I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t know where I want to be in five years. Hell, I don’t even really know what I want to be when I grow up.
As far as my brain is concerned, goals are things you score, not things you set.
I’m always astounded when I hear people say they knew at age five what they wanted to be when they grew up — and then became that thing. On the one hand, that single-mindedness of purpose speaks of passion; on the other hand it screams lack of imagination. On the other, other hand, people who grow up knowing what path they’re on and not deviating from it are also quite often entirely fulfilled by their chosen career, whether it’s driving trucks or teaching school, so what do I know?
I’ve had two passions in my life — one is for singing, the other is for writing. I was not encouraged to pursue either as a career choice. Some would say if I’d ever really wanted to make a go of one or the other I would have found a way and I suppose that’s fair comment, but the world which informed me said you earned a living first and indulged your passions second. (The world which informed the girl one grade behind me who went on to become an opera singer was obviously an alien planet.)
I thought I was ahead of the game when I went to journalism school — it struck me as the easy way into a career where I’d get paid to write. (Cue the sardonic laughter.)
To set a goal you need to have a specific outcome in mind, and my desired outcomes are all fairly general — be healthy, be employed, have some mad money, be happy. I am no good at narrowing down — in fact, I become paralyzed by choice, whether it’s movies at the multiplex or European countries I’d like to visit. Turkey, of course. Or maybe Ireland. Russia. Yes, Russia. No — Italy… And don’t forget North Africa… Basically, someone is going to have to force my hand or I’ll never leave this continent.
You also need self-discipline, and here’s another area where I marvel at people, say, Olympic athletes, who’ve achieved discipline at levels a dominatrix would respect. I don’t respond well to discipline when others impose it, and I’m altogether reluctant to cause myself distress of any kind.
Unfortunately for me, looking for work in a downsizing world requires goal-setting skills. The job isn’t your only goal — each of the steps it takes to get there is also a goal: getting up every morning and showering. Eating a good breakfast. Exercising. Sending out X number of resumes a week. Staying current with events in the industry. Talking to your contacts and identifying new ones.
In a perfect world, the goal wouldn’t be just to find any job, it would be to find a job that suits your skills, that pays a little more than enough to live on, is in an industry that you’re not ashamed to represent, and above all will make you happy. That’s easier to do from a place of current employment — layoffs have been known to make you a smidgen less picky.
Still, as long as you can, dare to dream — set the goal, and impose the self-discipline to make it happen. Let me know how that works out for you, I might want to try it.