If You Want Success In 2020…


When new year’s eve rolls around this year – and right now it’s so far off it’s likely not even remotely on your mind – you’ll be looking back at 2020 with either general regret or satisfaction. The difference between the two perspectives will come down to the decisions you made in this year; those decisions good and beneficial or poor and harmful to yourself.

So what’s going to guide you in your decision-making so that you make more good decisions than bad? Too many people base their decisions on what seems right at the time. What they want in the moment that would seem best. String together all these little decisions that felt right at the time and you end up having made all your decisions with very little thought to any long-term goal. As a result, the benefits to yourself are short-lived. For example, when you crave something that will satisfy your sweet tooth, you can eat a chocolate bar and enjoy it. However, when pull to eat it is gone, you may be left feeling guilty and disappointed in yourself because you were trying to avoid eating treats. What you decided on in the moment to feel good proved to be a poor decision and counter productive.

So how can you make better decisions this year; decisions which in the end you’ll feel really good about having made in 2020? The answer is to first establish what you’d like to achieve for yourself and second ensure that reaching that goal will bring you a measure of happiness and satisfaction. When you reach your goal, you will feel successful; that you’ve brought about this success by making good decisions which continuously moved you forward to the point you stand now – having reached that goal.

Now be careful and give yourself the best chance at success. If you say your goal is to have a job or lose weight, it likely won’t happen that you achieve your sense of fulfillment. Why? Well, those two goals – as positive as they sound – are too vague. What kind of job is going to make you feel you’ve achieved success? How many pounds would you like to lose to feel you’ve achieved success? A quantitative number is required to put some specific objective in your goal. When you say your goal is to lose 25 pounds or to have a full-time job and name the one you’re after, you increase you’re chances of success having something specific to work towards.

Now write it down and store it somewhere where you will notice it frequently as a constant reminder of your long-term objective. That’s great, but alone this isn’t enough. If this is all you do, you’ll feel guilt and poor self-esteem every time you see it as all it will be is a reminder of how you’re failing to move forward. This is why in January and February you might notice people stick up goals to lose weight on the fridge and pantries, but those signs / pictures come down in March because they’ve come to resent seeing these every time they reached for something they wanted to eat.

With a specific goal in mind though, you’re on the right path. Your next move is to make another good decision, and by good, I mean to make a decision that is in line with your long-term goal. It’s time to break down your long term goal into manageable things you can do – call them smaller goals if you will, or steps. For example, if losing 25 pounds is your year goal, maybe you decide to avoid buying treats when you’re out shopping. After all, if they aren’t in the house when you feel tempted, you can’t eat what you don’t have. So make a shopping list and stick to it, avoiding the candy or snack aisle intentionally to avoid temptation. Do it once and you feel good – a small victory. Do it a second and third time, you feel you’re making progress – and you are as you set a new pattern of behaviour.

And your goal to find full-time work? Get in a new routine. Dedicate a block of time – say a couple of hours a day – and do it in a dedicated space where you’ll be productive. Job searching from your lazy boy or the couch if you’d rather watch television is not setting yourself up for success. Maybe you head to the local library or an employment centre for two hours a day, three days a week. Maybe you just sit at the kitchen table. And perhaps you decide to actually do what you’ve only pondered for the last two years, actually reach out and speak to a professional; one in the job search business.

Plans are good at helping you stay on track so you move continuously towards your goal. Plans however require one other thing – actions. The best plans don’t mean a thing if they aren’t executed and put into action. And actions alone aren’t good if there’s no plan – that’s just a lot of energy and confusion.

So if you want to be successful and look back at 2020 with satisfaction, set yourself a realistic, attainable goal and make it specific. Develop a plan of action and set smaller goals which will all move you forward. You’ll feel good as you make small decisions and a series of small but good decisions sets you up for success.

What Do You Want?


What do you want to experience in your life that you currently aren’t? More money? Power? Flexibility? Job satisfaction? A stronger intimate relationship with someone? Knowing what you want can help you realize it. Not knowing what you want can seed frustration, anger, regret and confusion.

So let’s say you’ve identified that you want more income. Having decided on more income you can then move on to looking at your options; taking on a secondary job, applying for better paying jobs, investing your funds to grow them faster etc. The choices are yours to make but they all have one thing in common as they all seek to increase your overall wealth.

When it comes to relationships and wanting a deeper, more fulfilling one, you can opt to put yourself in more situations where you’ll meet more people, you can risk telling someone how you feel, or you can send out the word that you’re on the market and / or join some dating sites. Already in a relationship? You can invest more of your conscious energy in making that relationship stronger.

