What are your life goals? What are your career goals? These things don’t just happen. You’ve got to have a plan.
I was at a faculty administrator’s conference on goal planning about 15 years ago and the speaker said, “I want you guys to write out what your life goals are and what you would like to accomplish within the next four years. Tell me about your family. Tell me about work.” It was kind of a bucket list. Then he asked us to write down what it would take to get some of these things done.
Then he said, “Here’s an envelope. Address it to yourself and I will mail it to you in about a year.” Wait . . . a letter to myself? He’s got to be crazy.
Honestly, I had forgotten about that crazy letter, those action steps designed to realize my goals. Sure enough, about a year and a half later, my letter came back to me and I completely understood the breadth of the assignment, what it meant.
If you think about something, great. But that only goes so far. However, if you tell other people about it, then there’s a greater probability of it happening. But let’s take it one step further. If you write it down in a detailed format, then you have a much higher probability of accomplishing those goals.
And that’s exactly what my students do. What are some of the things that students are going to brag about, or they come to the end of their life and they’re going to talk about? Family. Friends. Accomplishments. Failures. Fun things they did, etc.
In the assignment, I said, “Stop thinking about looking for a job for a minute and tell me what your dreams are. Tell me when we meet in this room 10 years from now what you have done.” I want students to begin with the end result in mind, but 10 years from now tell me what you’ve done and let’s work backward.
In a job interview, business professionals might ask: “What are your goals? What are the goals of our corporation? What are the goals of our unit? How can you make an impact to accomplish those goals? If we want you to sell a thousand units, then tell me the activity that you are going to use on the first day and the first hour in order to get to your goal of a thousand? How are you going to spend your week in order to meet your goals?”
Corporations have goals for you. How are you going to be evaluated? That evaluation is, “What did you accomplish?”
Without thought-out plans on how to achieve your goals, personally or professionally, it’s increasingly difficult to accomplish your dreams. This letter-writing exercise prepares students for creating action-steps toward success.
Harbert College wants to turn out graduates that the business community wants, seeks, and desires. But our graduates and future graduates first need to know how to set goals and make plans to accomplish goals.
Thomas Walter Center Professor
Department of Marketing