I’ve recently started mentoring a guy in my office who is probably in his early 30s. He’s sharp, a very hard worker, and has the necessary skill set that I’ve seen be very successful. One night, over some drinks I asked him if he’d been mentored before, and he mentioned that he had, but nothing had ever come of it. The programs he’d been part of had been formal programs at big companies. In my experience formalizing something robs it of its power. I explained to him that I enjoy passing on my knowledge to others, especially those that seem to have the drive and will to want to move forward. He said he was interested, and we’re off and running.
Write that down.
The first step was, he didn’t have a good sense of what his goals were. We talked about goals, I opened up about some of mine, and assured him that this was different, I cared less about what his intentions were at this company, and more what HIS goals were for life. He was confused at first, but after he realized that I was attempting to help him beyond just his professional world, he opened up. I asked him to write his goals down, both personal and professional, and send them over to me.
It took him a few weeks. He had evidently put thought and effort into his goals, and it was great to see him have this type of clarity. We had our second meeting this week, and I merely asked him, “What’s keeping you from your goals? Where do you need my help?”
There was a pretty long pause. I waited until he spoke. We had a quick conversation about “the power of silence.” He didn’t really know what he needed or expected from me. Finally, he just said, with a question, “Accountability?”
I realized right there I could help him.
Break it down into the manageable pieces.
So how does one accomplish a list of goals? His are very straightforward, honest and reachable, reasonable goals. All his goals are for him to move up in life and provide a better life for his family. But he struggles with how to get even started. So I launched into a probably way-too-preachy explanation about the power of time and breaking down goals into manageable bits using the old joke about “how do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.
So I took one of his goals, finishing his college degree, and told him that I thought this would be the best place to start because it’s tangible and a lot of his other goals require professional success. I asked him if he thought he could get to his salary goals with his current education level. He was quick to reply “no.” Good, so he understands the need and focus this goal will require. He also understands the future value of the college education.
I asked him to further break down that goal, finishing his college degree, into smaller bits, smaller goals that he could attain over the next few months. I then told him about how I went back to school, in virtually the same job I’m in now, back in 2011, to earn my master’s degree. It took me four years and required sacrifices and commitment from not only me but from my spouse and family as well. Going to school and working a 50+ hour a week job is a strain on the family, but the more significant issue I wanted him to realize was the issue of time.
Make time work for you.
For us to harness the power of time, it requires a daily commitment. For instance, I read 10 pages a day minimum of my current “good book.” That way, I get through 3650 pages each year in literature books that support my goal of becoming more literate and educated. I’ve read more by utilizing this system than all the previous years of my existence combined. At the end of each week, I’ve read at least 70 pages, but at the end of each month, I’ve read 300 pages. The power is that this is accomplished with only a 10-page daily commitment. Just 20-30 minutes of actual reading time (I’m slow because I’m dyslexic somewhat).
All goals have components that can be broken down this way.
When I get my protégé’s goals, I will make sure they are broken down into small enough chunks, and for the next week (we decided to meet weekly now) I will have him work every day on something that moves him closer to his goal. I’ve found that when I love the work, progress is enough to keep me going and keep me happy. If I can look back at the end of a day, of a week, of a month, I see steady forward progress, and I feel good about myself. Most days, this is what gets me out of bed in the morning.
Progress feels great.
This blog is an excellent example of that. Nearly none of this content existed before November of 2017. This all comes from writing at least 500 words each and every morning. Some days, like today, I get 2-3 times that and that’s OK, it’s great even. My sacrifice is I get up at 4:30 to ensure I have time to do what I want to do before I start checking email and getting buried by the pressures of daily life.
My dog now knows that he’s not going out until 6:30 or so each morning. Only brushing my teeth and coffee are before my daily writing.
All goals require sacrifice if we want to achieve them. I have given up watching TV as a habit. I have drastically cut down on my social network activity, except where it meets my writing goals. These two activities were the ones I would look at Monday morning and realize what a complete waste of time they were.
As I mentioned, time has power. I just have chosen to make time work for me instead of against me. You can, too. If you have a goal, you can break it down and start working towards it today. You’ll thank yourself in the morning.
Do you have a goal you need some help reaching? If so, jot it down in the comments and let others help you break it down!
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