Was last year a slog? Lockdowns, the COVID-19 pandemic, drastic changes not only in the way we work but the way we live –– it all took a toll. So, give yourself a break. If you feel a bit lost and anxious, you aren’t alone. Still, if you aren’t where you want to be, now is the time to chart a path to your dreams. Here are five steps to achieve career goals.
1. Take Care of Yourself
This should be obvious but that doesn’t mean it goes without saying. The sad reality is that most working professionals neglect their health in one way or another. That’s not just a mistake. It’s a great way to derail your career train before it even leaves the station. Look at it this way. Would you embark on a 3,000-mile, cross-country road trip in a car with bald tires and a bad battery that leaks oil? Of course not, you’d be lucky to get out of your state! Yet your body is so much more important –– it is after all the vessel for your ambitions.
Start by refining your diet. If you’ve been stress eating junk food loaded with sugar and simple carbs, work to add veggies and fruits to your meals and snacks. Restricting temptations just makes them more desirable. By loading your plate with leafy greens you’ll have less of an urge to scarf cookies late at night. Hydrate.
Speaking of nighttime, sleep is vital. Studies show that inadequate sleep “affects mood, motivation, judgment, and our perception of events… the general consensus is that consolidated sleep throughout a whole night is optimal for learning and memory.” If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you’re in danger of burnout –– along with the stress, exhaustion, and anxiety that comes with it. If you’re tired you’ll have a hard time just doing your job, let alone achieving your career goals. So make sleep a priority. Keep regular bedtimes, and stop emailing/texting right before you nod off.
Exercise not only helps you stay fit, it can improve your concentration as well. Because physical activity releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin, it can give an immediate boost to your mood. And because it sends blood to your brain you’ll not only think more clearly but your memory will improve. No matter how busy you get, no matter how focused on your dreams, carve out time for physical activity. Even a brisk walk around the neighborhood can recharge your mental batteries.
2. Write down your goals
What do you want to get out of 2021? Where do you see yourself in five years? Answering these questions without censorship or self editing is one of the first steps to achieve career goals. It’s okay to dream big, just recognize that large goals are only achieved by accomplishing smaller goals. Some things may be out of your control but there is so much you can do. Think about where you want to wind up. Writing all of this down with actual pen and paper will rewire your brain. It will make it a dominant part of your day, something you think about in idle moments.
3. Determine Your First Steps
That thousand-mile journey that starts with a single step applies here. Once asked how he wrote so many books, author Stephen King replied “one word at a time.” That’s all any huge accomplishment is –– one step at a time, one brick at a time, one goal at a time. Determining what that first step is might be the biggest challenge. Say you always wanted to be a lawyer. Maybe getting into law school is the goal. You’ll need to study for the LSATs and figure out if you’ll be attending at night or during the day. Regardless of what your end game is, by taking concrete steps every day to achieve short-term goals you’ll make the big dream possible.
4. Organize Your Days
I’m not suggesting you block out every 15 minutes like some over-scheduled European tour. In fact, free time is vital. What I am recommending is that you note exactly how you spend your time. If your priority is achieving that career goal, then life becomes a series of binary choices. Something either serves that purpose or it doesn’t. We’ve already covered the importance of sleep, diet, and exercise. Those things should not be reduced in service of your career goals. Wine Wednesdays with co-workers and binging four hours of old TV a night? Those can be reduced. Not eliminated –– all work and no play makes Jane a dull girl. Still, many people who complain they don’t have the time to go back to school or network actually have oodles that’s being consumed by non-career activities.
You may already be doing this. I’m suggesting that you switch up your networking game a bit –– in service of your long-term goal. So, if you’re in marketing but want to become a working writer there are conferences and seminars you can attend. If law school is in your future, there are professional organizations you should join. Network for the person you want to be, not the person you are.
Let’s make this year the best one ever! Start by creating a map to the career of your dreams today.
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