You have a vision of your dream life but don’t know how to get there? Time keeps going by and you wonder why you are making so little progress compared to the potential you know is inside of you? You even start wondering whether it’s worth it to keep going?
We all have been there, it’s not easy to build a career – whether you are already doing it full-time or on the side of your current 9-5. It takes a lot of skills and experience to establish yourself in your industry and it’s hard to know where to start or what to focus on. You easily end up working until the middle of the night every day trying to learn and do everything but still see little results in your personal or financial growth because you might not be focusing on what is actually important or are simply not working at your highest level.
In order to continuously push yourself to the next level and really move your dream career forward successfully, you need to put three goals into place. You need a vision of your long-term goal (up to a few years ahead), clear mid-term goals that you put in place one at a time as you move forward (with a few weeks to months ahead of you) and your short-term goals (your daily to-do list). The key point is how to set up those goals and how to connect them to each other strategically in order to create purpose, momentum and commitment.
Your long-term goal
This is something we are all familiar with. This is your wild dream goal, your big vision. So let’s go a little crazy here. If you are a musician this might be to make good money touring around the world with Jack Johnson while doing charity projects on the side with Bono. Never forget, however, the dream goal has to be a lifestyle you envision to love and not something to impress others with. Do you have your dream goal in mind and are you excited about it? Good.
Your mid-term goals (the key that makes all the difference)
Now imagine there is a staircase from your current reality to your dream. What would be the major steps up that staircase? There might be 5 or 10 big steps that you can already think of at this early point. For an actor this could be getting auditions, moving from supporting roles to leading roles or from short film projects to feature film projects. For a writer who wants to publish a book this might be starting a blog, having articles published in certain magazines and creating an eBook. These steps might be vague right now and are only a small part of the real journey but they will evolve and become more defined as you move forward.
How to set your mid-term goals
Your mid-term goals need to be challenging and to some degree even scary, yet achievable. Your next goal is something that you are not quite ready for yet but will be shortly if you just stretch a little more. It is important to only set one goal at a time and to put all your strength and focus into that goal.
These are the 5 steps to define your first (next) mid-term goal.
Let’s take the musician who is starting out as an example.
1. Do a reality check: What is your current situation? What have you done already?
If you have just started then perhaps you have already written and even recorded a few songs.
2. Check your options for a next bigger step: What are the options for the next bigger step? Perhaps you have never played in front of a crowd because you always felt that you are just not ready yet. Your mid-term goal will assure that you get ready. So let’s look at options of where you could be playing in front of a crowd for the first time, from little clubs to bars where they might let you play some songs for free. Start with the most lucrative option and move down.
3. Set a first time frame and goal: If you challenge yourself, what is a reasonable time to get one of those options done? What would it take to do so? Let’s say you would want to perform for a crowd. You would need to have the songs ready and time to practice them with your group. Set yourself a rough time frame (preferably this should be within a couple of weeks). In this case, if you work hard it might take you 5 weeks of disciplined work to get ready to perform your batch of songs together. Put it in your calendar or write down the rough actual date.
Now is a good point to check whether you are moving towards a valid mid-term goal. If looking at your options and the time frame makes your heart beat faster then they will move you forward to the next level. If you are not nervous or excited, your goal is either not challenging enough or completely unrealistic, meaning that you don’t even believe it in the first place. If this is the case, go back to step two, otherwise move on to the next step.
4. Communicate your goal to others: Now that you have some options in mind, an idea of what it would take from your side with a time frame attached to it, you can start spreading the word by communicating your idea to others. This is a highly important step for two reasons: First, it creates commitment, a key factor for getting any goal accomplished. Second, once you have a clear and reachable idea of a goal in mind you will be surprised how many people will be able to help you. You can call it the magic of the universe but it’s just the way our brains are wired. Once you and others start filtering information as important to pay attention to, opportunities (which have been there all along) will start showing up. This whole step of commitment is scary to many due to the fact that it makes the whole thing real, which shows you just how important it is.
5. Defining the exact time and place. Thanks to the time frame you have set yourself you will not waste time waiting for things to happen one day. You go from place to place trying with the best option first (like a gig on a real stage of a public place) and move your way down to “lower” options like renting a room yourself or a “worst case scenario” like playing in the garage in front of your friends. There is always a way to make a next step happen. Now if this sounds silly just remember that by having done so you will now have played in front of a real live audience. You will learn crucial things from this experience. You can start making it a regular and progressively bigger thing and your goal will evolve from simply making a performance to making a really good performance. You can even record it, put it online to create a fan base and have something to send out to the places that declined you before as you are moving up to your next higher mid-term goal.
You short-term (daily) goals
Now here is the beauty of it, this is where your pay-off really comes in on a daily basis. By having a clear and defined mid-term goal your daily tasks now become clear and purposeful. They now make sense to you and don’t have to be forced anymore nor will you get stuck in what currently might be useless theory and preparation for things with no priority. From now on, you start every day by looking at your mid-term goal and thinking of what you need to do today to achieve that goal. That is all that matters and all you need to focus on. You will know what skills to practice and what things to prepare next. In the example of the musician, once you have written down the options and communicated them you will know that your task for today will be to go through that list and contact and visit each one of those places to find your commitment. Once you have defined the place and date you will know that you need to make a song list for the event and practice those songs with the band – and you will do so more focused then ever to assure that you are ready for your performance day. You will now naturally brainstorm every day to see what else will be needed or could be useful for this specific event, whether it’s making some flyers to give out beforehand or some CDs or business cards to distribute at the event. Now it’s manageable and logical because it’s for a specific goal. Obviously, all those endeavors will pay off in multiple ways in the long run for other upcoming goals as well as for the pursuit of your big goal.
A journey filled with “flow”
Perhaps the most beautiful part of it all is that by having your challenging yet achievable goal right in front of you, you will experience what is called the state of “flow” more often than ever. This is the state where the most improvement comes from on your way to becoming a professional in your area. It is the state where the true magic happens for being creative and productive. Where your focus narrows down completely to the task at hand, where time seems to disappear and where you perform at your continuously highest level almost effortlessly. Just for that by itself it would be worth it because it makes the journey itself so rewarding.
While setting up these goals correctly will make it way more likely to achieve a version of your dream goal some day, this imaginary staircase is never a direct path upwards. Even with those goals in place there will be many moments of doubts, disappointments and at times even feelings like you have fallen back a step on your way. The important thing is to keep in mind that those set-backs are nothing bad; on the contrary, they are one of the most integral parts of the strong base that you are building for sustainable success. The continous set up and achievement of your mid-term goals is therefore so crucial because it helps you to clearly see the progress you have made over the last months and years, the value and content you have created and the skill set you have acquired. To only focus on the big vision goal could be dangerous as it might even be hard to know when you would have reached it, whereas these personal achievements will keep you motivated and fulfilled in your endeavors, which by itself makes any type of real failing almost impossible. So take action, start setting up your goals and enjoy the ride!
Author: Jannick Gluck
Career Coach for Entrepreneurs, Artists and Globetrotters. For more information: www.jannickgluck.com