How to Achieve Impossible Career Goals

Posted January 27, 2011 by

Last weekend I completed a charity 10 mile walk with my older sister and 70 year old Mum. Whilst Mum enjoys walking regularly and is fit for her age, she’s never attempted anything as big as a 10 mile walk through the countryside.
When I booked the charity walk and announced it to friends and family, a couple of people told me that it was impossible that a 70-year old could walk this distance – “she can’t walk that distance” they said.
I didn’t agree with them and so my response was: “Yes she can!”
It’s a similar response I give when people say:
“You can’t find work in the current market” or
“It’s impossible to find meaningful work without becoming a pauper” or
“I can’t change after so many years”
My usual response to all these statements is “Yes you can!”
If you have the right strategy, the right mindset and the right people around you – blended with hard work and an open mind – “impossible” is often just an over used word.

Below are some lessons from my Mum’s 10 mile goal that apply equally to a 70 year old completing a 10mile walk as they do to a much younger person looking to take their career forward.
1. Have SMART goals
Many people who struggle to achieve their career goals do so because they are very vague about what they’re trying to achieve. Wanting to find “meaningful work”, “change careers” and “just find a job” may well be want you feel you want. But you need to have much more clarity than that to have a chance of succeeding.
Make your goals, SMART: Specfic, Measureable, Achieveable, Realistic and Trackable. When you have clarity – the right strategy, the right people and right resources start appearing.
My mum’s goal was to walk 10 miles on the 1st March 2009 on the grounds of Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, England starting at 9am. Now there’s a SMART goal.
How SMART are your career goals?
2. Make a public declaration
When you announce that you will achieve a particular goal – be it completing a charity walk, finding a new job or changing careers, it creates a level of public accountability that means you can’t go back. Having announced that we were doing the walk (and indeed started collecting funds for the charity) there was no way Mum was not going to complete it.
In the same vein, whatever your goal is, create a similar level of accountability so that you can’t let yourself off the hook when other priorities or your own fear get in the way of you taking action
3. Have goals you’re passionate about
My Mum LOVES walking. If she doesn’t go for a walk – she feels ‘not right’. So to set a goal around doing something that she does purely for the joy of it means that, although it seems ‘impossible’ to others, to her it was ‘exciting’ – even though it would stretch her. So it didn’t matter if she had set-backs, because it was something she was passionate about, she had the energy to overcome those set-backs.
That’s the problem with many of the career goals people set. They aim for things that they think they “should” be doing. They set goals that don’t play to their passions and don’t excite them – which means that they often fail to deal with set-backs, fail to climb over the brick walls that turn up and fail to think laterally about how to deal with their situation, because their goals are fuelled with “shoulds” rather than passion.
4. Tie the goal to a bigger purpose or vision
We have a long history of heart disease in our family (including my Dad who is a heart patient), and with all the support they’ve received, we wanted to support the British Heart Foundation by helping to raise funds to support their continued work. So doing a walk tied to something we all believed in meant that no matter how much easier it was not to go training in the cold – Mum still went. No matter how easy it would have been to say “I don’t feel comfortable wearing these new clothes and walking up these hills” – she still did it.
Why? Because she had a bigger reason for completing the walk.
Are your career goals tied to a bigger purpose? Do they give you some sense of fulfilment or meaning? Or are you simply tied to achieving financial reward…?
5. Think big, start small
Although the thought of doing a 10 mile walk to some people may sound daunting, when you break it down into manageable parts it’s much easier. We created a rough training plan for Mum, and although much of it changed, she did stick to doing one long walk each weekend and slowly built up the time and distance.
Which meant that by the time we got to the day of the walk, she had already completed a 6 mile walk and an 8 mile walk in the streets – so had both the confidence and fitness levels to deal with the big one over much tougher terrain.
So whatever career goal you’re working to, look at the overall strategy and then start breaking it down into manageable chunks.
Don’t worry about detailed ‘plans’ – they almost always get washed away. But have some kind of strategy to work towards and then take the first step. And then the next one and then next one.
6. Expect set-backs and obstacles – then deal with them
During the training period, we had the biggest snow falls for 20 years in the UK. So Mum couldn’t train for almost 2 weeks. My response was “go to the gym and walk on a treadmill.”
