We tend to think of personal goals once a year: New Year’s Eve. We make resolutions — business goals, career goals, life goals, and so on – most of which never happen.

In fact, 92 percent of people surveyed by the University of Scranton said that they never actually achieved their New Year’s goals.

It’s time to re-examine how we set goals and what we really want out of them in the first place. Goals are critical for most owners and managers. But many often struggle with goals because they can feel constraining.

So, when goal-setting seems limiting, what do you do?

Let’s face it: It helps to know where you are going in order to get there. You need a purpose; you need a direction. But what if your goals aren’t motivating you? What if they are simply reminders that you are not achieving what you desire, perhaps setting you up for dissatisfaction or discontentment? And what if you want to change your goals somewhere along the way?

Does this mean you failed or can’t stay focused?

And shouldn’t we be remembering to enjoy the journey along the way? How do we reconcile all these things when setting goals and still have a successful end result?

To get some deeper insights into workplace goal setting, we’ll share some insight from Barbara Berger, founder of Career Wellness Partners, a career coaching and wellness organization. Barbara works with folks from all walks of life who are looking to figure out what comes next. They are often professionals who are either looking to make significant career pivots, make a career change within their companies, or are out of work. Their goals are an important element of this journey.

Barbara says that career management is a blend of SMART goal setting and serendipity. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. When you are too focused on the final outcome of your goal, you can miss unexpected opportunities that come up along the way, she says. That’s where serendipity, in the form of unexpected life events or developments that lead to a beneficial outcome, can come in.

“Keep your eyes open and learn throughout the process. The process itself is part of the goal,” she says. “Rather than focusing on a completely circumscribed goal, focus on the process by being an active participant in your career discovery. Let yourself discover who you are and where you belong.”

She uses her own life as an example. Her degree is in marketing and communications. While at one company, she became interested in learning about its recruiting and hiring process. She expressed her interest to her employer and began to learn about this field. Barbara turned out to be very talented at interviewing applicants. Fast forward to today, she has successfully started her own business by applying elements of her marketing knowledge and her interviewing background. This she describes as her own professional serendipity.

Here’s the checklist of how she capitalized on it:

  • She was self-aware.
  • She paid attention to what types of work she found meaningful.
  • She took action – capitalizing on learning experiences made available by both planned and unplanned situations.

Serendipity aside, Barbara recommends that you check on your goal progress with personal performance reviews on a regular basis. “This way, you can make sure that you are on track with your goals, and you can document what you have picked up or learned along the way.”

For those in the market for a job, it is critical to be aware of their abilities and inabilities. It can be crystal clear to a hiring manager that an applicant applying for a job is not the right match for the position, possibly not even for the industry. Unfortunately, too many job-seekers keep pushing along without needed self-awareness.

Perhaps a solid goal for employers and employees is to take a deep dive into understanding the purpose of both career and workplace goals. Are you putting employees in the right jobs? Are individuals taking the time to learn what career matches make the most sense for them? Do workplace goals align with personal core values?

Barbara says that all personal goals should operate from a place that allows you to grow and learn. She explains that if the goal contains no meaningful stretch, then it’s a limited and safe objective – increasing the chances that you won’t purposefully pursue it. Employees and employers both deserve better than that.

Workplace Goals for 2021 – Where Do We Start?

Now that we’re finally ready to put 2020 mercifully in the rearview mirror, many of us have no real interest in looking back at what was a very difficult 12 months for all sorts of different reasons. Workplaces changed radically during 2020, and as a result so did the personal lives and routines of millions of people across the United States. People who have never known anything but getting up and going to work were suddenly getting up and going to work… down the hallway, or into their walk-in closet, or up in the attic, or…

You get the point. It can seem all but impossible to set workplace goals for 2021 when you can’t even really define “workplace” in a standard way anymore. However, we’d like people to view this as more of an opportunity than as a limiting factor, as when the definition of workplace is all but shattered, that means that employers are now looking at talent and new ways in which they can contribute that they may never have even considered in the past.

Don’t Limit New Ways of Thinking

If you’re a manager, director or even owner of your organization, you’re probably thinking of ways to set a productive and positive tone heading into 2021. The first part of this should be easy – after all, 2020 is over – so whatever changes occur during the next 12 months will most likely pale in comparison to what everyone has just experienced. Hopefully, we won’t come back to regret that comment, because who could’ve predicted as 2019 was ending what was going to happen, but honestly, how much less predictable can things get?

Operating from that assumption, setting workplace goals should as always be formulated with substantial input from your team. Presently, those team members are looking at things from an entirely different perspective than they did in previous years. As mentioned above with the new way workspaces are constituted, this represents an opportunity. Members of an organization have spent a large portion of the previous year learning:

1. How to use Zoom

2. How to focus on meetings when children are buzzing around their new “workplaces”

3. How to ignore the seemingly ubiquitous barking of dogs in the background

4. Just when to do laundry so that it limits workday interruptions

5. How to order groceries online

Workplace goals for 2021 are going to come from a new and previously unexplored place for people. Make use of that and encourage that as much as possible, because these perspectives are just as if not more invaluable than they ever have been.

Company goals are important, and even now, when so many companies are scattered in different locations, those workplace goals do provide the drive necessary to get through some of the tough days that we all face. We can’t change the circumstances we’re in right now, so all we can do is embrace them and try to position them to help all of us move forward successfully. We wish you the best in the coming year.