Setting personal goals can help you improve and change, and achieve satisfaction, and feel like you are moving through your life and your career with direction. Yet too often, people set goals based on their thinking alone. You are much more likely to achieve your goals if they align with your values.
Setting goals isn’t easy. It takes time and commitment. Avoid these 3 common goal-setting mistakes to keep your career, and your life, on track:
Your goal isn’t valued enough. If you haven’t committed your mind and heart to the goal, you are more likely to fail. Bring your heart into the goal-setting process and examine how your goals align with your values — the underlying life principles that you believe are important. Learn more about how to set goals that align with your values below.
Your goal isn’t specific enough. Your goal may be too broad and overwhelming. Recast your aspirations into the form of a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed). Learn more about SMART goals below. After drafting your SMART goals, you can plan how you can break your larger goals into smaller, specific steps that will move you in the right direction.
Your goal isn’t supported enough. You are more likely to succeed at your goals if you have someone serving as your coach, cheerleader, or mentor. Ask friends, family, and co-workers for their support and to hold you accountable as you work toward your goals. Revisit your goals at regular intervals to make sure you’re on track and to re-energize your efforts.
How to Set Goals That You’ll Achieve
Here’s how to avoid these common goal-busters and how to set goals that align with your values:
1. Reflect and take stock of exactly what your values are. There’s little motivation for success if your goals don’t connect to your values. Of course, to make this work you need to know exactly what your values are. We recommend looking at 5 areas of your life — career, self, family, community, and spirit — and consider how you are living out your values in each of those areas. Gaining this perspective will give you some ideas about what you might like to change or improve.
To do this, consider: How do you spend your time and energy? What are you passionate about? What do you need to do more of? What should you cut back on? What is missing?
Take time to process your thoughts and feelings and consider feedback you’ve been given. List 5 things you would like to change or do differently. Write them down as possible goals.
2. Focus. Select just one goal out of the 5 to focus on first, and add enough detail to turn it into a SMART goal:
Specific: Write down your goal with as much detail as possible.
Measurable: Identify quantitative targets for tracking your progress and results.
Attainable: Make certain that it is possible to achieve the desired result.
Realistic: Acknowledge the practical requirements necessary to accomplish the goal.
Timed: Build in specific deadlines.
3. Plan. Break down your SMART goal into small, specific steps that will move you in the right direction. Begin by listing at least one action to take in the next week. Schedule a time to do it.
4. Enlist support. Think about family, friends, or co-workers whom you can inform of your new goal and ask for support. They can help hold you accountable for making progress. Carefully select whom you tell and when you tell them, so as not to undermine your motivation or progress.
5. Revisit. Each week, assess how you are doing against your goal. Keep a focus on your values. Decide what actions you will take that week toward achieving your goal. Set new milestones as needed.
Yes, this process takes time. Choosing and planning your goals and making sure your goals align with your values is hard work. The rewards, however, are priceless.
It’s obvious that leaders in different levels of the organization have to lead differently—think about how different the leadership challenges are for a line supervisor than the CEO.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that leaders who are looking to drive innovation have different challenges depending on their position. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Given that schedules are too full already, it’s useful to know what to do, and this helps shape what not to do, as well.
Here’s a rundown of the roles and responsibilities by leader level specific to innovation:
At the level where you don’t have direct reports—but serve as a role model or perhaps a leader of project teams—the responsibilities around innovation fall mainly into the realm of knowing how to generate creative solutions and having a keen interest in participating on a team made up of diverse participants.
Core to this is the ability to find sources of inspiration for new approaches, whether that means looking at other industries, engaging customers and stakeholders, or exploring patent databases for similar challenges that have been solved by others.
Team leaders or line supervisors need to possess additional skills. They must know how to lead the group process, which requires special facilitation skills on top of those necessary for being an effective team leader or project manager.
And for innovation to take root and spread through the organization, these leaders or supervisors need the ability to obtain resources from outside their unit.
When you lead people who are leading others, a key value you bring to the challenge of innovation is supporting and protecting the team from superiors or other parts of the organization.