In addition to that she suffered from a rash for about a week which meant that walking became very difficult. So we ensured we got some antibiotics very quickly and adjusted her diet to kill the rash.
Then on the morning of the walk, Mum’s trainers were giving her a sharp pain. So we changed the footwear and got her to walk in her favourite ‘granny shoes’ (I kid you not). Was it a perfect solution? No. But they got the job done.
Whenever you attempt anything that’s worthwhile, life will throw abstacles and brick walls in front of you. It’s like a test to see how badly you really want to succeed.
That’s the problem with people who struggle to achieve career goals – particularly job searchers in the current job market. They interpret obstacles and set-backs as signs that they can’t achieve their goal – that they can’t find work. They get rejected and think “well what’s the point, there are no jobs out there”
But you better get used to the set backs. Because you will get rejected, you’ll be sent down blind alleys, chase leads that come to nothing, people won’t return your calls and you’ll have some really bad days. Deal with it – that’s part of the course. If it were easy, everyone would be successful.
7. Have a support team
Myself, my sister and Mum trained and completed the walk together. Which was of huge benefit as it provided companionship, sharing of experiences and an in-built group of cheerleaders. On the walk itself, we were regularly reaching out a hand of help as we climbed over stiles and grappled with the steep muddy hills. Indeed other walkers became our wider group as we encouraged each other and laughed through the journey.
Like any major goals in your life or your career – you can’t achieve them on your own.
So whatever your current objective, build a support team around you to act as cheerleaders, sources of advice and support towards your goal. Without them, you will struggle.
8. Be 100% committed
Commitment is like a light-switch. It’s either on or off. There’s no half way.
To achieve anything that seems impossible at first – you need to be totally committed to the cause without distraction and without fear of what people will think of you.
On the same day as our walk this weekend, my Mum didn’t attend a family wedding (…a shooting offence amongst the Indian community!). We’d entered the walk before we knew about the wedding date which clashed with the walk. But her attitude was “I want to do the walk. It was booked before we knew about the wedding date, so I’ll apologise for not attending the wedding and send my best wishes. I’m still doing the walk”
How’s that for commitment..?! It would have been much safer to take the easy option – to cancel the walk and attend the wedding out of obligation.
If you want to achieve a challenging career goal it’s about not taking the easy option. You need to be either committed or not bother at all. Anything in between just causes you to lose motivation and kills your self esteem – don’t go there.
So whatever your goal – you need to be totally committed. The best part is that the longer you stay committed, the closer you get to the goal whilst others drop by the wayside.
9. Step outside your comfort zone
My Mum has never worn a track suit and never worn trainers until the last few weeks. She’s a traditional Indian Mum – so she wears sarees, Indian slippers and cooks great Indian food!
To complete this challenge she had to step outside her comfort zone. Wear things she’s not worn before, done things she’s not done before. So all credit to her. She was open-minded enough to do what it took to achieve the goal.
How about you? Whether you want to find work in one of the toughest job markets in a generation, make a career change or survive and thrive in your current role during a hugely uncertain market, there is no standing still. The winners in 2009 will be those people who are willing to step outside their comfort zone and reach their goal despite the recession and downturn.
10. Enjoy the journey
They say that life is about the journey towards the goal, not in the goal itself. I know it’s a cliché – but it’s very true. Our 10 mile walk was not about completing the walk, but about the journey. My sister and I spent more quality time with my Mum than we have in a very long time. The conversations and the memories of the amazing scenic route are far more important than just reaching the finishing line.
Similarly with you, whilst you’re aiming towards the goal, don’t lose sight of the people, the experiences and the laughter along the way. As this bill board below from the walk shows – life is short, so make sure it’s not all about “goals” and all about your “to-do” list.
When you focus on the journey instead of just the goal, you’ll find very few things that are really impossible. Enjoy the journey…
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for SitalRuparelia.jpgArticle by, Sital Ruparelia and courtesy of The Career Hub blog connects job seekers with experts in career counseling, resume writing, personal branding and recruiting.

Originally posted by Candice A

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