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5 Super-Simple Tips to Achieving Your Career Goals

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A new year brings with it the possibility of new opportunities, which is why everyone is making resolutions for the coming year. It’s the ideal time to start thinking practically and strategically about what you want to achieve for yourself and setting goals to reflect those desires. Sadly, according to U.S. News, approximately 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February, so the odds are against you.

To cement your goals and ensure you’ll achieve them, use these five tactics that take them beyond SMART and feel like a champion all year long.

Get Specific and Realistic

The most direct formula for sustainable achievement is to choose goals that are clearly defined and have a realistic chance of being actualized. For instance, if you want to switch careers, your goal should not be “Change careers.” Instead, break it down into smaller, specific goals. For example:

  • Apply to five jobs every week for one month.
  • Take course on [desired skill] to earn a certificate.
  • Meet with one person in my desired industry each month to learn more.

It’s normal to want to push yourself in the direction of lofty dreams—and this is the best way to do that. “Having high expectations and ending up disappointed is one of the main reasons why people stop trying to achieve what they want,” suggest the experts at Growth Freaks. Ensure your goals are truly actionable before you resolve to chase after them.

Play to Your Strengths

You’ll be better equipped and more motivated to pursue your goals if they build on your natural aptitudes. If you have brilliant organization skills, for example, but want to get better at focusing for extended periods of time, use your talent for staying organized to create structure around your challenges with focus.

For example, one goal might be to reorganize your daily to-do list to include time slots for every task. Your new to-do list might look like this:

Morning emails: 30 minutes
Call with client: 45 minutes
New sales deck: 1 hour
Lunch: 1 hour
Pricing updates: 30 minutes

This strengths-based approach can reduce your likelihood of failure because, “just as psychologists know that people respond better to praise than criticism, organizational behavior scholars are finding that...focus on positive attributes...can reap impressive bottom-line returns,” suggests Harvard Business Review.


Learn how to harness the skills that come easily to you as a way to be more successful.

Choose an Achievable Timeline

Each goal you implement needs to have a deadline attached to it so you know how much time is allocated to reach that goal. Kevin Sealy, VP of Operations at EPOCH Student Living, believes this is crucial when setting goals. He explains:

“Objectives should be as detailed as possible and always include a timeline that you hold yourself accountable to.” The key, however, is not pushing back on those timelines.

Sealy continues, “Don’t just continue to push the dates back like you would push the snooze button on your alarm each morning. You must eventually wake up, so pushing ‘snooze’ compresses the time you had set aside to get ready and creates a fury to pull yourself together.”

The best way to stick with goals on your timeline is to tell someone else. Find an accountability partner who will know if you didn’t do what you said you would. Better yet, put money on the line—enough to make you squirm at the thought of missing the deadline you’ve set for yourself.


Track and Reward Your Progress

To fuel your commitment and enthusiasm, you need incentives along the way. Create a rewards system for each milestone that advances you closer to the goal. This helps you monitor progress, recognize the effort that’s gone into it, and stay determined to move toward the next benchmark.

Choose a reward that both appeals to you and encourages repetition of the behavior that initiated the reward. Why does this work? The process is “addicting because of the dopamine released in your brain after attaining a reward. Just as a snowball grows in size as it’s rolled down a hill, momentum works the same way,” suggests Jeff Boss, senior advisor at N2 Growth.

This momentum increases the desire for even more progress, which translates into renewed endurance and the ultimate reward: reaching your goal. Rewards might be a trip to the spa, a round of golf at your favorite course, a night out at the nicest place in town—whatever motivates you is a good reward.

Adjust as Needed

Structure is important, but rigidity can feel daunting and confining, so be flexible enough to adapt your goals as necessary. Sometimes a certain goal, or the plan you devised to reach it, doesn’t work for the long term; in these cases, it’s beneficial to reassess and tweak the strategy.

For example, you may have set a goal to take a particular online course through a platform like Udemy, but halfway through the course realized it wasn’t what you thought it was. This is a time when you might pivot, and instead start looking for a new course that’s more in line with what you want to achieve.

“Don’t hesitate to change the direction of your goals or actions. Life is a discovery process . . . there is no need to be rigid with goal-setting, but you do need to be resilient,” says Prakhar Verma, creator of

Set Goals for This Year

Don’t let another year go by without achieving the goals you set for yourself. Instead, use these tips to make your goals work for you—be specific, play to your strengths, set a timeline, and be flexible. Most importantly, find an accountability partner or set up a reward system if you know you struggle to stay on track. With a little help and planning, you’ll reach your goals well before the end of the year.

About the Author

Jessica Thiefels has been writing and editing for more than 10 years and spent the last five years in marketing. She recently stepped down from a senior marketing position to focus on growing her own startup and consulting for small businesses. She's written for sites such as Lifehack, Manta, StartupNation, and Glassdoor. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07.

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