As useful as traditional goal setting can be, these days, there may be more effective ways to handle your professional and personal life.
The rapidity of technological advancement and the uncertainty of the global economy may render the goals you set obsolete. With everything shifting so quickly, it’s easy for your own personal ambitions to become irrelevant.
However, imagining yourself succeed can be an incredibly effective tool in helping you progress. At a time when we are more aware than ever that change is constant and life is unpredictable, the idea is to set yourself in the right direction.
To help you take command of your career in today’s volatile market, here are five tried-and-true alternatives to goal-setting.
Visualize the future
You’ve probably heard of elite athletes who fantasize about their future success. Outside of sports, this is a process that can be effective. A St. Michael’s Hospital study, for example, discovered that when emergency room doctors or trauma healthcare workers imagined how they would deal with a difficult situation, they were more successful.
Mental mapping—imagining the future in great detail and clarity—allows you to visualize what your preferred future will look like. Experts believe this works because you’re preparing your mind for a similar situation in real life, and you’ll be ready to respond and take the appropriate action. This broad vision is more effective than setting specific goals. Instead of planning steps that may be derailed by unexpected events, you imagine a fully realized picture of the future rather than your calendar or task list.
Adjust your target
A variation on mental mapping is how you visualize your target. Purdue University researchers demonstrated this in a study involving golf. According to the researchers, golfers made more shots when they imagined the hole to be larger. Previous research on football players discovered a similar effect.
Researchers believe that changing your perception of a target boosts your confidence, which helps you perform better. For example, if you want to become a great public speaker, you may increase your chances of success if you imagine the audience nodding, and smiling.
Introduce some distance from your goals
Another way to consider your future goals is to imagine yourself in the third person. York University and Wilfrid Laurier University conducted research on the conditions for people’s success in a variety of situations, including school, work, and the performing arts. People’s motivation levels increased when they imagined themselves in the third person as if they were watching themselves succeed.
When you’re interviewing for a new job or negotiating a high-stakes deal with a customer, anxiety can get in the way. However, if you can imagine yourself as a spectator watching the situation, you will most likely increase your chances of success.
Allow things to emerge naturally
Another approach to traditional goal setting is to establish a general direction and then allow the specific steps to emerge naturally. You may desire a specific role in your organization, and a traditional approach would have you chart a course for classes to take, people to meet, and a progression of jobs to get there. However, tunnel vision can be limiting. If one of the steps does not go as planned, the rest of the plan can fall apart.
A better option is to chart your course and respond as opportunities arise.
Be aware of what’s happening around you
If you are overly focused on your objectives, you may only look for what you expect to find rather than paying attention to how the world is changing. Concentrate on your surroundings and you’ll be more prepared to react. For example, if you notice changes in your organization’s strategy, you can anticipate a project for which you might volunteer.
Seeking too much certainty can be counterproductive. Remember that today’s options will not be the same as tomorrow’s.