How to Set (and Conquer) the Right Professional Goals in 2019

By Angela Koch, writer
Feb 11, 2019
Image Credit: Kzenon/Shutterstock

These tips will help you identify and stay focused.

Sure, goal-setting seems like something that you only do once a year on the first of January, but by continuing to set goals and conquer them throughout the year, you'll find that you are able to maintain progress in a much more sustainable and successful way. In fact, small steps toward a goal and small successes can help motivate you to keep going, particularly if you are working toward a professional aspiration. 

Since everyone's goals are different, it can seem daunting to set professional intentions that speak to you. Setting goals offers an opportunity to become more confident and motivated according to Psychology Today, and if you follow these five steps, you'll set and conquer the right goals for you in the new year. 

Start with "why" and find your passion.

Setting a goal just to have a goal is never a good idea. Your progress toward your goal will largely depend upon how badly you want to reach it, because that's what fuels you when it gets grueling. To determine the right goal and whether it's worth pursuing or not, you need to ask yourself a few questions: 

  • How committed am I to this goal?
  • Why do I want to attain this goal?
  • What will attaining this goal be like? What will it feel like? (more on this later)
  • Do I love what I am pursuing? Why? If not, what do I love? How can I pursue that?
  • Will attaining this goal be worth it for me? What metrics should I use to determine my success? 

Working through these questions helps you build a rational and emotional commitment to the goals you make and simply take them deeper into your psyche. The more difficult the goal, the more commitment will be required (and the more deeply you should feel a connection to the goal you establish). If you don't feel connected to your goal, don't attempt it. 

Once you have answered these questions, you can narrow down your specific goals and start getting an idea of what it will take to achieve them. 

Get very clear on what you want and how you plan to get there.

According to a recent Marist Poll on resolutions, 68 percent of Americans who made resolutions at the start of 2018 were able to keep them for at least part of the year. The bad news is that 32 percent were not. Another study by psychologist Richard Wiseman showed that only 12 percent of people who made New Year's resolutions actually achieved their goals. 

So why is there such a high failure rate? Science says that one factor that contributes to the failure to achieve a goal results from a lack of clarity around that goal. Clarity can come from a simple change of phrasing around your goal. After all, the language we use to describe the world around us has a profound influence on how successful we are both in life and in work. 

For example, say that you want to get a promotion in 2019. That may sound like a great goal, at least on the surface, but without a clear plan of action to achieve that goal, you are far more likely to fall short of it. In fact, the language you use around establishing that goal can even stop you from achieving it. 

A better way to phrase a similar goal would be to say, "I aim to get a promotion in 2019 by improving my communication in email and in person; delivering required work on time, every time; and taking on projects that I feel may be a bit out of my comfort zone at least once per quarter." 

Alternatively, you can also change your mindset around a goal by reframing it. Many career coaches recommend framing a goal in a way that tricks your brain into thinking you have already achieved it. Using the example above, you could reframe your goal by saying, "I am the senior director at my company because I am clear in my communication; I deliver the required work on time, every time; and I take on projects that demand more of me." By framing a goal this way, you foster an expectation of success and can help make the goal become more real. 

Regardless of which method you choose, it also pays to employ SMART goal-setting: Goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound are more likely to be achieved. Check your goals against each characteristic and see if the goals meet the SMART criteria before moving on to the next phase. 

Write down your goals and become accountable.

Writing down your goals may seem elementary, but research has shown that the act of writing your goals down has a profound impact on how successful you will be at achieving them. Part of committing to goals means making them both tangible and, in some cases, public. 

In fact, according to Richard Wiseman's study at the University of Hertfordshire and cited by the Harvard Business Review, men were 22 percent more likely to achieve their goals if they wrote them down, while women were 10 percent more likely to achieve their goals if they made them public or shared them with friends. By doing a mix of both, Wiseman says, you increase your chances of success regardless of your gender. 

When you write down your goals, include those actionable stepping stones that you want to hit in order to move closer to achieving the goals. 

It also pays to have someone who you can check in with and who will help keep you accountable at this stage. Perhaps you check in with a mentor on a weekly or monthly basis, or you talk to a friend or loved one about the progress you've made. At this stage, it's important to build a support system of people who will help you continue to move in the direction of your dreams. 

Ask for help.

Having a support system that you can count on to answer questions, help you assess stumbling blocks or just provide a helpful ear can be the linchpin that determines whether or not you achieve your professional goals. Why? Because we are human beings, and humans are social animals. To be successful in business and in life, it's crucial to lean on others who have succeeded before us. 

So find a trusted mentor, a good friend, or a family member who can give you clear, reliable, and supportive feedback – and you'll be sure to move closer to achieving your professional goals in 2019. 

Stay focused.

One of the most common reasons that goals fail is because we become distracted from them. Some research shows that success through multitasking is largely a myth, so remaining focused on your goals from day to day is key.

One way to do so is by referring to your written goals on a regular basis. Depending on how specific you've gotten about your goals, you may want to check in daily, monthly, or quarterly, but by checking in, you can refocus your energy, time, and attention on the goals that you worked so hard to set up at the beginning of the year. 

By staying focused, you can also break your larger goals down into smaller pieces and highlight the small successes along the road to the larger goal. Celebrating small successes along the way can help you see your progress to keep you motivated to continue moving forward. 

If you follow your heart, get clear about what you want, remain accountable, ask for help, and stay focused, you'll ensure that you set and conquer the right professional goals in 2019.

As the CEO of U.S. Money Reserve, one of the largest private distributors of U.S. government issued gold, silver and platinum coins, I oversee every aspect of operation, while setting culture and pace for the entire organization. With a proven background in business planning, strategy, mergers, acquisitions, and operations, I have an in-depth understanding of how to run a successful business. I strongly believe that the people make the business, and I'm thankful to work with a team that is much like a family. They've positioned U.S. Money Reserve to be a trusted precious metal leader and I always put our customers and employees first.
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