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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Instead of Career Goals…

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Here we are again – the start of a new year.

More likely than not, a bunch of people are about to set a bunch of goals. Many of those same people are probably not going to review last year’s goals…

There will be meetings, ponderings, musings, discussions, considerations, deliberations and much more.

Some goals will be the result of diagrams, trust exercises and mentoring meetings, and others will just be jotted down on a post-it with whatever you had handy because you were watching a YouTube video about how you MUST write your goals down.

And with all that, there’s a good chance that 99% of goals will be utter garbage.

By this I mean that the goals will:

  • be something other people have decided for you;
  • not be that important to you; or
  • all be things you want to DO or ACHIEVE.

This article is about the last point.

I’m a project kind of guy, so I get the idea of wanting to accomplish stuff.

But accomplishing stuff and ticking off project boxes is only part of the puzzle. The (arguably more important) part of the goal-setting process is this: what kind of person will you become by achieving those things?

You see, young lawyers in particular experience a lot of cognitive dissonance. Much of that comes from the problem that your career path (even now) is relatively laid out for you.

  1. Graduate.
  2. Get job.
  3. Become lawyer.
  4. Get promoted.
  5. Make partner.

And so the obvious goal-setting program generally involves just listing out the things required to take you from one step to the next.

But what if that’s a really dumb idea and you shouldn’t be doing it at all?

What if, by working the way or the hours or in the area required to, say, make partner in your firm, you’re actually going to embrace the dark side of the force and become a person that you don’t really want to be?

Many people speculate why lawyers go a bit off the rails sometimes – this kind of thing is why. We set our goals based entirely on achievement without any real regard to the underlying impact that achieving those goals (if you do) is going to have on our character.

Setting good goals is far more nuanced and complicated than simply ticking off the next pre-determined series of steps in your firm’s promotion program.

And while I’m not going to go all Tony Robbins on you here, at the very least I can say this: don’t just set your goals, try and also understand what achieving them is going to do to you physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and relationally – it’ll help you make better decisions along the way.




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