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When goal-setting, is it better to think big or small?

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Question: "I had an idea that I would set myself a target date for becoming the manager of my department exactly five years from now, and work to make that goal happen as hard as I can. I definitely have a few promotion levels to achieve before I get there, so do you think it's wise to set such an ambitious goal with such a specific timeline, or am I setting myself up for a possible disappointment that might be even tougher to recover from if I don't make it?" - Mel, Property Processing Clerk

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy September 11, 2014 at 4:36 pm

I agree with the majority of the earlier comments. I also think you may have to be prepared to search for a job in another company. If you do have promotional levels which will help you get into the department management you would like to have then, by all means, go for it. It took me until I got a new job with another company before I achieved what I’d wanted. Good luck!

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L September 9, 2014 at 9:56 am

Not knowing you personally, your lifestyle, your current commitments, etc., your question is a little hard to answer. Generally speaking, you might try making smaller short term goals or “levels” to achieve as a stair-step to the ultimate goal of being manager. Also, if your HR department has a career path department, you might meet with a rep and use their expertise as a mentor to help you reach your ultimate goal.

Also as others have already said, it is inevitable that our personal lives change and companies also go through changes, so be mentally prepared to take detours as needed. Think positive and best of luck!

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Mark September 8, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I say set that goal as high as you can — but remember, it’s just like a New Year’s Resolution. It’s something to shoot for but not expect. If you fail, congratulate yourself for thinking big and get yourself another big goal right away. Keep plowing forward and being ambitious, but treat it as a bonus when the best happens, and just shrug it off when it doesn’t.

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Me September 5, 2014 at 11:08 am

If becoming the department manager is a real possibility for you, then go for it. If it really isn’t but that’s where you see yourself in five years anyway, then maybe an adjustment is needed to set your sights a bit lower for the time being or seek out another department altogether. NEVER beat yourself up because you don’t reach a certain goal. Just re-think it, re-set it and try again. Just remember to always be realistic.

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DeeCee September 4, 2014 at 4:34 pm

There is nothing wrong with setting goals for yourself, even “ambitious” goals. Is your goal possible to achieve? If not, then make a more realistic goal. If it is possible, research what you will need to do to achieve it. But realize that no matter how hard you try, there are many things outside of your control. Don’t allow the fear of failure to keep you from trying. Speak your goal out loud. Write it down. That increases your chance of achieving your goal. And if it doesn’t happen exactly how and when you planned…so what? Shrug it off and adjust your goal as necessary. You might even find that your life has taken a turn in a better direction than you had planned! The only real failure is in not trying for what you want. Persist. Persevere. Go for it.

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Theresa Kasel September 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I don’t think it’s necessarily bad to make a long-term goal unless you aren’t making the short-term goals that will take you to the long-term goal.

Your five-year goal may be a reasonable and achievable goal — but I don’t know where you are in terms of skills and abilities to get to manager. Does a manager of your department need some sort of degree that you currently don’t have? Can you get that degree, while working, in less than five years? Will the position be open in five years? Would you be willing to be the manager of a different department?

Anytime you set a goal there is a possibility that you won’t achieve it. You need to be able to deal with unsuccessful outcomes. What if instead of achieving this goal in five years, it takes six? What if three years in you realize that you are no longer interested in being a department manager and that what you really want to do is advocate for better education? If you do that — you won’t meet that goal.

The bigger question you need to ask yourself: Can you live with the regret that you didn’t try to achieve a goal because you might not achieve it?

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