Ask yourself these 3 simple questions to achieve great things in your career

Are you on track to do great things in your current job? New research suggests you probably aren't.

Most companies encourage staffers to set SMART goals, ones that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Unfortunately, many of these goals don't lead to greatness. In fact, my firm LeadershipIQ recently conducted a study involving more than 4,000 employees and their goal-setting processes. In this study, "Are SMART Goals Dumb?" we found that only 15 percent of employees believe that their goals for this year will help them achieve great things.

Part of the problem is that 'achievable' and 'realistic' goals don't test us or move us outside of our comfort zones, limiting our opportunities for learning and growing. Sadly, additional research found that only 42 percent of workers say they are always or frequently learning on the job. Another 39 percent say they are never or rarely learning.

If you want to achieve great things and get the satisfaction that comes from challenging yourself and growing, there are a few key questions you should ask yourself each month.

Question #1: What skills would I like to develop this month?

What is something you'd like to learn that you haven't made time for yet? Is there a tool or program you'd like to know better? Is there a skill you're honing that you'd like to be an expert at? Ask yourself: What could I do right now and get results?

Another way to look at this question is to ask yourself: What sorts of skills would I want to pick up if I were job hunting? It's amazing all the ways we take stock of our skills and improve ourselves when we're in a transition. But there's no reason to wait until a big life change to improve yourself. What's stopping you from acting right now?

Remember: You control your growth opportunities. I hear people say, "If only my organization paid for courses I'd be able to grow and develop." There are so many different types of learning opportunities available these days, including webinars and podcasts. Many of these resources are free. Get out there and challenge yourself to learn something new at least every month.

Question #2: What is something I'm better at now than I was last month?

It feels good to grow and develop and to acknowledge how much better you've become. These new skills don't have to be earth-shattering. Maybe you learned a new way to deal with a difficult customer or figured out a new shortcut for creating that tiresome monthly report. Remind yourself how you've pushed yourself and inspire yourself to push your limits once again.

Question #3: What is my plan for sharing my skills?

Once you start acquiring and recognizing all your incredible skills, you need to find some outlet to showcase them. Seeking recognition doesn't mean that you should start acting like an obnoxious show-off in every meeting. Still, you should find situations in which you can share what you've learned and truly help others. You'll discover your colleagues are equally eager to learn — and teach what they've mastered.

If you commit to asking and answering these 3 questions every month, you'll start to see significant progress in your career. You may not get offered a C-suite job tomorrow, but you'll begin to build your skillset and expand your resume.

Most importantly, you'll start to see that your career is not controlled by your boss or your current employer. You have much more control over your career progress than you think. You just need to ask a few questions every month to put yourself in the driver's seat.

Mark Murphy is the founder of Leadership IQ, a New York Times bestselling author and teaches the leadership course What Great Managers Do Differently.

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