Now as for your career, again I ask, “What do you want?” Some people are very happy in their life just moving from job to job, doing different things, gaining a wealth of experiences, and of course being paid to do those jobs. For others, this idea of floating along and not having some overall master plan is not satisfying at all. No, some people are happier identifying what it is they want early and then taking the courses and gaining the experiences that will ultimately put them in a position to take advantage of things and realize their long-term goals.

You know I’m guessing the people in your workplace that everyone can easily identify as the go-getters. They volunteer for committees, they move with the right people, they climb the corporate ladder with speed and purpose. It’s like they’ve got a career path all laid out and are acting the plan. Well good for them you say to yourself; and you either mean it sincerely or you say it wishing it was you on that path instead of them.

Of course what we want career-wise has a lot to do with the factors we experience. If we are in our late 50’s vs. our early 30’s, we might not want to invest much time and energy aspiring to reach the top if we’re not close to it. After all, it might be we just want to play out the string, get paid for our work and then retire early enough to enjoy life without having the stress of putting in the extra hours required to impress the higher-ups and get that plum job which we might have under different circumstances reached out for.

Where we live can play a big factor too. Maybe we’re just not into a long commute, we don’t want to arrive early and work late; we’re content with how things are and to make a big corporate leap would mean moving from our cozy urban dwelling into the heat of the city; all dusty, busy and noisy. No thanks.

What do you want? It keeps coming back to these four words. What you want is very personal; there’s no right or wrong answer, but there is a personal answer. It requires some thought doesn’t it? I mean, what do YOU want?

Some people think that just wanting something is akin to dreaming. Write it down they say and it’s a goal. Plan to make it happen by developing some written steps that have some kind of timeframes attached and you’ve got a workable map that will lead you to the goal you’ve described. But there are a lot of people who have their goal in mind and they still make it happen without the benefit of writing it down and mapping out the steps.

Then of course there are those who have no goal in mind other than seeing how life unfolds. If opportunities arise with respect to their career, they’ll think about them at the time rather than plan now to stand at that crossroads. To be honest, in some fields there are new jobs that didn’t exist even a short time ago, so how could anyone have planned to make the move to the jobs that didn’t exist? So there are many people who are content to find something they enjoy doing and just plan to continue doing it until they no longer enjoy it; then and only then do they look around and say, “Okay so what are my options?”

When you’re in school, good advice is to keep all your doors open down the road by getting all the education you can; the degree over the diploma so to speak. It can open more doors down the road; doors you don’t even know exist. But what about post school? What actions can you take to keep your doors open?

Take advantage of learning opportunities your employer presents. Network positively and often. If you get the chance, take the lead at work on some project so you both learn and stretch a little while getting known to those you don’t normally interact with. Keep looking every so often at other job postings just so see what’s trending. Could be a perfect job comes up and you find your next move.

What do you want?

January 20: Recommitting To That Resolution


Well 2016 is well under way and by now all the New Year’s party hats and noisemakers have been thrown out or neatly tucked away somewhere to be pulled out in 11 ½ months’ time. And with those celebratory items gone, the question I’ve got is, “So how are you making out with that resolution you made for the New Year?”

Okay for you who are still reading (because some who have broken their resolutions already after 20 days don’t like to be reminded and have clicked close on this piece), let’s revisit both your goal and what’s caused you to go astray.

Now your goal is a personal one, and while I don’t know what it was (or still is), there is one thing I’m fairly certain of, and that is that it was (and likely still is) important enough that you want to realize something you don’t currently have. Now this could be a healthier lifestyle, a loss of weight, a new job or personal relationship, learning how to use technology better, being a more generous or forgiving person, or any number of other possibilities.

By their nature, resolutions are generally statements of what we intend to do with a clean slate. When they were made on the very edge of 2015, 2016 was shiny and new, unsoiled; a pristine 365 days of new sunrises and endless possibilities. The prospect of kissing 2015 goodbye and with it all your problems, bad habits, gluttonous or sedentary lifestyle or stressors is something we can all embrace; our once-a-year shared opportunity to re-invent ourselves for the better.

So why if we want to bring about such change do we generally fail so quickly and then feel so bad about it? Is our willpower and commitment so tenuous that after only a scant 20 days into the year we’ve given up? Do we put so much pressure on ourselves that as soon as we slide back even once, we chuck the whole resolution thing into the waste bin?  Sometimes when we fail or feel ourselves failing, it’s a good idea to remind ourselves why we wanted to make that resolution in the first place. And make no mistake; even if you didn’t make a formal declaration or resolution as the clock wound down in 2015, it’s likely you thought about changing something or gaining something in 2016 even if you kept those thoughts private.

