Have Big Goals? Ask The Big Questions


If we have a short-term project (e.g., get a job before severance runs out in 12 weeks) execution is relatively clear because the steps are laid out in sequential order and the short duration of the project leaves little time to lose focus.

Get the resume in order. Draw up your contact list. Answer ads, network. Interview. Follow up. Repeat as needed. But if the project is long-term (e.g., overall career management) then the steps are not necessarily sequential. Change is dynamic, organic, unexpected. Lack of firm deadlines enables us to get distracted and lose sight of the end goal. We might reach a stage in our careers, pause to reflect and realize we are unsure how and why we got there. For big goals then, we need to stay on course by asking big questions:

Are you better off this year than last year (in your career, but also relationships, health, etc)? If not, what can you do now to get back on track?

If you found out that you had limited time left, what would you keep doing and what would you stop? How can you get more of that ideal balance now?

In your list of life goals are there some that are time-sensitive? If you want to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro you need to take into account your health, ability to take time off, etc. Maybe you are in a unique position to do that now. Even if you didn’t intend to do that so soon, can you take advantage of your current circumstance to do it? What other goals lend themselves to your current situation?

Are you happy? What is working particularly well? Can you apply those lessons to other areas in your life?

These are not the only questions we should be asking. But they are a good start to move our focus from the daily grind to the broader picture. Being responsible and following through does not just mean we get our job done and fund our 401k. It means that we honor our lifelong aspirations and set time, money and energy aside to make them happen. Ask big questions. What are your lifelong aspirations? How can you support them with the time, money and energy you have right now?

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Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart a career coaching firm for Gen Y professionals. Formerly in corporate recruiting and retained search, Caroline has recruited for Accenture, Booz Allen, Citibank, Disney ABC, Oliver Wyman, Pfizer, and Time Inc. She currently writes career columns for Portfolio.com and Vault.com and teaches Professional Development at Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs.

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