A Reflection on Goals
In my last blog post, I shared how I accidentally achieved a major career goal 6 years sooner than I thought possible. Today I’m exploring why we decide on certain goals, why it’s okay when our aspirations evolve, and why it’s important to understand our priorities.
When I first set my goal to run my own creative practice, I was an 18-year-old college freshman, and I didn’t actively put a ton of thought into why I aspired to self-employment. On some level I may have just thought it sounded like something a badass would do, and professional badassery sounded like a pretty cool thing to work towards. As the cheesy-but-true cliché goes, though, “Hindsight is 20/20”. Now that I’ve spent some time in the land of sole proprietorship, I have a better understanding of what my younger self truly wanted: success, ownership, and flexibility.
Success. I saw self-employed people as the ultimate vision of success. They are good enough at what they do to have enough of a positive reputation to make their living independently, without relying on the reputation of a larger company. Not only do they provide their product or service to clients, they also often handle their own administrative needs, business development, and marketing, too. They can truly do it all.
Ownership. I’ve taken a great amount of pride in and ownership of my work since I can remember. Embarrassing story time: there was more than one occasion in elementary school when I cried because I didn’t score 100% on a test. I was always the nerdy kid who strove for straight As, and this sense of ownership over my work made its way into my professional goals. Nothing says “I own and take pride in what I create” like creating and running your own professional practice.
Flexibility. When you’re self-employed, you have all the flexibility in the world. You’re the only one to call the shots; you decide your rates, your hours, where you work, and who you work with. That last one, “who you work with”, was the most pertinent for me. As a young adult who wasn’t yet out but knew for sure that I wasn’t straight, I was already aware and fearful of how unkind the corporate world could be to the LGBTQIA+ community. Being self-employed meant I could decide who I work with, and I could be safer by making sure to work within my community and with our allies.
Here’s where I get radically vulnerable: Now that I’ve achieved the goal of self-employment, I am no longer 100% positive that this is my dream job. Our biggest goals can have a way of seeming much more glamorous before we’ve achieved them. Don’t get me wrong; I greatly enjoy and appreciate my self-employment, and it is incredibly rewarding. I adore my clients, I adore working from home, and I adore the creative work that I do every day.
Also, being self-employed can really f***ing hard. Jumping into self-employment with no financial safety net in the middle of a pandemic is even harder. Those who are or have been self-employed know firsthand that there is space for all of these things to be simultaneously true.
Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “change is the only constant in life”. I say that as our lives change, it is natural for our dreams and goals to change alongside them. I say that the evolution of our goals does not mean that we’ve failed our past selves. It means that we, too, have evolved and adapted with our circumstances.
As our lives, our situations, and our goals evolve, though, it is absolutely vital that we hold tightly onto our priorities. What is most important to us? What are we unwilling to compromise for ourselves? When it comes to my own career, I have three non-negotiables:
I need to do the work that I am passionate about. I thrive when I’m doing marketing, communication, or creative work. This type of work is both what I’m best at and what I most enjoy doing.
I need to be able to bring my full self to work. It is absolutely vital to me that whoever I work with values diversity and inclusion as much as I do, and I need to be addressed with the correct pronouns when I’m working. More on this in another post, but we are empowered to do our best work when we are celebrated for exactly who we are.
I need to make enough money to support my household. This one is a given. We live in an unfortunate reality where we need money to survive, and I need to pay my bills, put food on the table, and take care of my pets.
An understanding of our priorities can serve as a valuable tool in deciding what goals to set for ourselves. For me, my goal of self-employment was and is a way to honor these personal and professional priorities. I used to be convinced that self-employment was the only way to do this, but I’ve learned that there can be multiple paths to your desired destination.
What if we not only used our priorities to inform our goals, but also treated our priorities as goals in themselves?
I don’t know what exactly my professional future holds. I don’t know if I’ll find fulfillment and financial stability through being self-employed for the rest of my career, or if I’ll have a magnificent opportunity to do the work I’m passionate about at a company whose values match my own. I’m sure that the journey ahead will be full of unexpected variations, and that I will continue to grow and learn from the changes and challenges that life is sure to throw my way.
At the end of the day, those are just the details. As long as I’m honoring my priorities, I will be achieving my goals, and I will be proud of my success.
My advice to you is this: Get in touch with your priorities. Allow your priorities to inform your goals, and to serve as goals in themselves. Give yourself the space to grow and adapt, and give your goals the flexibility to evolve with you.