Remind yourself first of all that habits – good or bad – are called habits for a reason. Habits are the things we usually do in certain situations. Habits by nature are hard things to change, and just because we revert to our old habits from time to time, if we want to change them it make take time and a renewed commitment. Small things are habitually easy to change than big ones too. So if the habit you want to change is getting away from eating potato chips every night while watching television, you may more likely to succeed if you resolve to eat celery sticks and cherry tomatoes twice a week instead of trying to commit to a complete ban on chips altogether if that’s been your habit. The first night you find yourself depressed for a lack of willpower as you put the chips in your mouth shouldn’t lead to chucking the whole, ‘eat healthier’ plan in other words. Only then have you truly lost.

One danger you can have is a very broad goal with no defined plan to bring about the result you want. So a resolution that went, “I want a job in 2016” might not pan out because your psyche can always justify inaction by whispering, “you’ve got 345 more days to make it happen. Why rush things?” You can almost hear the hiss of temptation to revert to doing nothing to bring about change in the words.

Yes, you’re far more likely to get a job if you do a few things to build momentum by breaking down that broad goal of finding employment into smaller pieces. Maybe it goes, “By the end of January I’m going to determine exactly what job I’m after by doing some research. Based on this, by mid-February I plan on having a resume completed that is targeted to a specific opening for a job I want and by the end of February I plan on having attended two community workshops on interview skills. Knowing that March is the prime hiring period for the entire year, that’s when I kick the job search into full gear and apply, apply, apply!

I could launch into SMART goals here (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound) but I’ll just mention them without the details. Lots of articles exist on the subject so look them up if you want more details.

If you’ve stumbled already or given up even, give yourself a break; you’re human and you’re allowed to. However, if you really would like to be successful; if that resolution you made isn’t flippant but had and still carries importance to you, there’s still time to make it happen. You may have several false starts, and with each one you inch closer to bringing about the necessary change to realize your goal. Pick yourself up, dust your ego off, smile, and get going. No better day to get going than today; unless of course you don’t get going today. Then tomorrow will do nicely.

 

Plan Backwards; Move Forward


So there I was in front of 16 unemployed people yesterday. I was wrapping up a 7 day Career Exploration workshop I was co-facilitating with a colleague, and we were down to coming up with a plan to move from their unemployed status to reaching their individual career or job goals.

Having identified barriers to success, I was at the point where we were collectively discussing the steps necessary to eliminate the barriers. After all, eliminate your barriers and then you’re closing the gap between wherever you are at present and where you ultimately want to be.

One of the barriers someone self-identified was the lack of grade 12 education; which in 2015 is pretty much the bottom of the barrel from most employer’s points of view. Without it, your relegated to entry-level minimum wage jobs much of the time and the prospects for advancement reduced.

So I asked the group if we took the lack of grade 12 as a barrier we wanted to overcome, what would be the first step to eliminate that barrier. Their answer was a unanimous, “Go to school and get your grade 12.” Not entirely unexpected but the wrong answer. You see this answer is just like telling an unemployed person that the steps to resolve their dilemma is, “Just get a job.”

The problem you see is that if you write down, “go to school and get my diploma” as the step to resolve your lack of grade 12 and then turn your attention to your other barriers, when you DO want to put that plan into action, you’re no closer to knowing HOW to go about getting your grade 12! After all, you don’t really just go over to the school and ask for your diploma and then get it. We know all that.

And this is where so many get stuck by traditionally planning forward. It seems to make sense to plan forward, and that’s why so many plan this way and so many fail miserably. The logic says, “Here I am, I want to get my diploma, what’s the first step? But no matter whether you are wanting to address the lack of grade 12, a poor resume, literacy, criminal record, a lack of proper interview clothing or even figuring out what your career goal is, forward planning will often get you stuck, not knowing the steps you need to take.

Look at things using backward planning however. So the first thing I asked the group was to imagine themselves being handed their grade 12 certificate, and I wrote that on the board. I wrote all their replies on the board from under the goal achievement. Here’s what the question and answer exchange looked like:

“What happened just before you got the certificate?”

“I passed all the necessary courses.”

“And before that?”

“I was in the classes.”

“And before that?”

“I signed up for the classes by registering.”

