If you follow LinkedIn or read self-help books and magazines you'll have come across the sage advice of 'experts' to just follow your career dream. Whether you want to earn your living as a teacher, a songwriter or a professional footballer, you should just follow your dream (and the jury's still out on whether following your dream as a way to make a living is good or bad advice!). Either way, these articles relate to those people who have something they're passionate about and want to make a living from. But what if you're one of the many people who don't have a career dream?
Goal setting is an essential part of most coaching programmes. But it is also an important activity to carry out in our day-to-day lives when we want to achieve things and enjoy a sense of purpose.
When we are feeling aimless, dissatisfied and lacking a sense of control, it is often because we haven't given thought to our goals. If we want to change those frustrations to feeling purposeful, content and focused, the process of goal setting itself, and not just the goals that result, is valuable:
“People who set goals are more likely to succeed than people who do not.” Tal Ben Shahar, Harvard University
If you would like to discuss how coaching can help you to discover a sense of purpose, a clear sense of direction and set goals, get in touch for an initial exploratory conversation.
e: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01223 655667/07711 503382
A lot of my coaching work – especially around careers – is focused on helping people define and change their future direction. Very often this involves lots of assessment activity around preferences, attributes, strengths and values, and creativity exercises to begin creating that exciting future. But what if you already know how you want your future to be and are struggling with making that happen? Maybe you can’t get to action or overcome all the hurdles you see in your way.
If this is you, you probably don’t need me to tell you that unless you change what you are doing nothing is going to change. In fact you’re probably already frustrated at being unable to move forward despite knowing all that typical coaching stuff. This is what I call the Monday Morning Question – having visions and clear goals are all very well, but if you are not equipped to bring it all down to the practical level and know what you will do differently on Monday morning, you won’t move forward.
For many of us, getting stuck in this way happens because we have missed a step between the big picture, future focus, and the small detail, action step. Without that step the gap is too large to navigate. The Monday morning question says “specifically, what will I do differently right now?”
It can be helpful once you have defined the change you are looking to make to break that down further into interim stages. You might adopt a kind of gap analysis approach, for example:
Let’s imagine you think about your performance at work and maybe get some feedback which suggests that you don’t speak up enough or make enough of an impact (A). You decide that you want to change that so that in future, feedback suggests that you clearly and assertively express your views (C).
To make that happen you need to DO something – in fact you need to do a number of things. Firstly you need to understand what your current behaviour is that is creating A – ask yourself, what am I currently doing and not doing? Feedback may help you to do that, as may your own self-knowledge.
Next you need to identify the changes you need to make. You might use a simpleStop Start Continue approach to identify this (i.e. what behaviours should I stop doing, what should I start doing and what should I continue doing?).
Note that we are still up in the thinking cloud at this stage – it’s all good stuff but none of this is action, we have more steps to go.
Now you can move on to defining the specific actions you will take on Monday morning. In this example, let’s imagine that you have decided to contribute more in meetings. That might translate into a specific action to “Make at least two valuable comments at each weekly management meeting”.
Analysing this further you can then see that there are at least two prior steps to add into your action plan – to define what ‘valuable’ means, and to prepare. You can then add a necessary, preceding action, “Prior to each weekly management meeting prepare two questions/contributions/comments I will make that will add value to the meeting”. You now have a couple of actions that are ‘do-able’.
Once you have a list of specific actions you will take, they should be detailed and specific enough to enable you to be perfectly clear as to exactly what you will do and when you will do it. A useful self-coaching question you might ask yourself at this stage is “What might get in the way of me doing this?”.
Recognising and addressing obstacles is a key activity in making change and will often lead to further actions that need to be done first. Obstacles to your progress may be external (e.g. workload or logistics) or internal (e.g. lack of motivation or confidence) . Either may require additional support to overcome, but the principle remains the same: Identify the outcome you are seeking, define what needs to change, and then think about and plan how you will do that. You are then ready to DO IT – and that will be the subject of a later post!
Look forward to Monday mornings!
If I could look into the future and tell you confidently that in ten years from now your life would be the same as it is now, would you be happy about it? Specifically, if I told you that you’d be in the same career, perhaps the same job, as you are now, does that fill you with satisfaction or horror?
For most of us, by the time we are in our thirties our careers are reasonably well set. Not necessarily as successful as you hoped but such that you identify as being a software engineer, a teacher, a GP, a town planner, or whatever. You are also by that age more likely to be reasonably settled at home too. You might have a mortgage, a partner, children and so on. All of these things can cause you to take your eye off the career satisfaction theme. Until, that is, there comes a day when, for whatever reason, you realise that your career no longer (or has never) given you the satisfaction you would like.
When I work with clients who find themselves in this situation they will often express their frustration about the time they have wasted in the wrong career. Their experiences have made me very aware that to effectively manage our careers – no matter what else is going on in our lives – we should periodically ‘check in’ with ourselves and ask 4 key questions:
1. Am I happy/fulfilled in this job/career?
2. Am I still getting the enjoyment and progress from my career that I initially desired?
3. Do I have a direction in mind and in prospect that keeps me motivated and keen?
4. Do I have a sense that I would like to be doing something else?
How would you answer these questions?
When I am working with clients on career direction I am sometimes reminded of a client from many years ago who came to see me having been in a particular career for over twenty years. At that time in his mid-forties he told me that he had neverbeen happy in his job. It had supported him, paid off his mortgage and provided for nice holidays but looking back he felt he had nothing of a non-material nature to show for the time. What he really valued was a sense of achievement, of having done something meaningful: something of which he could be proud. He was dejected and sad when he told me that he couldn’t honestly say he’d achieved that.
It is never too late to take stock, assess your situation and career, and make changes. I have worked successfully with people into their sixties to help them achieve satisfying career changes; how much more rewarding it would have been for them to have taken control of the situation at an earlier time? As a professional coach I can help you to take stock, assess your career and, where appropriate, define a new direction. With ongoing support, confidence-building and encouragement I can also help you to develop and implement a plan with which to achieve it.
For further details about my Career Direction programme or working with me generally, do get in touch. Don’t wait for that career to knock on your door…