Achieving Career Goals Is More Art than Science

The business world fixates on goal setting. Performance reviews revolve around setting and meeting annual goals. Salespeople and managers continually strive to hit goals and meet margins, and every organization sets goals that it tries to achieve to prove its viability.

As individuals, we similarly set goals for our professional lives. We aspire to climb the ranks within our organizations or industry, and hope to progressively attain loftier titles and larger paychecks. But is the same formulaic, figures-driven strategy of goal setting and attainment used by employers actually working to advance our own careers and what we hope to achieve in life? And how often do we achieve what we set out to accomplish?

According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, 92 percent of people never reach their goals. Lack of motivation, fear, self-doubt and setting unattainable goals are among the hurdles that keep most of us from realizing our dreams.

But there’s another, more empowering way to go about setting and achieving our goals. For most, we want financial success. Yet achieving financial success, or any other kind of success, should not require stress and struggle. We shouldn’t have to sacrifice job satisfaction, health and happiness in pursuit of our goal. This approach actually blocks success. Struggle can actually stop solutions, opportunities and possibilities from coming our way.

We set goals and develop dreams because we believe that achieving them will bring us some level of fulfillment. But we actually have the order backwards. The cornerstone of achieving our goals and, consequently, a successful life is based on our level of feeling joy in our careers now, not the other way around. Instead, we need to tap into our intuition to discern what is best to pursue in our lives and what existing positive qualities we can enhance to help bring our dreams to fruition.

Use these promising strategies to go after, and actually achieve, your goals:

1. Set goals that you can believe in. Give yourself time for introspection and determining what you really want in your career and life. Yes, it can be grandiose, such as “I want to be a millionaire.” But if you don’t believe that it’s possible, and the thought of pursuing it feels daunting, try stepping up the rungs of the ladder toward achievement slowly with thoughts that feel more comfortable. For example, you can encourage yourself by thinking, “I have the potential to do great work,” or “I know people who were in the same place I am who became millionaires. I’m on the right track and eager to do more.” 

2. Understand the “why” behind your goals. Instead of thinking about how you’re going to achieve your goals, think about and write down why you want to achieve them. This is one of the most important parts that nobody takes time to examine. Keep peeling back the layers and boil your answers all the way down to the feeling place. When you identify the feeling that you’re after, think about how you will feel when the goal is achieved. Imagine and get the feeling as if you’ve already achieved it. Inspirational author Esther Hicks said, “When you talk about what you want and why you want it, there’s usually less resistance within you than when you talk about what you want and how you’re going to get it.” 

3. Pursue goals that energize you. Sit with the idea of your goal. Ask yourself, does the goal make you feel expansive in your energy, or do you feel constricted? When you feel expansive, then you’re open to allowing wonderful possibilities and opportunities to come to you. When you desire to be different or better than you are, you create in your mind the ideal of what you’d like to be and then live with the thoughts and feelings as if they’re already your reality. When this becomes your dominant feeling, positive results are inevitable.

4. Imagine the life you want as already a reality. Stating your goals in the “now” will trigger thoughts and feelings in your mind and body that better prepare you for having those actually be your current reality. For example, instead of saying, “I want to quit smoking,” you say, “I’m a nonsmoker.” Explore what that feels like. By getting the exhilarating feeling as if your goal has already been achieved, you change your energy and attract what you want into your life. 

5. Remain flexible in pursuing your goals. Formulate action steps that you can take toward achieving your goals, and plan to take action each day. Still, don’t rigidly stick to how to achieve the goal. Be open to any ideas for positive, forward-moving action that may even lead you toward other, even better, ideas. 

6. Roll with the setbacks. You may have heard stories about how Oprah was told by her earlier employer that she wasn’t fit for TV, or how Steve Jobs was fired from Apple only to later have his company NexT be acquired by Apple and later going on to create the iPod, iPhone and iPad technology. Their setbacks actually made them stronger. All of our challenges, struggles and failures are actually gifts to teach us how to become wiser and better version of ourselves. Learn to trust the big picture of your life and to flow through upsets and challenges with more ease and grace and less stress and struggle. 

Strive to find joy in the pursuit of your goals. Allow experiences to unfold and delight you, and avoid hanging on to a narrow path or point of view. With this approach, your reality may turn out even better than you’ve dreamed.

*     *     *

Janet McKee is a speaker, bestselling author, wellness expert and CEO of SanaView. She is one of only 200 elite Certified High Performance Coaches(TM) in the world and inducted as a member of the National Association of Experts, Writers and Speakers. She is author of the new book, Stressless Success: The Surprising Secrets to a Life of Passion, Purpose and Prosperity (Laurel Mountain Publishing, Feb. 1, 2020). Janet created the acclaimed Accelerated High Performance Program and the emPower3 Leadership + Lifestyle Retreats to empower others to break negative patterns and achieve greater success. Learn more at


Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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