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Archive for January, 2010

Forget the New Year’s Resolutions –Set some goals instead

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010


Here we are again, at the beginning of another year.  And this year, we have a zero at the end of it, which means it’s a big deal year for many of us–a year to do “great things.”

“I resolve to be a better person in 2010.”  Yeah.  Yeah.  Yeah.

New Year’s resolutions don’t get us very far. All those newbies at the gym Jan. 2 are usually back on the couch watching TV in a couple of weeks.  Why?  Because those resolutions are typically based on seeing something wrong with ourselves.  It’s no fun to be flawed.  Much as we’d like to do better in certain ways, when the motivation to do so is mired in negativity, it’s hard to stay at it.

Plus we tend to be rather global in how we phrase them.  “I’m going to find my dream job.”  Or “Be a better parent.”  That’s a lot to do with very little specific direction for doing it.

The start of a new year is a great time to stop and assess where you are and where you want to be.  It’s a great “landmark of time” to help us remember to take stock.  But the kind of planning common to New Year’s Day (or somewhere near it), tends to come across as inalterable.  That’s another reason New Year’s resolutions don’t work.

You don’t need “New Year’s resolutions,” you need goals if you want to make change really happen.  Goals are based on what you want rather than what’s wrong with you.  Plus, you can construct goals out of Spandex instead of January 1 cement.  As you work toward a goal, you learn more about what’s realistic and you modify the goal accordingly.  Sometimes that’s a case of reaching higher; sometimes it’s a U-turn from where you thought you needed to go.  Goals can flex.

So what does a good goal look like?

It states specific action.    A goal is about action; resolutions are about good intentions.  A goal defines how you are going to make the change.  For example “I will take a two-mile walk at least four times a week” rather than “I’m going to get in shape.”

It’s measurable.    One of the keys to staying at something is being able to see progress.  When the change you are trying to make has milestones to it, you get an extra boost to keep going every time you pass one—sort of like mile markers in a race.  When you set a goal to lose ten pounds, losing that first pound makes you believe you can lose the second one, and so on.  Yes/no is a measurement, too.  Did you write that query letter?  Stop having lunch with the toxic gossip at work?   Get home from work by 6:00 four out of five nights a week?

Part of your measurement is a deadline for when you are going to have the goal accomplished.  You may need to modify the deadline, but don’t leave it off.  Goals without deadlines are much harder to make happen.

It’s achievable.  Being realistic is another key to successful goal setting.  Commit to things that you can reasonably make happen in the time frame you set.  Telling yourself you are going to lose 50 pounds before Valentine’s Day is unworkable.  Set yourself up for success by establishing a pace for what you want to do that’s reasonable to accomplish.  If you get things going faster than you expected, you can always change the goal to reflect the faster pace.

It’s relevant.  It’s got to be important to you for you to stay with it.  If you goal is to please a certain person (e.g. boss or spouse) including things they want instead of what makes your heart sing may work for a little while, but you will find much stronger motivation in laying it out according to your own value system.  Maybe “your health” isn’t so important, but your ability to continue to play your favorite sport is.  If so, cloak your health goals in what you need for your sport.

Find goals that excite and energize you—that make you want to start right now.  Resolutions just make you feel bad when you forget about them.  Goals have power.  Take the bold step of writing out what you want to make happen.  Then get going on it.


What to Do if You Don’t Like What You Do

Monday, January 11th, 2010

With the current economic challenges, having a job is a big plus and keeping it is a must.   But sometimes, the wrong job can be even more emotionally destructive than having no job.   What do you do then?

Those of us who can at least see retirement on the horizon are legitimately even more skittish.  When an older worker loses a job, it takes longer to find a new one.  Plus, once you are on the sidelines for a while, being older means being more vulnerable to losing confidence in yourself and letting go of work by default.  So we hunker down and keep the job we hate.

We need to get smart about finding that next thing instead of remaining a victim of the lousy economy anda horrid work situation.

The first step in a good job transition is knowing where you want to go.  If you need to find something else, be sure you are clear about why you need to change things.  Assuming that the reason work is bad is the boss or the company, when you hate that kind of work altogether is a ticket to a repeat of the job angst.  Take some time to think about what doesn’t work about this job and what’s behind that.  You may think your boss is the Ultimate Bossilla until you listen to what you friends and peers are saying about their bosses. 

Learn all you can about yourself so you have some certainty about what would be a great job for you.  Also be sure you’ve gotten to the actual core of why the current situation isn’t working.  If it’s just that the economy has slowed things down, planning an exit is a case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire.”  But if you have lost interest in the work you are now doing, maybe you need a new direction to get your mojo back.  Check this stuff out–don’t just make a bunch of assumptions without getting real information.

Once you have identified the core issues of what’s not working, then you can move to the following:

Identify realistic options for working elsewhere.  Be forewarned, if you need to jump ship, you might end up starting a whole lot farther down the ladder with the new outfit.  This may be the best thing you ever did, but take the time to think about it.  Also think in terms of where you might be able to move within  your current company if it’s really a matter of bad boss or co-worker chemistry.

This step has an unexpected and immediate benefit.  Sometimes when you take a close look at what else you could realistically do, the job you are doing becomes a whole lot more appealing.

Figure out how to be really good at doing what you want to do next.  This may be by taking classes on your own.  It may be by talking with people who are already doing that kind of work.  It may be by applying yourself on your current job more diligently so that you develop skills needed for the next job.  As Thomas Edison said, “When opportunity arrives, many people miss it because it’s wearing overalls and looks like work.”  Do the work to get good enough to be valuable in the new arena.

Build your network to include people with that interest and expertise.    Networking is not about collecting business cards from people you don’t know.  It’s about getting to know people–as friends–who are doing what you want to do.   You don’t have to like them personally or have the same politics to become good business buddies.  But you do need to know them.  The best way to make that happen is with your own initiative.

The smartest thing anyone can do in a down economy is to be helpful in the business context.  If you see an article that someone else would appreciate, send them the link.  If you note a problem developing that a business friend needs to know about, give them the heads up (unless it involves a conflict of interestor insider trading kinds of issues to do so).  Being kind is always in vogue, regardess of what the Wall Street stereotype is played like in the movies.

Keep doing your current job to the very best of your ability.  That is called integrity.  It doens’t make any difference if the whole rest of the world has lost it (which sometimes seems to be the case), operating to the best of your ability will keep you saner, happier, and more appealing as an employee–and a person

No matter how old you are, if you want to work, you can find work.  The best way to set yourself up so that you call the shots with that is to do what you love and be good at it.  So if your current job doesn’t give you that, you may need to change.  Do that with a plan.  Do that with a solid base of knowledge to draw on.  And do that with integrity.