If you look at the calendar and the milestones in people’s lives, May and June are months of major significance. In the United States, graduations from high school and college are common events as well as the beginnings of marriages and new careers. These events are culminations of long-term planning. (Even if you didn’t realize it at the time.) And, once the excitement of the celebration is over, you may be waking up feeling lost and adrift.
What happens now? Some may be lucky enough to already, have another long-term goal or may be working on one. For example, you just graduated and are planning on pursuing a higher degree; or are working, and now are turning to focus on that next big project or promotion. But, for others, all of a sudden you achieved what you were after and then……. Well, it is time to figure out what’s next.
How does one go about it? Many of us know the usual goal setting steps (or do we?) and how to state a goal. Zig Ziglar gave us seven; Bradley Foster gave us ten; and Wikihow gives us ten. We are told our goals need to be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and have a timeframe. But, the steps? Let’s look at Zig Ziglar’s seven, because most of the versions are similar:
- State the goal
- Set a deadline
- Identify the obstacles
- Identify the people, groups and organizations that can assist
- List the benefits of achieving the goal
- List the skills needed to attain the goal
- Develop a plan
Okay, but what is the goal? What is the next step? How do I tell what my next goal should be? What am I being called or driven to do? It is this unknown that sets a person adrift. Because once we are able to articulate what it is we are after or where we are headed; the usual goal setting wisdom and attributes help us. And, it is the easy part: developing the long-term plan on how to achieve it. The conventional wisdom does nothing for helping us assess what it is we want to achieve.
Determining the direction or the next personal goal requires self-awareness, introspection, and self-assessment. One has to take some quiet time and think about what makes them happy; what they like to do; and if they could wave that magic wand what would be their perfect world. One method may be to PREP: pause, re-assess, evaluate and prepare. The pause step is the most critical, one needs to stop and think about those serious questions. One needs to fuel the imagination, and one needs to picture what that future state may be. This is a very difficult thing to do as we don’t necessarily like to look into ourselves, and finding the time to do this with all of our day-to-day pressures adds to the complexity.
Yet, it is essential because if we don’t, we will remain adrift or someone else will be making these crucial decisions for us. This leaves us unfulfilled, and miserable. It is critical that one steps aside and think about what is it that drives us, what is it that we want to achieve, and how do view my personal success?
How to get to this point? We know that we need to be able to state the goal, picture it, and articulate it. But, what methods or techniques do we use? There are some tried and true ones:
- Where do you want to be in a year?
- Where do you want to be in three years?
- Where do you want to be in five years?
These are a bit stale because they are used as interview and annual review techniques; so we tend to give “pat” answers or the ones that the person asking the questions want to hear. And, this still requires a person to have a longer term view.
Other questions may seem strange, yet can provide deeper insight;
- What do you want your high school reunion summary to say?
- Why should you be invited to speak at a graduation ceremony?
- What words would you like to have on your headstone?
- How do you want ___________ (your mother, your spouse, your colleagues, your friends) to describe you?
- What things don’t you want to be said about you? (Sometimes it is easier to look at the negative than the positive.)
- If you could choose one accomplishment, what would it be?
These questions will help you to paint a picture of that elusive long term goal. Once, you have that the rest is just a paperwork exercise to outline the path.