Career Goals and Stress:
How to Achieve Goals and Maintain Your Sanity
Debbie Brown, SPHR, MBA, MSW
When it comes to career success, direction and focus are crucial. But beyond direction, how effective is it to have goals?
Requirements for Effective Goal-Setting
Much has been researched and written about the effectiveness of goal setting. The findings say that :
- Difficult goals lead to higher performance than easy goals.
- Difficult goals lead to higher performance than “do your best” goals.
- Setting specific goals results in more precise performance than setting “do your best” goals.
Just having the goal is not enough. You must develop a strategy to make it happen. What are the activities you need to perform everyday? Plan those activities, but also stay alert and open to new ways to achieve your goals as they present themselves.
There are three critical requirements that dictate how well goal setting will work:
- Commitment to your goals.
- Periodically reviewing where you stand regarding goal achievement (getting feedback).
- Belief that you can achieve your goals (self-confidence and self-efficacy).
You need to genuinely desire the goals you set. If you don’t like your job and don’t want to be there, then it is difficult to be committed. It’s also crucial that you believe that you can achieve the goals you set for yourself.
Stress and Goal Setting
Goals create striving which results in more stress. So how do you deal with this stress? It helps to create a structure to help you with this process. It can include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and setting work boundaries.
We all need time away from our jobs and other responsibilities. Plan time off, including vacations and weekends away, and in between, don’t neglect your social life. Schedule time with friends. But don’t over-book with social activities so that you have time to retreat for rest and recuperation.
Deepak Chopra, in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, says that if we want to have a successful career, we should first center ourselves and then release our intentions (our career goals) to the universe. We should not be attached to the way these goals develop, or to the exact outcome, but leave the details to the universe. We can get the same results through effort and trying, he says, but the result is stress, which can lead to heart attacks and other physical illnesses. Sometimes we focus more on our unhappiness with our present situation, than on what we want to achieve. Chopra says that we should accept where we are now, be fully present in the moment and concentrate on our deepest intentions (goals).
Goals should be difficult, but achievable with persistent effort. Goals that are too extreme, such as doubling your income in one year, can only discourage you. Goals work because you persist and focus your efforts in a specific direction. Without that direction, we can find ourselves floating through our lives, more at the mercy of outside forces that are not devoted to our welfare or success. But we can manage our goals in a way that does not create undo stress by not being attached to the exact way they are achieved.
Set work performance goals every year, as well as goals for relationships, finances, home, physical and mental health, and spiritual development. The more specific the goal, and the more frequently you review and focus on the goal, the more likely you are to meet that goal. It helps to write down your goals, read through them periodically, visualize them and keep a picture journal that represents the achievement of those goals. But it also helps to listen to the feedback from the universe, and make adjustments to those goals when necessary. We should have a career plan, but be flexible with how it unfolds.