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Upon beginning any simple task, is there a concrete motive in mind; do you picture an end goal? Most tend to think of menial tasks, such as dishwashing, or driving, in terms of what they produce upon completion; thinking in this way provides us the logical motivation needed to choose actions that see such chores through. When scrubbing soap on tableware, we picture clean dishes; when pressing the gas pedal, we envision the destination.

If we mentally assign all of life’s simplicities the benefit of a premature conclusion, why, then, wouldn’t we do the same for the single task that consumes so much of our time, and comprises such a colossal portion of our daily effort, that we actually refer to it as our “job”? If we recognize the motivational perks of thinking “clean dishes” or “moving from A to B”  when handling the least consequential of life’s necessities, isn’t it reasonable to imagine that visualizing our career in terms of its greatest possible outcomes will logically motivate us to choose the corresponding actions, and see them through?

Visualizing one’s career goals will actively enable them to happen. Aimless employees often fall into routines of complacency, only ever contributing minimal energy toward tasks set by supervisors, whose goals may diverge from their own. By actually mapping out objectives, employees equip themselves with the motivation necessary to bypass unproductive habits, and achieve goals.

Goals should be set in both the short and long term, and completing immediate goals should move employees closer to achieving final objectives. Long term goals serve as a career plan’s overarching purpose. The time frame for finishing long term goals is usually around three to five years. Short term goals, on the other hand, may take anywhere from one to three years. Achieving daily, weekly, and monthly objectives is essential as well, as doing so creates a foundation of small victories, upon which significant accomplishments develop.

When establishing goals, it’s also important to keep them measurable; completing a goal should better an employee’s situation in a way that can be observed or quantified. Goals become counterproductive when they are stated negatively, for example, “I’d rather not be working a sales position two years from now.” Negative goals are vague, and progress towards them is difficult to measure. The same goal, stated productively, might be worded: “I want to improve my business management skills, and obtain a supervisory position within two years.” Goals must also be realistic, as imagining an overly fantastic outcome, or not allowing adequate time for completion could lead to demotivation.

Employees who fail to set obtainable goals often end up floundering through daily assignments, unaware of why they bother. Such attitudes create severe job dissatisfaction, and prevent otherwise competent performers from achieving their full potential.