Great leaders create a protective umbrella over their people to ensure that the discomfort, risk, and potential disruption of the business don’t cause others to try to shut down these efforts. These managers also have to build a case for grassroots innovation and bridge groups that are working on similar challenges to ensure constructive cooperation.
Leaders of a function or significant silo need to provide clear direction for the scope of the innovation efforts and also need to manage conflicting demands for resources.
They must initiate strategic and structural changes to accommodate promising innovations and establish a strategy that bridges the silos.
As if that’s not enough, they are critical to modeling behavior and driving communication that sets the organizational tone that determines the support of innovation. They’re also critical in the management of innovation pipeline and balancing the portfolio “bets” that help determine the future direction of the organization’s innovation.
Leading the Organization–Mandating/Fostering
Finally, we have the top of the organization. These are the people who have the critical job of setting a strategy to ensure that the organization has clear direction on where its going.
More than that, they are the keystone for fostering a culture of innovation, a big part of which is modeling behaviors to ensure that the walk matches the talk, which sometimes means showing support for different, new, or disruptive ideas.
Like other top leadership responsibilities, it’s imperative that they communicate the vision over and over and over again.
Perhaps the hardest job is finding ways to hear and see unfiltered concepts, since the further you go up the hierarchy, the less connected to “what’s really true” you become.
A coworker breaks a confidence. A teammate takes credit for your work. Your boss is chronically late. Another reorganization—and another round of layoffs—is impending.
It’s easy to see how business as usual can feel like betrayal as usual.
About 85% of workplace betrayal—a breach of trust or the perception of that breach—is unintended, however, says Dr. Dennis Reina, founder of The Reina Trust Building Institute.
“These minor betrayals eat away at us, until one day we either mentally check out or physically walk out,” he explains.
While you can’t prevent betrayal among co-workers and colleagues, you do have a choice about how to respond and what to do when it happens.
Try the Institute’s 7-step process for working through betrayal:
Observe and acknowledge what’s happened. Healing starts with awareness. Pay attention. Listen and learn what happened before and what’s going on now. It’s important to acknowledge not only what caused the broken trust, but the impact on those affected. As a leader, the fact that you’ve come to terms with a problem doesn’t mean that others have.
Allow feelings to surface. People have feelings around business decisions. When people are in pain (which betrayal can cause), they need to be heard. If you don’t allow people to express their emotions, those feelings won’t go—they will go underground. When it comes to feelings, most leaders say they don’t want to go there. But ignoring emotions won’t make them go away.
Give employees support. When the betrayed feel vulnerable, helpless or victimized, support—in the form of information, relationships, new perspectives, coaching, and encouragement—is important for leaders and coworkers to give. Sometimes, just talking with a trusted colleague or coworker is good therapy; other times it helps to seek counseling or other outside resources.
Reframe the experience. After a betrayal, people feel vulnerable and contract their focus. They have a hard time seeing a bigger picture. Ask questions that open up new ways to think about the situation: What role did I play? How can I change my response? What choices or options do I have now?
Take responsibility. Yes, betrayal happened and trust was broken. Now what? Start to take responsibility and ask: What can I do to make a difference?
Forgive. Forgiveness isn’t about letting others off the hook—it’s about freeing yourself of anger, bitterness and resentment. Forgiveness is about shifting from blame to problem solving.
Let go and move on. Accept what is. Acceptance is not about condoning what happened, but accepting it without blame. It takes work, time, and commitment—the bigger the betrayal, the bigger the impact and the greater the challenge.
Can a movie about a businessman help us with recent events?
Most of us know the story — George Bailey, depicted in Frank Capra’s 1940s masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life is a very frustrated businessman who wishes he’d never been born. Provided a guardian angel, he has the opportunity to see what life would be like if he got his wish. The movie takes a dark turn in George’s absence and he sees the positive role he plays in the community and in the lives of others.
But there’s an underlying meaning. George is much deeper than the movie portends, something we recognize when he first rescues his brother after he falls through the ice. George is a servant leader. Through this service to others, he creates a sound community, good friends, and a strong family.
What is servant leadership? Robert Greenleaf, the philosopher behind the idea of servant leadership, wrote: “The servant leader is servant first…it begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first….”
