Once you have an exciting vision of your future goals, it’s not enough to just dream about the future; you have to plan and take action. One of the most powerful tools you already possess that will help you to design a happy life is your ability to continuously self-analyze, no one knows you better than you know yourself, and this process is key, especially when you convert this into action. When we work with young adults and parents for career coaching, it’s not just about establishing their career goals. The very first thing I do is get to the root of what truly motivates them, and why. The more self-awareness they have, the more their goals will be rooted in an actionable career and life path, opening up choices and a future they can trust is right for them.
"If you don't design your own life plan, chances are you'll fall into someone else's plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much."
- Jim Rohn
How to Analyse to Create Choice:
1. I have no choice.
“Don’t stress over things think you can’t change. Focus on what you can influence and take action! Life is full of choices.” - Audrey Hametner
“I have no choice.” When you are in this position, analyse why you think you don’t have a choice. Is it due to external expectations, limits set by others, lack of finances, timing pressure, etc.? You always have a choice. You can choose not to do it; that’s still a choice, even if it’s one you’d rather not make, because you perceive you will end up in a worse position, or it goes against your values.
When you are in a position where you think you don’t have a choice, analyse why you think that, and imagine what you would do differently if you did have a choice. By exploring these possibilities, you have now found choices!
Choosing to do a great job even if it something you didn’t choose for yourself is still an active decision, and builds the discipline and determination that is needed for real career success.
I always have one consistent message in my coaching sessions. Being honest with yourself and more positive in your behaviours and responses makes room for greater opportunity, choice, and reward in your life.
2. I don’t know what motivates me.
“As you develop the goal for a career, take the time to analyze why you are reaching for those particular stars.”
- Audrey Hametner
Living through the consequences of a life or career choice that is not at the heart of who you have an inevitable effect on emotional and mental wellbeing. Knowing your ‘why’ is a key first step in figuring out ‘how’ to set goals that excite you, and what needs to be in your plan to achieve them.
When you get excited about a future goal, sit in silence for a minute and ask yourself why you are so excited. The “why” behind that feeling is the answer to what motivates you, and you will discover more about what drives you. Focus on your strengths, your motivations, and your aspirations.
Now take action. Keep a record of these ‘high engagement’ moments; ensure you write it all down to help see the patterns. Whether you use an old-fashioned journal or an online tool, whether you prefer full paragraphs or notes or drawings, getting to understand which goals excite you will give you clarity about who you are and what you want.
Knowing your why will help you make better choices about what you do in life; where to study, what work to get involved in, which company, and which relationships to nurture, because you know why you do it, and what you are and are not prepared to accept as a choice.
Setting goals based on our why helps us to be accountable, celebrate the small steps on the way, overcome challenges, and ask for help when we need it.
3. Am I making the right choice?
“Other people’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.”
- Les Brown
Research shows that agency (the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices) is one of the most important contributors to happiness.
It’s natural for those closest to us to have opinions about our career choices – family, friends, educators, etc.; from saying how good you are at something and encouraging you to follow that path, or expressing surprise at your choice because they think your strengths lie elsewhere, to more bruising feedback such as this really isn’t for you. However, being great at swimming doesn’t necessarily mean that you love being on the Swim Team. Even though you are not top of the class, math is still allowed to be your favourite subject.
It is inevitable that people around you will project their experience and expectations, even those with the best of intentions. The moment you choose to believe what others say you are or do what they think you should do is the moment you lose control of your own goals. As you are the one who has to live with the consequences of each decision, your opinion is the one that matters most.
The Japanese work-life balance concept ‘Ikigai’ is often associated with a Venn diagram that has four overlapping values:
Ø What you love
Ø What you are good at
Ø What the world needs
Ø What you can get paid for
Rooting your goal in your motivations is key to making the right choices for you as an individual. My role when working with teenagers and young adults is to make sure they are in the best possible place to enjoy and embrace the independence journey, with the confidence to believe in their abilities to analyze and make solid decisions.
4. I have my goal but now what?
“Success isn't about the end result, it's about what you learn along the way.”
- Vera Wang
Once you find that future goal, search for people who have done this before you. Role models are important tools to help find paths to success. They provide a vision for who we aspire to be; researching their successes and their mistakes, and how they handled both, is a great way to harness the experience of those further down the career path that you are considering.
When you have identified your own beliefs, values, and motivations, search for people who mirror your why and create a list, drawing on both local people you know personally, as well as celebrities. Think about each role model’s most important moments for you, and analyze why you think that, and what draws you to these moments. This will feed into your own motivations and what excites you.
Think about what you admire about their behaviours and qualities, and what you would like to do differently in your own life to mirror those traits. Then set small steps to model more of these behaviours. For example, if it is their discipline you admire, then some of your personal development goals would be around timekeeping and commitment and setting and hitting targets or deadlines.
When you identify a person that has real-world experience in an area of life to which you aspire, this helps to set your mind thinking in new directions and is a great source of information for how to achieve similar goals in your own life.
Persistent and consistent self-reflection, and analysis of what motivates and does not motivate you, instils a growth mind-set and opens up choices, allowing you to find and action the goal that you want in life. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, ‘If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.’