Today, I sat a Career Development Board (CDB) for two of my Shipmates in my department. For you non- Navy types a CDB is a meeting among senior Sailors and Chiefs and an individual where we counsel and discuss with the trajectory of their career and life plans. Think high school guidance counselor meetings. But instead of one guidance counselor, you have six nosy teachers, and they’re all wearing the same outfit.
Even though everyone is different, my advice is usually the same for everyone. Oddly enough, comes from two sources of wisdom: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the 2010 film, How Do You Know (which stars my ultimate dreamboat Paul Rudd).
Figure out what you want, and figure out how to get it.
Figuring out what you want, not always an easy nor simple task. Throughout my career and life I believed “what I want” was actually “what other people want for me.” Pursuing what other people want for you leaves you feeling drained, because you’re basically fighting for something that holds no intrinsic value for you. Only you can decide what is right for you. Horses and water and all that. However, once you do figure out what it is the rest is simple. (Not easy. Nothing worth having is easy. Goes for women, goes for goals).
How to Follow My ‘Magic’ Advice (I just decided now, it’s magic)
1. Set a goal.
The word goal comes from the Middle English gol, meaning boundary limit. It was first recorded in 1531. So basically, the internet is telling me goals didn’t exist prior to 1531.
Goal- is a desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines. It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value. Thank you, Wikipedia.
As of today my life goals are: be independent, be healthy, travel the world. If I accomplish these three things, then anything else that comes my way just kind of a bonus mushroom. Personally, having those three broad goals gives me a sense of perspective and keeps me grounded. When I get mired into the minutiae of the grind of work and worries, I think of these goals that I’ve accomplished and the progress I plan accomplish over my entire lifetime.
So for you, reader, setting a goal is finding out where you want to go in life, what you want to get and why. Here’s where the Alice in Wonderland reference becomes relevant.
Alice is wandering around, asks the Cheshire cat which path to take. It figures the cat is a sarcastic asshole when the chick is really lost, but cats are jerks even in fictional scenarios. But jerky or not, the feline has a really excellent point. It doesn’t matter what path you take if you don’t know where you want to end up. So, sorry Lindsay, but the limit (or goal, if you’re following my clever point) does exist.
If you can’t find one little teeny thing that gives you an ounce of pleasure, fun or value- then maybe you should try hugging a puppy or something, because you need help (which there’s absolutely nothing wrong with.)
Once you have your goal break that down into little goals, small steps you can take to achieve the greater goal.
2. (I was doing a numbered list, right?) Take steps to achieve the goal.
Enter, the goal setting acronym I love but can never remember: SMART
SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Bound
So let’s take this acronym and apply it to one of my goals as it stands today.
Main Goal: I want to be independent.
Specific: What is it exactly does that mean and why is it important to me?
I want to be financially independent and secure by the time I can retire from the military in 2022. It is important to me because I want to be able to travel, and do whatever I want to do at that time in my life. Work, have or adopt babies (human or otherwise), own a bakery- whatever.
Measurable: How will I measure progress toward this goal?
Making progress in the military? Check. Finish college education: Check. Eliminating Debt and Saving Moola? Working on it. Minimizing present and future expenses: Working On it. Saving money: Working on it.
Achievable: Are these goals within reason?
Yes. I’ve definitely fallen in the overwhelmed/burnt out trap before. Rule of thumb, under achieving little steps will always be more than overloading yourself and quitting altogether.
Relevant: Is this goal relevant to my general purpose in life?
Sure, all three of my life goals are interrelated. I want to be healthy so I can be independent for as long as possible. I want to be independent so I can travel wherever I want to go. I want to travel so I need to be financially independent. So on, and so forth.
Time-bound: What is the time frame I’d like to complete this goal?
Long term: 20 years in the Navy to retire, get pay and benefits. I’m 12 years in, got 8 left to go.
Short term: Before I rotate or choose orders- I try to set myself up so I’m not compelled by financial reasons to stay in position I don’t like or want. Rather, I choose to stay Navy because there’s a job I want to take, because I want to do the work involved, and because that job contributes to my ultimate goals.
So there you have it. I try to think of anything I’m doing in those terms, goals and steps toward goals. It’s the best way and the only way I’ve figured out how to make progress toward the things I want. If you know a better way or have other goal setting tips I always welcome advice. Only a fool thinks they know everything. I’m sure that was said by someone important at some point.
So, how is the Paul Rudd movie “How Do You Know” relevant to this post? After being cut from the USA softball team and feeling a bit past her prime, main character Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis (awesome, Paul Rudd) competes with her current, baseball-playing beau (douche-canoe Owen Wilson).
Two scenes I think of often from this movie. The first, Lisa goes to a shrink to get some guidance before her medical insurance from the Softball team runs out. She gets embarrassed and leaves- but before she asks the doctor a question.
Lisa: So I was just wondering if there was one general thing that you’ve found over the years to be generally true in a general way that would help anyone in any situation?
Psychiatrist: That’s a great question, yes, I would say figure out what you want and learn how to ask for it.
Lisa: OK. Those are both really hard.
Yes, I basically copied my life’s philosophy from that one scene. Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places.
The second scene is below, which always gives me hope when I feel frustrated with my progress or lack of progress (and contains a fun fact about play-doh)-
“We are all just one small adjustment away from making our lives work.”
Thanks for reading, now go set some goals!
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