The brilliance of It’s a Wonderful Life is that George doesn’t want to lead — he is very human in his vision. He wants to travel and put the small town of Bedford Falls behind him. Then, when forced through circumstance to take over the family business, he understands people depend on him and the wellbeing of the community is in his hands. His humanity and the decisions he makes offer modern leaders insight into the challenges that face all of us, every day, regarding whether we act for ourselves or others.
George stays in the small town, gets married, and continues his fight for others in the community, even in the midst of recession and war. As World War II ends, George’s war is just beginning. He begins to ask himself the price for his selflessness as his business is threatened with ruin. His only choice is suicide and to remove the pain of selfless choices by wishing he’d never been born.
Again, Robert Greenleaf:
The other type of leader is the leader-first leader. The servant-first and the leader-first are 2 extreme types. Between them are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.
George gets to see not only what would happen if he hadn’t been born, but something deeper — the possible effects of a lack of servant leadership — where everyone and everything is self-interested and we have only those with a concern for themselves. Without his example of selfless leadership, the town is in ruin.
“If there is a single characteristic that stands out in Greenleaf’s essay, it is the desire to serve,” writes Dr. Kent Keith, the CEO of the Greenleaf Center. “In fact, it is the willingness to be a servant first. That means that the leader is focused on the needs of others. This characteristic — being a servant at heart — is the one that truly distinguishes servant-leaders from other kinds of leaders.”
Like a good executive coach or minister, the guardian angel helps George see himself through a different perspective – the servant perspective through which he’s lived his life and the positive outcomes from that decision. Upon return to normalcy, George reflects, “Isn’t it wonderful? I’m going to jail!”
It’s funny — George is happy to be returning to a “jail” he’d been in all his life — serving the sentence of servant leadership.
Recent events reflect the presence of George Baileys among us. The helpers. Mr. Rogers, of television fame, had a saying: “When bad things happen, look for the helpers… there are always helpers.” It’s not always possible to know why a tragic event occurs, but we can and must know the selflessness of the servant-leaders who help their communities move through tragic events.
Those servant leaders are the George Baileys of our world. They are the ones who sustain our virtues as a community and allow everyone else to put themselves first. We should think of them now, at this time of year, for although many depend on donations from others, those servant leaders truly are the “richest people in town.”
January is the unofficial month of dieting and gym memberships. It’s the time when we step on scales, step up our workouts, and promise to make healthier choices in the upcoming year.
But most of us overlook an important part of getting healthy — our cognitive health.
A healthy brain works at full capacity, allowing us to do tasks such as pay attention, make decisions, and remember our experiences. But, like our bodies, if we don’t keep our brains in shape, they don’t work quite so well. This is particularly true for leaders, whose cognitive health is often compromised in order to meet deadlines and other business demands.
Common signs of poor cognitive health include exhaustion, stress, anxiety, irritability, indecisiveness, inability to focus, and trouble remembering things. While it’s easy to think of these symptoms as merely the side effects of a successful career, poor cognitive health is detrimental to leading effectively, and can result in serious physical health conditions and career derailment.
The good news is there’s something you can do about it. The latest neuroscience research suggests that our brains are much more malleable than we once thought. Our neural connections are constantly changing, growing, and adapting. This means that, like our biceps, we can strengthen our brains by giving them the time and attention they need. Here are 4 ‘workouts’ that you can do every day to help ensure that your brain is buff and brilliant in 2019 — and it won’t even cost you a gym membership.
Actively processing new information is one of the best ways to work out your brain. When you acquire new knowledge, you’re building new neural pathways. This is particularly important because as we age, we lose some of our brain cells and neural connections. Research has shown that people who practice active learning are less likely to have cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
The key here is to learn actively. Passive learning (e.g. zoning out in a meeting or reading without processing what we’ve just read) doesn’t add new information into our long-term memories and doesn’t boost our cognitive capacity.
To practice active learning, mindfully focus on what you’re trying to learn (rather than multitasking), ask questions, test your memory and recall, and regularly practice newly acquired skills. Look for new learning opportunities. At work, attend workshops, classes, or conferences; outside work, consider taking up a new hobby such as learning a musical instrument, a new language, or a sport.
