6.5   Setting your Goals and Priorities

Wandering lost in the woods,  Alice in Wonderland encountered the Chesire Cat.  
Alice asked: "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
The Cat responded:   "That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
Alice said:  "I don't much care where ... so long as I get somewhere."
The Cat concluded:  "Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.  You're sure to (get somewhere), if only you walk long enough."
Someone else once said:  "If you don't know where you're going,  you're already there."

Bob Dylan once said:  "... and this ain't no place to be."

What I say is that if you don't know where you want to go,  you're not going to get there. The point is that you have to set goals.  

Right now,  your most immediate goal might be to grab a cup of tea.  You have to think beyond that.  You have to think about tomorrow and the next day,  and about next year and the years after that. 

When it comes to your career,  it is certain that you will be focused on what comes next and what your next move will be.  But what is the point of that if it is not connected to some larger context,  purpose and direction in life?  Perhaps all you want now is to find a survival job,  something that will keep you moving along or moving towards the next step.  Perhaps you just want something that will get you started on the right path.  Even if that is all you want,  you need to have some idea about where the path might lead or where you want it to take you.  That is what the Chesire Cat was trying to tell Alice.

Sometimes when people dare to dream about the future and future possibilities,  they become paralyzed.  It seems so far and so hard and so impossible.  Sometimes people are immobilized because nothing seems to be happening now and it is hard to imagine that there might be some life beyond the immediate horizon.  Your task now is to dare to imagine.  Even if you can't get there from here and even if you can't do it today,  you need to have the dream in mind.   

A career counseling issue that often comes up with adolescents is that they set their sights on "impossible" goals.  A young kid will say that he plans to become an NFL quarterback and that he has no other interests or goals.  Those advising him could set him straight.  They could tell him that it is an almost impossible goal.  My view is that if that's the goal,  it should be encouraged.  What would I tell that young man?  I would say that he needs to stay out of trouble and to work hard and study hard.  If you want to be an NFL quarterback,  you have to finish high school and get into college and maintain eligibility for the team.  You have to exercise regularly and stay away from drugs and alcohol.   I would tell him to do all of the things I would tell him to do if he told me that he wanted to be an accountant.  I would tell him to have dreams and to set goals and to see where the path might lead.

In this goal setting exercise (linked below) we will do three things:

First,  you will make a list of your long-term goals. 

What are your long term goals?  What would you like to do over the next seven to ten years?  Here are some examples:  have a well established career,  buy a house,  get a graduate degree (a Masters or a Ph.D.),  get married,  have a family,  move into management,  start a business,  develop a consulting practice,  travel, write a book...  List whatever you dream of doing!

Second,  you will make a list of your short-term goals.

What are your short term goals? What would you like to accomplish in the next three to five years?  Here are some examples:  get a job,  start your career,   get a car that runs,  pay off you bills,  travel,  get your own apartment ...

Finally,  make a list of your immediate goals.

What do you want to accomplish in the next few days, weeks or months,  in the next six months or before the year ends?  These are more immediate goals and they will be the things you focus on first.  The set you up for success in your longer term goals.  They will be your to "do list".  Here are some examples:  build your career binder,  clean off you desk, finish writing your resume,  start making appointments for informational interviews,  buy a new outfit for interviews,  finish reading this book,  enroll in that class you need,  move to another city,  start an exercise program,  get you car fixed... and so on.

Your short term goals - "To Do" list - should be should be revised on a regular basis.    Keep your longer term goals where you can see them and think about them regularly,  and revise them as you move along but at least every six months. 

Imagine yourself visiting a foreign city.  What do you always have in your pocket,  close at hand? You have a map so you don't get lost.  These lists are your maps.  Keep them handy and keep them up to date.

Copyright, Cici Mattiuzzi