“And before that?”

“You have to attend an orientation over at the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to find out when the orientation sessions are by calling them or going to the school.”

“And before that?”

“You have to decide you want your grade 12 bad enough to go back and get it.”

And that last statement brought us back to where we were sitting together in the room – to that moment; their present.  With all those 7 steps laid out on the board as they said them out loud, they could quickly see that from where they were the first step was to decide they wanted their grade 12 and wanted to do something about it. They could see all 7 steps required, with the 7th step being handed the diploma.

The next thing we did was put some timeframes beside each step. “How much time is required to decide you want your grade 12?”, I asked. “Already done” someone said. And the group assigned a timeframe of a day to call the school and find out when the orientation sessions were all the way up to six months to actually attend the classes. It turns out they figured 7 months from step 1 to step 7 was required for one person to achieve their goal.

By utilizing the backward planning concept, the group became aware that what they had in the end was a workable plan that was realistic, had definite timeframes and they could see that by following the steps they’d eliminate their barrier. Now I have to tell you that I presented them with a list of potentially 20 barriers. Most people in the room had several barriers and each one requires its own backward planning process to identify the steps needed to eliminate it.

Here’s the beautiful thing that’s going to sound attractive to YOU. While eliminating a barrier sounds great, taking 7 months to do it might seem a long time. But if you break the barrier into smaller steps like I suggest, your self-esteem will rise with each small step you take. So even when you just call the school to determine the next orientation date, you can check off step 1 and say, “I am one small step closer to my goal.” The longer steps work the same as you remind yourself, each step is part of your bigger plan.

When you work out your plan, get someone to look it over and confirm you’ve got all the steps covered. Like anything new, it takes a little time to get the hang of it!

What Do You Want?


I’m sorry if like me just this second, the refrain, “Tell me what you want, what you really, really want”, is playing in your head. Sorrier still if it wasn’t but it is now. Ah such is life. Thank you Spice Girls I suppose.

But seriously, what do you want? What is it in life right now – today, that you really want? What if there were no limits on what you could ask for and no one would ridicule you for your choice or tell you to get serious. Here’s a sequence of questions to ask yourself:

What do I want?
How bad do I want it?
Am I prepared to make it a priority?
What do I have to do to make it happen?
What barriers to what I want are in front of me?
What steps do I need to take to eliminate those barriers?

So what is it you want? A car? Boat? Home? A life-long partner? Kids? A career? A trip somewhere? Usually what we want is dependent upon what we currently have in life. So if for example you have a good job, you usually don’t want a job because you already have one. If you want a better job, it’s because you currently don’t have one that brings you fulfillment and happiness or the income you want.

The same is true of the material possessions we have. If you want a car, it’s a safe bet it’s because you don’t have one at present and know that it would give you independence, or your current vehicle needs replacing. We want what we don’t have much of the time.

Now of course it is possible to want more of what we already have. We could really enjoy our vacations as well as value our home and job but want more of the times we get back to nature. We could want more time with our children. However, wanting more of something still breaks down to, we don’t currently have it, and so again, we usually want something that we don’t currently have.

Now thinking about what it is you want, is part of the reason you don’t currently have it a lack of money? Money is needed for the purchase of the car, the home, the extended vacation, certainly makes raising a large family easier etc. Is money therefore not necessarily a bad thing to want in and of itself? You might feel that wanted money is bad in some way, but maybe it’s no so much wanting money, but wanting what money can buy and be exchanged for.

So if we see money as a goal, the question becomes how to get more of it and then exchange it for the thing we really want. If we want that one thing bad enough, we will save for it, avoid spending money on other things that make acquiring our one goal further out of reach, and we become focused. One thing we can do to help in this focus is to identify the potential barriers to our goal.

Barriers are the things which we anticipate will delay us or stop us from achieving our goal. If we want to work but don’t have a good resume and don’t know how to go about applying for a job on-line, we can either get a resume and learn how to apply on-line, (thus removing the barrier), or we can throw up our hands, give up and stop. The interesting thing about barriers that we have to realize and accept that barriers are not universal except in extremely limited circumstances. You may not know how to apply on-line, but many other people who once didn’t know learned how. You can too.

So you’ve got this goal. Identify what is preventing you from reaching your goal. Now sit down either alone or with someone who you respect and trust and open up to them. Together, brainstorm all the possible options for overcoming your barriers one at a time. Each time you move forward, your self-esteem is going to get a boost, and as you mark your progress, you’ll be building momentum. Momentum gives you the drive to tackle the more significant barriers.

