Most people simply allow their lives to happen to them. We float along; we react. By the time a great portion of our lives has passed, we wake up to the realization that we should have been more proactive. We spend more time planning our next vacation than our careers. Why don’t we plan our career growth?

Because, we tend to focus on what we think will give us the greatest return. Unfortunately, many people don’t believe in themselves or they take things for granted. If you don’t believe in yourself or you think success is automatic – it’s not likely that you will give your life or your career the planning attention it deserves.

“If you don’t design your own life plan, chance are you will fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
– Jim Rohn

Success is not Automatic

Success is not automatic and it’s not guaranteed to come with time, hard work or status. Without a plan to achieve, it’s highly unlikely that you will (a) get the success you want or (b) enjoy how your career evolves in the long run. Most of my Career Clarity clients come to me because they stepped through whatever door that opened. One day, they wake up and realize that they aren’t where they wanted to be. Others are concerned about their future. Most aren’t sure what to do or even where to start.

Maybe you are early in your career and you thought your degree would get you a job. It’s a pity degrees don’t come with money-back guarantees. Unfortunately, a degree doesn’t mean what it used to and there are no guarantees. The only guarantee you have is that no development happens in absence of a goal and no goal is achieved without a plan.

Overcoming Your Obstacles

What’s sad is: there are 50x the number of people that come to me that need clarity in their lives, but don’t know that they can change. You don’t have to accept status quo or just ‘deal with it’ to make a paycheck. No one said that change was easy. Most things worthwhile in life are usually uphill.

“Unhappiness is not knowing what you want and killing yourself to get it.”
– Unknown

There’s another significant portion of people that don’t believe they can succeed, so they don’t bother to plan. People rarely outperform their own self-image. If you don’t believe in you – you won’t invest in your growth. Why would you had to the keys of your life over to someone you don’t believe can drive?

It’s time to give you a license to drive your own bus.

Take Control of Your Life

If you want to get out of your rut, you have to understand one, very important thing first: you determine your future! Nothing else: not your background, not what you look like, not what handicaps you have, not your perceived limitations – none of it decides who you are or who you become. I’m not saying this because my path was smooth or my background was spotless, because it’s not.

I come from a single-parent household and we weren’t well-to-do. I didn’t have a real sense of self-worth. I’d rather not think about the incredibly stupid things I did as a young teenager. Thanks to my mother, I dragged myself out of the murk I was sinking into and focused on my grades the last two years of high school. That allowed me to get a grant so I could go to college. Maybe that’s when I realized that, if you applied yourself, you can achieve.

“You don’t have to accept what people say you have to be! Isn’t that wonderful?”
– Johnnetta McSwain

Getting Clarity

College isn’t a guarantee and neither is success. I realized about mid-career that I needed clarity. I had followed too many open doors. I was headed towards a future that was not supportive of my life goals. I was living for a dream that wasn’t mine. I had to make a change and this is what I did:

#1 – What’s Your Priority?

I ask my clients: “If you are 70 years old and looking back over your life, what do you want to say that you’ve achieved?” This takes some thought and it allows you to focus on the big picture. In successful planning, sometimes you need to start with the end in mind. Maybe you want to spend more time with family, see more of the world, or become more active. Whatever it is, that priority drives your decisions.

#2 – What’s Your Strengths?

If you are strategic your career is at the intersection of your expertise, strengths and interests. Knowing yourself is critical towards building a successful career plan. You cannot build on the unknown. Take a personality assessment, connect with a mentor or a coach that can help you define and leverage your unique talents.

#3 – What’s Your Target?

Your career target may not be the same as your life priority. But once you understand your priority, you can use it to make the best overall decision for you. For example: if your priority is family, you probably don’t want to travel 75% of the time. Your target is the ideal career path that supports your priorities and leverages your strengths based on your interests.

#4 – What Are Your Steps?

Understand the steps that it will take you to get from where you are to where you want to be. These steps are goals (or milestones) to reach your target. If you want to achieve something and you don’t have skills or expertise – you have to develop them. I had to become certified before I could legitimately coach. That was a goal for me in support of my target based on my priorities.

#5 – What is the Process?

Not every goal can (or should) be achieved before something else – so what comes first, second, and third? There’s oftentimes a process associated with obtaining your target. Define what you need to achieve first to get to the next step so you don’t waste time or energy.

Work Your Plan

By the time you have understood the process and the strategy to obtain your career target – you have developed your plan. Now, all you have to do is work the plan. It will take dedication. You might have to give up some things to reach a goal. You will be discouraged from time to time. It’s important to remember that, when it gets the hardest, you are almost to your goal.

There are so many people that don’t ever get started on their goals because they are afraid of failure. Failure paves the path of success. Yes, you might have a setback. You might not get it right every time. What’s important isn’t how we fall, it’s how we get back up again. Failure is the greatest teacher. It’s how we learn. You don’t learn much if you are always winning.

Yes, this takes time, planning and focus. You might ask yourself: “Is it worth the investment?” That’s like asking if you need to breathe air to live. I have a more important question to ask you: “Can you afford not to invest in yourself?”