Are you happy with your life journey? Are you in the driver seat of your career and your life or are you “asleep at the wheel” hoping for a positive outcome. Find out how to use goal setting techniques to take back control and steer your life where you want it to go.
When you plan a cross-country trip; are you one of those adventurous souls who just get in the car and start driving and “see where the road takes you or are you someone who plans the entire trip, setting goals, milestones, timelines, overnight stays, and carefully picking the music playlist?
The wisdom of Alice in Wonderland
In Lewis Carol’s Alice in the Wonderland the famous exchange between Alice and the Cat goes something like this:
Alice: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” to which the Cat replies “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to”
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.”Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. ‘—as long as I get somewhere,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.’
This exchange has often been paraphrased as “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” I guess Alice was one of those adventurous souls that didn’t believe in planning. She just “went with the flow”. Her journey was on autopilot; it will just take her wherever it goes. This may be a great strategy for a Wonderland experience, but when it comes to career planning, are you sure you want to leave your life, your future, your happiness to chance? Are you sure you want to leave your career on autopilot? Many people do. I wouldn’t recommend it.
I have used 4 Questions that have guided the direction of my life in a very significant way. I have used these throughout my own life to help me accomplish everything I have accomplished so far; including making a successful transition from living in South Africa to starting an exciting and brand new life, living the American dream. Let me share these with you.
The 4 Magical Questions
There are the 4 questions you can ask yourself that will help you take control of where you want it to go. They are very simple but extremely effective. They are:
Let’s unpack these briefly:
Goals and Milestones; the cornerstones of accomplishment
Benjamin Franklin once said: “If you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail“. I couldn’t agree more. In Step 3 mentioned above, you asked the question: “How do I get there?”. The answer is Planning. Practical, productive planning by setting goals and milestones.
Once you’ve set your vision in Step 2, and define what success looks like in Step 4, you will know clearly where you’re going. However, depending on how grand your vision is, there may be a whole lot of ground to cover between your current state and your future story. It may be years worth of work to get from here to there. And unfortunately, the brain is just not wired to process such a massive undertaking. It gets overwhelmed and we end up in analysis paralysis. We’re stuck procrastinating and end up getting nowhere because we’re overwhelmed by the magnitude of our mission. The better way is the break down the entire mission into chunks or goals. Chunking is a very effective, well-known memory technique you can use to remember long lists of things. The brain operates much better when processing small chunks of information.
The power of Chunking
Let me demonstrate: Look at this series of numbers for 5 seconds and try and memorize them: 2,4,7,8,6,5,9,0,8,7. Not so easy, is it? How could you make it easier for your brain to remember? We could use our Chunking method. By grouping the numbers into three groups like this: (247) 865-9087, the brain can process and remember it much easier. Recognize that grouping? Yup, that’s why our telephone numbers are written in that way. By using Chunking, we are much more likely to remember 10 digit phone numbers.
Now you may be asking, What does this have to do with setting goals? Let’s use that same 10 digit number in our 4 question framework to illustrate. If your mission was to move through those numbers in sequence, then we could break it down this way:
For these chunks or goals to be the most effective in helping you accomplish your vision, they should be S.M.A.R.T goals. There are literally mountains of information written about SMART goals, but here’s a quick summary. SMART goals are:
Making sure your goals are SMART will set you up for the maximum chances of hitting your goals. Follow these guidelines religiously and watch the results roll in.
The difference between goals and milestones
Where goals help you set accomplishment targets along the way (a Step 3 activity), milestones are a measurable way to tell you where you are along those targets (a Step 4 activity). Just like their name suggests, these are “road markers” along your journey to provide feedback and monitor your progress. In other words, goals set the path for where you’re going and milestones tell you if you’re actually getting there.
Real world example
Let’s take our 4 step process through a real-world example. (Please note, I understand this is not an extensive “how to” action plan for this situation. It is meant only as an example)
Due to an economic downturn, you were laid off from your job. You are scared, nervous and unsure of your future.
You have been job searching for a while but with no luck.
You need a better plan.
You need a roadmap to success. Then you remember this article you once read about “The 4 Questions that can transform your life”. You decide to give it a try:
Step 1: Define where you are:
Step 2: Define where you want to be. The Vision:
Step 3: How do I get there. Goals and Action plan:
Step 4: What does success look like:
Where’s the Magic?
I called these Magical questions. So where’s the magic? This just seems like common sense! Yup. And therein lies the Magic. Common sense is just not so common these days. These are very simple (read “achievable”) steps. Nothing magical about them. The Magic, however, lies in the application. The moment you stop thinking about these concepts and start applying them is the moment you take back control of your life .. and the moment you start seeing results. Will it be easy? Nope. Will it be worth it? Absolutely.
Let me know if you need help. I’m always excited about helping fellow travelers.
As always, I’d love to hear from you with ideas, comments, feedback or suggestions.
Best of luck on your journey!
Copyright ⓒ 2018 – Heinrich Stander. All Rights Reserved