And now the question of it being a priority. Ever heard someone say, “I need a job.”? I bet you may then see that same person immediately engage in something that doesn’t fit with that statement, such as siting down and playing a video game, writing a daily journal about their feelings, or watching television. What they want and what they are doing are not in sync, and there is a disconnect.

The things we want in life rarely come easily or immediately. You might say, “I want some ice cream” and go to the fridge and get one just to prove me wrong, but I’d reply you just proved my point. You wanted something, made a decision to get it, then put your idea into action and now have it. This process is identical to the more meaningful things in life we want.

One of the saddest things is not so much not attaining our goals, but lacking meaningful goals in the first place that we want bad enough that prompt us to sustained action.

What do YOU want? Make it happen!

S.M.A.R.T. Goals And How They Make A DIfference


Have you some goal(s) in life that just never really seem to turn into anything concrete? Maybe you’ve been telling yourself and anyone else who asks about some job or career that you’re going to have one day, but that’s been going on for 10, 15, 20 years. Are you any closer to actually making it happen?

If the answer to that question is no, or the progress you’ve made is exceptionally small, it could be that you could benefit from learning about or reacquainting yourself with the concept of S.M.A.R.T. goals. Each letter in the word represents another as in:

S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Achievable
R = Realistic
T = Time-bound

So for starters, your goal needs to be specific instead of general. A statement like, “I’d like a job that makes a lot of money”, is an example of something vague. How much money is a lot? And there are so many jobs that bring in a lot of money but not all those jobs are something you might enjoy or be qualified to do at this time.

A statement like, “I’d like a job that brings in $80,000.00 per year”, is specific on income but weak on the kind of job. When you have vague or poorly worded goals, there is a better than average chance that the goals just aren’t going to happen. I once knew a client who told me his goal was to be a dentist. A full ten years later, he hadn’t taken any forward progress toward that goal and yet, he still claimed that as his long-term ambition.

Not only does a goal need to be specific, but it does need to be measurable. Measurable ensures you know when you’ve reached it! So that first goal of having a lot of money wouldn’t qualify unless you define what a lot of money is. To you a lot of money might mean something very different from the person sitting beside you.

Achievable has to do with the ability to go from where you are to where you need to be. Do you have the skills required to make your goal become a reality? Is it true that you can do anything you want? Some things are more achievable and others just not possible. Without bringing about a massive shift in your experience, education and skill set, it probably won’t happen.

Realistic? As supportive as I am, and as positive as I am, there are times I just shake my head and say to myself that what someone is telling me as a goal is never going to come about. It’s entirely unrealistic. So a woman in her late 40’s with a poor education, no teeth, poor health, who likes to sing karaoke and thinks she’s going to be a famous pop singer one day and has no connections period is dreaming.

All goals should be time-bound. “One day I’m gonna have a million dollars”. While the number is specific, there’s no time-line. Again, it’s probable that the goal won’t happen, and the person will twist things much later in life and say all they meant was that over their lifetime, one day they’d have accumulated a million dollars if you added up all their salary. That may be true, but it perverted the original goal.

Here’s a statement that might better stand a possibility of happening:

“My goal is to be a primary teacher with the local school board in the next 4 years”. This statement meets the criteria if the statement is made by someone who has or is pursuing their Bachelor of Education. While it varies from place to place world-wide, a University degree may be 3 years, and a Bachelor of Education an extra year. After that, it is possible to get a teaching assignment.

So the above statement is Specific (primary teacher), Measurable (when you get your B. of Ed.), Achievable (based on your attitude and marks), Realistic (many people aspire to this and graduate), Timebound (4 years).

In addition to this goal, it’s a good idea to work backwards. So just before you were a teacher with your Bachelor of Education degree, where did you graduate from? Now how long did you go to school there? How did you pay for that? Did you have to go to University to get your Bachelor Degree? Where did you go, and for how long? How did you pay for that education? Where did you get those loans from? How did you apply for those loans? Where did you get the loan and school application forms? Where did you meet the Counsellor who gave you the application forms?

This backward planning should take you right back to where you are standing today. Now you begin the move forward, in this case by meeting with the Counsellor and getting the loan and school registration application forms. If you plot things and write the steps down, it’s so much easier to check off your progress and gain momentum when you see yourself inching toward your goals.

This process can be the same for job hunting, planning a Turkey dinner, a Christmas vacation, or on a smaller scale, a homework assignment.

Try it out and see if you don’t see a change.