Updated: Apr 10, 2020
In January, setting goals for the next year or, in the case of 2020, the next decade, is top of mind. Inevitably, however, 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February. How do you make your goals for the coming year stick?
The secret is to set your vision first, rather than focusing immediately on your goals.
Vision is the image you see for your future, whereas goals are specific targets or sets of tactics that move you towards your vision. While goals help you to stay focused and on track, your vision is your Northstar. Having a vision of your future will inspire you to stick with your goals and will fuel your perseverance. Research demonstrates that having a vision helps women stay motivated at work. A defined vision ensures the outcomes we pursue are intentional.
Here are ways to start developing a clear vision -- that big-picture future self.
Reflection for Your Big Picture Future Self
It’s hard to think about long term professional dreams in the abstract. It’s difficult to know where to begin. With competing demands, women often put their career dreams on the back burner. That’s why it’s not until midlife that we wake up wanting more from their work lives -- more meaning, more fulfillment, more challenge. One of the first steps to distill a career vision is to think about the components that will drive you in your next chapter.
Start by asking yourself these questions:
Draft a list of the values that shape you now and narrow down the shortlist to five that speak to you.
Think about your past interests - what activities do you love? Which ones come naturally to you?
What did you love to do as a child?
What current interests or activities do you lose yourself in -- whether for work or in other parts of your life?
What “superpower” do people in your life look to you for help or advice?
What’s the most fulfilling professional role (paid or unpaid) you had and why?
What are the elements in your life you need to “work” in order to fulfill this dream? Think about work/life integration.
What does success look like for you now?
What women inspire you with their careers? Why?
What is a problem that needs solving to which you can uniquely contribute?
What is the impact you want to have in the next five years?
Write it down
Write down your responses to the questions below to start crafting your career vision. Circle the responses that signal “expansion” -- that make you feel like you’re stretching yourself or getting out of your comfort zone. In addition, circle patterns, trends or areas that have remained constant for you. Craft four sentences about how you see your life in five years: what are you doing, why you are doing it and what impact you are having in the world.
Career visions cement our desires and enhance our well-being. Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) makes it more likely to stick. Writing a letter to your future self is a method that can help you paint a picture of the life you want and increase your odds of achieving it. Research demonstrates the power of writing for career success: You become 42% more likely to achieve your dreams and goals simply by writing them down on a regular basis.
Share your priorities with someone
Connecting with others who support your vision is key to this process. The more you share your vision with others, the greater points of connection you build for people to help you advance. Contemplating your achievements and goals is common in the workplace. But what if you’re transitioning from a career break or wanting to change industries and you’re left to figure it out on your own?
Research demonstrates that women who plan together have higher aspirations. We know that women who support women are more successful in their work and are happier too. Why try to sort it all our in isolation? Join Evolve in 2020 and start the year with a group of women already in your corner. Check out our website for opportunities to connect with other others interested in professional transition and make a commitment to yourself for 2020!
Mid-love in midlife
Thinking about midlife can be sobering but also energizing. Brene Brown captures both sides of the coin beautifully here in The Midlife Unraveling. How will you be brave in 2020?