How to Use Goal Setting to Support Your Career Growth

The Prepped Team

July 6, 2020

6 mintues

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Goal setting has been a proven means of moving you from one point in your career to another. It helps you imagine where you can be and then layout steps that can get you to that position. But there can be negative factors associated with goal setting. The pressure you put on yourself to achieve those goals can sometimes take away from the true purpose of goal setting, which we’ll discuss throughout this recap. This is our final mindfulness session in collaboration with Ashleigh Frankel and Liz Berholz from The WiseMind Co. We’ve covered topics from how to lead with a growth mindset to unwinding your anxious mind. Each step of the way, we hope you’ve taken something away that can not just help build your career, but help you to grow as a person. This final webinar recap touches on something that not only should we all be doing, but doing correctly.

Adding mindfulness to your goal setting

There’s a certain amount of resilience that’s needed when trying to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself. You don’t want to fail, but the sacrifice for achieving those goals shouldn’t be your mental health. So while you want to be resilient, you also want to be aware of how you’re being affected along the way.

Renewal and resilience

Frankel emphasizes that including mindfulness into your goal setting can really be a solid source of renewing your energy. Goal setting, in its nature, is future-facing. It’s a destination we’re chasing in hopes that our achieving that goal will contribute to our self-worth. For example, as you’re working towards landing your dream job, you’ve probably said to yourself, “When I get that job, I’ll be so happy.” Or, “When I get that job, my life will be different.” Frankel suggests that while those are fair assumptions, you’re walking on fragile ground if your only source of happiness will be in the completion of your goal. She cites a Harvard study that states we spend up to 50% of our time thinking about the future when that same study proves that we find our greatest fulfillment in the present. That’s why including mindfulness in your goal setting is so crucial. Mindfulness is all about awareness and intention. You’re giving deep thought to everything as it happens rather than putting off that recognition in hindsight. When we think of how this can play out in your real life, let’s revisit the dream job analogy. If you’re mindful throughout the process, you’ll be able to appreciate the time your mentor takes to speak with you every two weeks. You’ll enjoy everything you learn through exploring different job opportunities through internships, volunteering, or educating yourself through online tools. The process of getting from where you are now to where you want to be becomes the focus, and the value of your goal setting is your experiences along the way.  

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How to focus on the process instead of the outcome

Understanding that goal setting is intended to have you look towards the future, there are steps you can take to ensure that you’re firmly grounded in the present and prepared to accept the joy that comes from going through the process. Frankel shares a few suggestions on how to make that happen.

1. Be mindful of where your goals start

There’s a difference between internal goals and external goals. External goals are those that don’t align with your true desire. It’s when you’re operating from a mindset of, “This is what I should be doing,” or, “This is what Mom, Dad, or what my peers expect from me.” External goals are the most draining because you’re not starting from the point of true passion. If you start there, every step towards your goal feels heavy and makes it more difficult to achieve. As you can probably imagine, this is not very good for your mental well-being. On the other hand, internal goal setting is when your desires and truth are perfectly aligned. To get to this point, you need to remove the judgement and the self-criticism and reflect on what you really want to achieve. Frankel suggests writing down a list of your current goals right now. Think about the source of those goals. Are they internal or external? Go with your gut on this. You’ll probably know instinctively, which is which, but one question that can help get you there more easily is whether or not your goal is rooted in how you want the world to perceive you. If it is, that’s likely an external goal. If the goal excites and energizes you without being linked to anything but your feelings, then that’s likely an internal goal.

2. Understand your why

Once you’ve taken the time to really get deep on which goals are internal and close to your heart, the next step is to ask yourself why. Why does this goal excite you? What value does moving towards this goal add to your life? Understanding your why is just as important as being careful of where your goals start. Frankel suggests that the why is what connects you to your greater purpose. It’s what will get you up in the morning or motivate you to keep sending out those resumes even though you’ve been rejected several times over. Remember, what’s important about goal setting is the feeling it gives you. That’s really what you’re after. So if that goal isn’t connected to a purpose that’s aligned with who you are and what you want in your life, then you risk feeling unfulfilled even if you do achieve your goals. One technique Frankel suggests is to write down your goal then ask yourself why three times. So if your goal is to be the lead developer for your favourite company, ask yourself why. Then once you have that answer, ask yourself why again. Do it one more time, so you are super clear on your purpose.

Sign up for Prepped to start working on your career goals

There was so much more that Frankel covered during the session. Log in to your Prepped account to watch the full webinar. Don’t have an account yet? Sign up for Prepped to gain access to recordings of all our webinars, and to our career tools and templates that can help improve your chances of getting a job by up to 6X*.

*Songqi Liu, Jason L. Huang, & Mo Wang (2014). Effectiveness of Job Search Interventions: A Meta-Analytic Review. Psychological Bulletin, 140, 1009-1041.