We have become obsessively goal-oriented and this is particularly the case with career goals. But are we personally connected to our goals or merely striving for goals for goals’ sake?
Losing sight of the personal process and personal values that bring our goal(s) to life
Career goals can frequently take on a life of their own. I often hear the words, “I should have a goal…” preceding many conversations I have with clients. I hear this when clients express feeling completely stuck and indecisive about a career choice or a career path.
Feeling that we should have a clearly defined goal when it comes to career is not the same thing as creating a goal that is personally relevant, personally defined and personally valuable. Having a goal for goals' sake can disconnect us from the personal process, the direct engagement, that brings our goal(s) to life.
When our focus, our expectations about work and career, our sense of self-worth, our internal narratives about success, progress or fulfillment are heavily focused on one intractable career goal, we can lose sight of the present moment and our living engagement in the personal process that brings our careers and goal(s) to life. This engagement includes gaining experiences and a variety of skills, discovering innate capacities, becoming aware of "how" we work. Engagement builds our ongoing relationship with work.
When we live for goals that are primarily fueled by extrinsic motivation – social acceptance, recognition, respect, money, career advancement, self-esteem – we lose our personal connection, our personal involvement, motivation and striving. We lose the personal meaning that keep our goals relevant and sustainable.
When we lose the felt experience of personal engagement, we lose the ability to feel the value of what we are doing, we lose the insights we gain from what we are learning and how our expertise progresses and expands in our day to day work and throughout our lives. But when we are fully engaged in our choices and decisions we have the capacity to create and re-create goals that are personally relevant to our lives.
When we are personally connected to the process of our lives, our goal(s) become feasible and meaningful by-products of that same process.
How can we stay personally connected to our goals?
- Define personally and as descriptively as possible what career means, what fulfilling work means, even what success means, to YOU at this stage in your life. What are your expectations of work and career?
- Examine the many experiences you have had. Do you notice common themes?
- Be open and receptive to discovering yourself and your abilities in the present moment. Note and appreciate something that you have learned in the past few months or how a particular experience may have changed your perspective.
- How would you describe your expertise at this stage in your life?
- What would you like to experience, learn and/or develop further at this stage in your life?
- Take the time for reflective practice to be more aware of the experiences you have on a daily basis, more aware of what you are feeling and how you experience your life throughout the course of a day.
- Connect with the relationships and conversations around you every day. Feel the value of these relationships. Observe yourself in these relationships.
- Engage, participate and contribute to your community, a course of study you are enrolled in, the job you currently have or the broader issues in the world that interest you. Connect with your opinions, attitudes, perspectives and beliefs. How do these impact your decisions, or shape your goals?
These examples of reflective practice offer a great deal of personal information and help us to be connected to the present moment and actively and attentively engaged in the process of our daily lives.
This is information that helps us to make decisions that resonate with who we are and give us the ability to take actions that we can confidently and comfortably move forward with.
This is information that enables us realistically and imaginatively to mark out what is possible going forward.
This information helps us to assess, construct, manage and navigate the many “small step” goals that we can accomplish daily.
And finally, this is information that helps us to shift, adapt or re-design exciting new goals that we are personally connected to, if-and-when necessary.
Britt-Mari Sykes PhD is the founder of Integrative Career Counseling. She is a Certified Career Strategist and Certified Work/Life Strategist with an extensive background in existential psychology, career counseling and teaching. She helps clients navigate career transitions and create personally empowered career goals. To schedule a free 25 minute consultation call, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org