Posts Tagged writing down goals

What Have You Done?

Most people, unless they are actively searching for a new job, don’t have an updated resume. I hear this several times each day when I contact candidates, and each time, I encourage them to take the time to update their resumes, even if they are not looking for a new job. I believe that the exercise is useful for everyone, even if you are not in the professional world or looking for a job

Creating a resume or updating an existing resume forces you to recall your activities and accomplishments to date. The process shines a spotlight on your blessings and gives you a visual representation of your progress toward your goals.

But what if you’re not a professional?

You don’t have to be a professional to have accomplishments and activities. My long-since-retired in-laws keep track of the countries they have visited. You might keep track of the miles you walked or books you read. That might seem insignificant how, but if you keep track and keep updating, you’ll see the significance.

If you are a professional, having an updated resume will help you respond quickly to opportunities with windows that might be open only a short while. Many people will tell me that they don’t plan to change positions any time soon, if ever. I tell them that their employers might not have the same plans. Management changes. Companies are acquired. Many things can happen that can jeopardize what you see as a secure position.

How to Do It

Resumes of both professionals and non-professionals should begin with a summary about who you are. Mine is: Began as a teacher. Became an entrepreneur with a passion for sales. Occasionally, a motivational speaker. Usually, an innovative, relentless problem-solver. Always, a dedicated father and husband.

The summary, like the opening chapter of a good novel, should inspire the reader to read further. Follow that with a chronology of your positions, starting with the most recent. List your title, where you worked, the dates you worked there and a few of your main duties and accomplishments. The more specific you can be, the better.

This works for non-professionals too. If you don’t have a title or an employer, create one. As an example: retired engineer employed by wife to run errands, mow the lawn and answer the phone. If you’re not using your resume to advance your career, it doesn’t have to be serious. Other information that can be included here are volunteer activities or nice things that you’ve done for others. When you see it on paper, you might be surprised how much good you have done.

Next, list your education, even if it is School of Hard Knocks. Be sure to add any seminars or specific training you received.

Lastly, list your awards and accomplishments. Not everyone can call themselves a Rhodes Scholar, but don’t short-change smaller achievements like the dean’s list or employee of the month awards.

Non-professionals, you can have a little fun with this. If you won a bowling trophy in your 20s, go ahead and list that. If you never won anything, make something up. In my house, I hold the record for continuous hours spent in the basement watching football. Until my son beat my record, I also achieved the longest nap in a recliner.

Maybe it’s because we’re humble or uncomfortable talking about our successes, but too few of us take the time to quantify who we are and what we have done. Consider using these last few weeks of the year to catch up with your activities and accomplishments. If you don’t like what you see, make plans to correct that in the new year. If you are proud of what you have done, do more of it.

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Visuals Are the Guideposts of Dreams

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After my sophomore year of college, I set a goal to graduate magna cum laude. I had done the math, and figured out that I could make it if I did everything right. To remind myself of that goal, I created a big sign saying “MAGNA CUM LAUDE” and hung it over my desk. When I was tempted to take a shortcut or not work as hard as I should, the sign reminded me of my goal.

I wish I could say that I achieved that goal, but an over-ambitious 21-credit-hour semester knocked me off track. I earned six A’s and one C+ that semester. Damned poetry class! I still remember the disheartening experience of calculating my maximum GPA after that semester and learning that magna cum laude was mathematically impossible, even if I earned A’s in my remaining classes. However, instead of giving up, I took the sign down and used a pair of scissors to create a sign that said “CUM LAUDE.”

* Magna cum laude was a GPA of 3.7-3.8. Cum laude was 3.6-3.7.

My daughter’s bulletin board, pictured above, reminded me of that sign and how visuals motivate the efforts necessary to achieve goals. Seeing our goals on paper flips a switch in our brains that paints a picture of the goal and a path to it. Through this mental exercise, we actually project ourselves to the place we want to be, and because we were there once in our minds, we know where we’re going. That’s why it’s easier to drive to familiar locations than it is to go some place new to us.

In an oft-cited study, Dr. Gail Matthews, a professor of psychology at Dominican University in California, found that goal-seekers are 42 percent more likely to achieve their goals when they write them down. You don’t have to create a sign, like my daughter and I did; you just need to put pen to paper.

Writing your goals makes them much more tangible than just thinking about them. While it’s still important to mentally visualize your goals; physically seeing them reinforces that visual. Goals kept in solitary mental confinement can get lost in everyday clutter, like worry and doubt. When goals are isolated in our thoughts, issues, both pressing and otherwise, can shove their way past the goal, until it is simply forgotten or conscientiously abandoned. That’s usually how many New Year’s resolutions die. We want to drop those extra 15 pounds, but paying the bills takes precedence over diet and exercise.

When a goal is in your head AND in front of your eyes, it’s much more difficult to neglect or ignore than when it’s kept secretly in your mind, but writing it down is just the first step. Place the written goal in a spot that can’t be ignored, like the corner of your computer monitor or on the mirror you stare into at the beginning and end of each day. The more times you see that goal, the stronger the image your mind creates around it.

You can also take it a step further by sharing your goals with other people, creating an accountability contingent that will ask you about your progress. Before long, you’ll become known as the guy who wants to run a marathon or the girl who wants to own a restaurant. It takes some guts to put yourself out there like that, but courage is an important part of successful goal pursuit, and it’s helpful to have others supporting you.

I did graduate cum laude, though it came down to the very end, and I barely made it. I was so close that I am convinced that, without that sign, as altered as it might have been, I wouldn’t have achieved my goal.

Try writing down a goal that is important to you. If it’s that important, it’s worth writing down. Even if you have to get out the scissors and modify it later, you’ll be closer than you would have been otherwise.

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