FANNING:  The power of setting a meaningful personal goal

By Ben Fanning, contributing editor  |  My mom recently reminded me of a moment from years ago.  I was venting my job frustration over dinner and said:

“There’s got to be more to work than just finding ways to make a T-shirt cheaper.”

It was my first job and the department goal was to save money, build efficiency, and ultimately deliver shareholder value.  This wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that in the midst of focusing on the company goals, I’d never take the time to clarify my own.  While I delivered results, I carried around this meaningless, pointless feeling about my work.  A decade later this hadn’t changed and I was burned out and disengaged.

But within this rite of passage, I learned a valuable lesson that alleviated the frustration, increased my motivation, and led to even more success.  I frequently share this strategy with my clients, and it’s usually opens up some big possibilities for them in their current job.  I think it will for you, too.

Give yourself a meaningful personal goal


Aligning yourself to the company goal doesn’t let you off the hook for creating your own.

If you just focus your work day on the company goal, work will start to feel tedious and a grind.  While company goals are important, personal goals are far more motivating because they are based on something meaningful to you.

Determine a meaningful personal goal by asking yourself:

“What’s something you could achieve in the next 3-6 months that you’d be incredibly proud of?”

It could be developing a new skill you enjoy doing, getting promoted, expanding your responsibilities into an area you care about, leading on a challenging project, or teaching others (more on that in a minute).  Don’t skip this part.  Create a meaningful personal goal first.

Creatively align your personal goals to those of your company

Once you’ve created a meaningful personal goal, it’s important to take the next step to align your personal goal with that of your company.  Otherwise, you may get stuck day dreaming about what you could do it only weren’t for this pesky job.

Your company, your manager, and you are better off if you’ve identified the common ground where all can work symbiotically…but this only works if you initiate it.  Consider these questions…

  • What are goals of your company and manager?  This may seem obvious but I find that many employees aren’t sure on one of these or both, so ask.
  • What are the benefits to your company and manager of you achieving your personal goal?  For example if you’re promoted how does that benefit the company and manager, i.e., you’ll lead the group to achieve even bigger results, you’ll make needed changes that will make the group more efficient, you’ll deliver results more quickly, etc…
  • How can you creatively align all three as a win for the organization, your manager, and yourself?

10 years of frustration gone in a day

Here’s how I applied this and conquered my personal frustration in one day after I’d been coping with it for years.

It started with giving myself a meaningful personal goal. For me it was simple…do more motivating work at work.  I wanted to do work that replenished my energy versus depleting it.  So I decided I wanted to bring a little more teaching, coaching and mentoring into my work day.

Next, I talked to my manager about the biggest problem our group was facing…it happened to be closing out projects that were going beyond the deadline.  I proposed a simple training for the rest of our team on “How to Get Results”.  This merged my desire for serving and teaching others with getting closure on projects that were important to the bottom-line of the company.

This may sound small, but for me it was huge!  I experienced more job satisfaction in that moment then I had in years, plus my manager and coworkers actually thanked me for it!  I couldn’t believe it.

The job and my career weren’t always perfect from there out, but this moment built more positive momentum than I could ever imagine both inside and outside the organization.

The best part is that you don’t have to wait another second.  Take 10 minutes and jot down your answer to these three questions:

  1. What’s one meaningful personal goal you can adopt today?  Keep it small and manageable.
  2. What’s the number one priority for your company and your manager?  It you’re not sure, make sure you ask.
  3. How can you creatively align these above? Talk this through with a trusted coworkers, propose new project, a modification to work day, or set-up a quick call with me and we’ll brainstorm some ideas together.

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