable to many different situations. Whether personal goals for oneself or goals for professional advancement, it is important to consider the five tenets of the acronym:
S - Specific: One's goals should be narrow enough in scope to allow for direct planning and focused progress. Having ambiguous goals, like “improving at work" can be entirely unhelpful when it comes to deciding on specific areas of growth, skills to hone, or relationships to foster. Rather, having specific goals allows for a clear starting point in one's advancement.
M - Measurable: Goals also need to have some kind of concrete data point in which to gauge one's success. Being able to objectively measure success, rather than speculate on how one may feel they are improving, can provide definitive feedback and continue to hone one's skills and plans.
A - Attainable: Goals should be within one's ability to accomplish. Not only does this mean that they can be feasibly attained through one's effort and resources, but also that these goals are possible within a definitive timeframe.
R - Relevant: Goals should align with one's overarching ambitions. Most pertinent for one's short-term goals, ensuring that these goals continue to reflect one's long-term desires and build on the skills needed to achieve one's long-term goals is important when creating effective goals.
T - Timed: Timed goals are goals that are set up to be accomplished within a reasonable timeframe. This means considering not just how long certain goals may take to accomplish and giving oneself enough time to reasonably reach these goals without sacrificing one's personal life or interests, but also set a time that is close enough to be attainable while also kindling motivation to continue to work without feeling the plight of complacency.
Celebrating the accomplishment of goals, no matter how small, is a much more important part of the process than many may realize. Motivation and encouragement are needed, especially as one crusades towards higher positions in their professional field. Keeping this positive mindset is necessary to cope with the building stresses of the workplace. Taking time to treat oneself to rewards or otherwise celebrate alongside friends and family is just as important as accomplishing the goal itself, helping to stave off stress and reinforce a healthy, balanced approach to one's professional ambitions and personal life.