Career Troubleshoot: Beware of OPG (Other People’s Goals)

Aug 22, 2014
6 Min Read

If your goals aren’t your own, you won’t be motivated to achieve them, and even if you do, the sense of accomplishment will be empty.

Most of us over age 30 remember the song OPP from the 90s. The acronym stands for “other people’s problems,” etc.

Lately, a lot of professionals in my world have been focusing too much on OPG – or other people’s goals. I’ll share a personal example. For the last several years, I’ve come across a lot of people wondering why I don’t expand my business. When I was called by a Washington firm that wanted to help me get on the GSA schedule and build my firm to a multi-million dollar enterprise, I declined the opportunity. Some thought I was crazy.

Here’s the thing. I’m an introvert raising two young children, and I like relative peace and quiet on the work front. I don’t want the stress of sitting atop a huge enterprise, with responsibility for many a livelihood. Being very wealthy and powerful is not important to me. But being balanced is. And with few exceptions, CEOs do not have much balance.

There is nothing wrong with my point of view, and if you want to be a CEO, there’s nothing wrong with yours. In the 21st century business world, careers are no longer one-size-fits-all. What’s right for someone else might not be equally desirable for you, so you must measure your success in terms of the goals that make the most sense individually.

We all have goals, even if we haven’t thought about them consciously or put them down on paper. Consider yours. Where do they come from?  Have you developed them based on messages from society, the media, or family? If your goals don’t excite you personally and encourage you to strive for greater accomplishment, they might not be yours after all. It’s time to take your career into your own hands.

If you’re new to the goal-setting process, realize that it’s critical to have both personal goals and professional goals. At least some of the latter should be developed in partnership with your supervisor so that you’re in a good position to grow your career and/or move to the next level. All professional goals should be SMART, meaning:

  • Specific: What exactly are you going to do? When and how?
  • Measurable: What are the criteria you should use to determine if you have achieved your goal? How will you tell if you’ve made progress along the way?
  • Attainable: Is your goal something that you can realistically achieve in a series of steps? While the goal should be challenging, you don’t want the task to be so large or difficult that it destroys your motivation. Also, you don’t want your success to be based on factors that are out of your control (like someone retiring before you can get to the next career level).
  • Relevant: Why is this goal important to your long-term success? Will completion of the goal actually bring you closer to career success?
  • Time-Bound: When are you going to start working on achieving your goal, and what is the deadline for completion? At what point should you stop and revisit your goal to make sure it’s still a goal worth pursuing? Maybe something has changed in your company or in the marketplace that will make you reconsider the goal.

Don’t know where to start? Ping trusted friends and mentors about what they feel are appropriate goals for your particular life stage and career level, but don’t accept their input blindly. Always take that extra step, peering into your own soul to see if the goal resonates there. Being true to yourself now will save you a lot of heartache later.

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