There are numerous articles across the web that discuss: “5 Ways to Know When it’s Time to Leave your Job,” or, “The 15 Steps to Figuring Out if it’s Time to Find a New Career,” or, “The 30 ways to Know if You’re Reaching your Full Potential“- but, that’s not what I’m going to do. Don’t get me wrong, many of these articles are incredibly helpful and filled with valuable advice. But, just as we all respond differently to situations, we all have different goals and opinions about our career. For example, many of us have encountered a person who doesn’t feel challenged at work, isn’t sure that there are growth opportunities at their current job, and dreads going to work each day. However, on the opposite end of the spectrum, you may know a person at the same company who loves the predictability and structure, enjoys the fact that each day is similar, and demonstrates little concern about the future. Same type of job, but two very different evaluations! That’s why it’s tricky to present a one-size-fits all model to help you know when it’s time for a change.

Goal setting is important because it gives us a metric to define what success and professional development means to us, whether or not we are acting in ways consistent with OUR goals, or whether we are veering away from OUR goals. The operative word is “OUR.” Goals, aspirations, and success look different for each of us. That’s why it’s important to define your long-term goals and to think about the paths to getting there. This way, you can recognize when your path shifts (which may not be a bad thing). If you feel lost, or you no longer know where you’re going, this could signal that it’s time to think about making a change.

What does goal setting entail?

  1. Define Your Goals– Stating that you want to “succeed at work
    isn’t enough- what does that mean? Maybe you’re already succeeding? But,
    since you never defined “success,” you don’t even realize it! Being
    specific helps you to know when you have met your goal.
    • Note:
      Part of defining your goal is making it measurable so that you
      can track your progress. Think about a metric that you can use to
      measure whether or not a goal is accomplished.
  2. Phrase Your Goals in the Positive– It’s helpful to recognize that there is a
    behavior or situation that you want to change, but it’s also important to
    recognize what you want instead. When you want to change a behavior, you
    will need something to replace it with, or else you wont know what
    you’re working toward (e.g., I want to stop yelling at my employees vs. I
    want to learn to speak more assertively when I’m feeling frustrated)!
  3. Break Large Goals into Smaller Goals– Setting large goals is great, but it takes time to
    get there. Breaking larger goals into smaller goals that are more
    manageable allows you to track your progress, create benchmarks, and
    celebrate the wins along the way.
  4. Brainstorm Steps That You Will Take to Achieve Your
    – Think of ways that you can go about
    achieving your goal (e.g., steps that you will take to accomplish the
    goal, people you will speak to, and/or resources you will need). If it is
    difficult to think of these concrete steps, this may signal that you need
    to return to steps 1-3 to better define and breakdown your goals.
  5. Consider Roadblocks– Proactively evaluate what may get in the way of
    achieving your goal. Then, plan ahead and proactively problem solve.
  6. Evaluate Progress– In order to hold yourself accountable, establish a
    time frame for when you would like to accomplish the goal. Then, think
    about how often you will assess progress. Once you establish a time frame
    for progress monitoring, set an alert that will serve as a reminder to
    check-in with yourself about the progress that you are making…or the lack
    of progress that you are making, which is also important information!
  7. Rework and Rewrite– Goals aren’t meant to be static! Don’t be afraid
    to redefine and rewrite your goals. We are constantly evolving, so this
    means our goals are also constantly evolving too.

Once you know what you are working toward, it is easier to know what you may be missing out on. If you notice that you aren’t making progress on your goals month-to-month, it’s important to ask yourself, “What is getting in my way?” If it is avoidance, procrastination, or another internal factor, this may require you to look at what thoughts, emotions, or behaviors may be impeding success. Conversely, maybe there are external factors getting in the way that are outside of your control (e.g., a difficult boss, demanding work environment, few opportunities for growth, etc.). Whether roadblocks are internal or external, it may be time to consider what changes you can make to help keep yourself on track. This may mean looking for a work environment that is a better fit, or can better support your current aspirations. Change is difficult and it may take time to get yourself out of a challenging situation. However, once you are aware of what you want, and what is getting in the way, you will have a clearer picture of what changes YOU want to make. You can build your personal roadmap to success by establishing goals, managing expectations, and planning for change.

Originally published at


  • Brooke Wachtler, Psy.D.

    Licensed Psychologist, Founder/President BEW Consulting & Training LLC

    Dr. Brooke Wachtler is a New York State licensed psychologist and the founder/president of BEW Consulting & Training LLC. BEW is a specialized professional development consultancy service that offers companies a psychologically informed approach to professional development training. BEW's unique approach focuses on (1) delivering concrete skills and strategies to enhance professionals’ day-to-day performance, productivity, and profitability, and (2) teaching professionals how to support and develop emotional intelligence skills that are critical for career success and growth. Dr. Wachtler loves applying her knowledge and understanding of motivation, behavior, and personality to business, specifically to leadership development and innovation. She is passionate about helping people change their thought processes, actions, and behaviors to assist them in reaching their goals.