Our brains need oxygen to survive. Mere minutes without it and our brain cells start dying. Given that oxygen is the food that keeps our brains going, breathing well is important for our cognitive health. Certain types of breathing patterns are better for you than others.
Try practicing healthy breathing for 5-10 minutes every day. Breathe in slowing through your nose (8-10 seconds), and then breathe out through your nose even more slowly (10-15 seconds). Focus your mind and energy on your breathing.
Research shows that this type of mindful breathing calms our nervous systems, lowers stress and anxiety levels, and helps us focus. That’s because evolutionarily, when we face danger and fear, we automatically breathe quicker (think of hyperventilating). By slowing our breath — and in particular, our exhalations — we are giving our brains feedback that we are safe, and can relax and use our cognitive energy to focus on other things.
Neuro-connections can disintegrate over time if your brain isn’t challenged. One way to flex your brainpower is through problem solving. As a leader, you’re probably well-versed in problem solving in the workplace. But if you want to beef up your problem-solving prowess, try solving puzzles and brain teasers. Such exercises can increase brain efficiency, meaning the brain doesn’t have to work as hard to complete tasks.
One study showed that people who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day had thicker cerebral cortexes after 3 months of practice. (The cerebral cortex is the outer layer of neural tissue in the brain which is involved in memory, attention and awareness.)
There are many different types of puzzles and brainteasers out there — from Sudoku to crosswords, Rubik’s Cubes to word searches. Board games, card games, or video games can also be effective, as long as they involve strategy and problem solving. Once you master one type of puzzle, try switching to a new one.
The CDC has called our collective lack of sleep a “public health epidemic.” The average adult should get about 7-9 hours of sleep per night, but 30% of us get less than 6 hours. If you’re a leader, you’re probably one of them. Intense workloads often make leaders feel like they can’t afford to sleep. But staying awake might be doing us more harm than good.
Research shows that lost sleep reduces our brainpower and cognitive functioning — decreasing concentration, memory, and thought processing while increasing stress and anxiety. In fact, recent studies have shown that people who were sleep-deprived showed equal or worse cognitive impairments as people over the legal limit for alcohol intoxication! You wouldn’t show up to work intoxicated, so why show up sleep deprived?
To practice better sleep habits, try getting 7-9 hours of sleep. At a minimum, go to bed 30 minutes earlier. If you can’t improve your sleep, try taking a 20 minute nap, engaging in yoga, or meditating.
Eating right and exercising regularly also have positive impacts on your cognitive health, including more brain density, improved memory, and increased ability to cope with stress. So sticking to those traditional New Year’s resolutions isn’t a bad idea, either.
What will you do to get cognitively healthy this year?
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s what allows you to recover from change or hardship, whether in the workplace or life in general.
As a leader, you can change your views, habits, and responses by modifying your thoughts and actions, which will help broaden your outlook and become more adaptable to change.
To become more resilient, focus on these 8 areas:
1. Accept Change. Find ways to become more comfortable with change. Change is constant and inevitable, and you can only be successful if you accept it rather than resist it.
2. Learn Continuously. Learn new skills, gain new understandings, and apply them during times of change. Don’t hold onto old behaviors and skills, especially when it’s obvious that they don’t work anymore.
3. Take Charge. Embrace self-empowerment. Take charge of your own career and development. Don’t expect someone else to guide the way.
4. Define Purpose. Develop a “personal why” that gives your work meaning or helps you put it into a larger context. A clear sense of purpose helps you to assess setbacks within the framework of a broader perspective.
5. Create Balance. Form your identity apart from your job. A job is just one facet of your identity, and a career is just one aspect of your life. Separate who you are from what you do.
6. Cultivate Relationships. Develop and nurture a broad network of personal and professional relationships. Personal relationships create a strong base of support — a critical element in achieving goals, dealing with hardships, and developing perspective.
7. Reflect.Whether you’re celebrating success or enduring hardship, make time to reflect. Reflection fosters learning, new perspectives, and a degree of self-awareness that can enhance your resiliency.
8. Reframe Skills. Question (and even change) your definition of yourself or your career. Reframe how you see your skills, talents, and interests. By casting your skills in a new light, you can see how they might shift into new patterns of work and behavior.