goals list

Are You Making Progress on This Year’s Goals List?

We’ve spent a lot of time this year discussing how to create a goals list to help you grow. What kind of progress are you making on those goals?

Are you like the person who joins a gym on Dec. 31–intent upon losing weight, getting more active, whatever–then drops out by February? If that’s you, read on.

It’s only mid-March, so you have plenty of time to still make those goals.

Focus on one or two goals

Did you try to take on too many goals this year? If so, cut back to the one or two most important goals for you. You’ll find lots of good advice on how to do that in this article from Harvard Business Review.

It is better to achieve one or two goals than to make mediocre progress on five goals. Focus on what’s most important and go for it.

goals list
From Naldz Graphics

Urgent vs. important

Were you wearing rose-colored glasses when you put your goals list together for 2017? Sometimes we set such lofty goals that we’re shooting ourselves in the foot before we even get started.

We also get distracted by the urgent–those things that HAVE to be done NOW. When we do that, we lose the time we need to be introspective and figure out what we really want. What are your real goals for professional development?

I like the advice in this HBR article about writing your resume as you want it to look five years from now. Then figure out what you have to do to get from where you are to where you want to be. For more ideas on how to plan those steps, check out this post on goal-setting strategies.

Make sure your goals are SMART


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Revisit that post here.

goals list

Use what motivates you to grow professionally

Last week I talked with Matt. He’s 28 and has been in his current job for 18  months. “I want to be a leader,” Matt said.

According to a WorkplaceTrends.com study, 91% of young professionals (aka Millennials) aspire to be a leader. Matt has lots of company.

One of the most important skills for a leader is to be able to motivate others. Before you can learn to do that, you need to learn what motivates you.

Think about something you excel at

Before I explain the keys to motivation, take a minute to reflect on something you love to do and that you’re good at. Are you like the runner in the picture above? Poised to launch out of the blocks to fulfill her role on the relay team?

Or maybe you desire to become a public speaker like someone you’ve heard or watched in a TED talk. Or maybe you want to be a star chef and own your own restaurant.

Jot down why you love to do that.

The 3 keys to motivate people

This past summer, I came across this book that gave me new insights: “Why Motivating People Doesn’t Work . . . And What Does” by Susan Fowler. She has a pretty impressive list of her own accomplishments, including cowriting three books with guru Ken Blanchard. (Click on the book below to purchase from Amazon.)

Fowler writes about the science of motivation, which is based on three psychological needs—autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

AUTONOMY is our need to feel we have choices, that we’re in charge, and that we’re doing things because we want to.

RELATEDNESS is about feeling cared for, caring about others, and feeling we are contributing to society and the common good.

COMPETENCE is about being good at something and growing and flourishing as we get better at that something.

Human beings must have all three to be motivated. I’m doing X because I want to, because I care about others working on X, and because I’m getting better at the tasks involved with X.

Back to Matt

Like many young men, Matt loves to play video games. His parents have wondered how he could spend hours on end playing video games. They were pleasantly surprised he managed to finish his college degree and get a good job.

In the book “Glued to Games” by Rigby and Ryan, the authors say the reason males play video games with such dedication and intensity is because of autonomy, relatedness, and competence. (Click on the book below to purchase from Amazon.)

The players are in charge. They are often on teams and make new friends. And they learn lots of skills playing and winning those games.

Do video games build leaders?

Whether we can credit video games with helping develop the next generation of leaders is still up in the air.

But what about what you love to do, that thing you thought of when I asked the question above? Have you analyzed that activity to see if it rewards you with

  • autonomy
  • relatedness
  • competence

For example, I love to cook. Cooking was my artistic outlet when I stayed home with our kids when they were little. Cooking allowed me to check off each of those motivational characteristics.

AUTONOMY–I was in charge of what I fixed, what new cooking methods I learned, and when and how dinner would get made.

RELATEDNESS–I was lovingly preparing a meal for my family. I took great pride in preparing food that was tasty and nutritious for them and fun for me to prepare.

COMPETENCE–The more I cooked, the more I learned. The more I learned, the better I got. I could disappear into a new cookbook for days, just absorbing new information and techniques that I could use.

What fills that niche in your life?

If you want to be a leader, like Matt does, you have to learn what motivates you before you can learn to motivate others.

Updated March 16, 2017

© Pamela A. Scott, MentorLoft.com, 2017

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