Know Where You Want to Go and DON’T Plan How to Get There

by Dec 16, 2016

When I ask “If you could be doing anything at all in 5 years’ time, what would it be?” I usually get one of two common responses. Think about your own answer to this question for a moment – do you know answer straight away? If you do – good job! Only a few people come back with a confident answer. The most common response I usually get is a blank stare, while the person fumbles for an answer  or idea. It’s a big question, and if you haven’t thought much about the answer, you might forgive yourself for floundering and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind.

In this post I want to challenge you to NOT plan out every single step of your path, and to highlight that having a big goal is just a small part of the journey towards achieving your hopes and dreams. If you haven’t yet found your goal, Don’t Find a Job you love, Go for one you like is a great start. The good news is that the final strategy at the end of this post will still apply to you – so read on!

Setting a goal, whether it’s to write a 5000 word report, lose 10kg, get a successful grad job, or become a manager in 5 years, can often have the unforeseen side effect of creating pressure and adding a weight to your mind as you realise the size of a task. The nature of a goal is very binary. Either you have completed your goal – success! – or you have not yet completed your goal – failure. Furthermore, while talking about our big goals feels good, there’s some evidence that people who talk about their goals are less likely to achieve them.

We can’t predict the future, and sometimes achieving a goal can provide empty satisfaction. It would truly be a tragedy if, when achieving the position that we have worked so hard for, we realise that there is no special feeling of fulfilment, and that maybe the things that made us want the position aren’t things that provide us with happiness and fulfilment.

The first step – shape a more colourful view of your future

If you have your big goal, ask yourself why? Broaden the scope of your dreams by asking yourself: What will this mean for my lifestyle? What work will I be doing? For whom I will make a difference? What skills will I develop?

Knowing more about where you want to be, and more importantly WHO you want to be, doesn’t always involve sitting down and planning everything step by step. Plans and career paths change, and a string of missed deadlines that were arbitrarily planned will reduce your motivation and create some self-doubt. Instead…

The second step – know where you want to go, don’t be fussy about how you get there

If you plan every step of the way it becomes easier to miss opportunities that are not a part of your ‘plan’. Open yourself up to these opportunities, and whenever one comes your way, don’t ask: “Does this fit in my plan?”, but instead ask yourself “does this take me closer to (or further away) from my destination?”

I have personally been able to take up several job opportunities with very short notice because I have been comfortable knowing that in some way, the skills and experience I would gain could give me a significant boost towards my goal.

The final step – Think about using systems and strategies to guide your day to day life (instead of goals)

Goals are not terrible things, but beyond short term and immediate tasks (and as your timeline grows in length), the everyday actions that you need to take to achieve your goal become increasingly unclear.

Instead, develop strategies and systems that will maximise your chances of success. What might this look like?

As a job seeker

Constantly find out workshops and networking events are available, commit to going to 2 every month.

As a budding entrepreneur

Commit to contributing weekly to community groups (eg. Sydney Startups), participate in 1 hackathon every 4 months, attend a startup related meetup every month, and become part of a community.

As an aspiring blogger/writer/speaker

Commit yourself to never pass up a speaking opportunity, set yourself a regular schedule to write an article (whatever the size), or find places where you can speak regularly in front of an audience to build your experience (e.g. Toastmasters)

If you DON’T have a clear set of goals, nothing stops you from setting strategies and systems in place that maximise your chances for success.

‘Find things which involve hard work that you enjoy doing’

Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) writes a lot about Goals vs. Systems in his book ’How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life’, which I highly recommend.

For now, create that colourful and in-depth picture of your future, and start thinking of what strategies you can put in place each day and each week to maximise your chances for success.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

By Aaron Ngan

By Aaron Ngan

JA Australia

Aaron Ngan is passionate about helping young people develop their leadership, communication, and business skills. With experience spanning from service on multi-billion dollar Boards, local volunteer organisations, and presenting to and coaching young leaders, Aaron believes that the path towards a bright future is through developing the skills of young people in Australia today.