In this blog I am sharing tips that I have found useful during my life. With over 20 years of experience sitting down with staff from many different professions and ages I have been able to discuss their performance, careers, goals, and development and give advice when needed. These tips have helped me reach the various milestones, both personally and professionally, that I have planned for myself and I hope they help you too!
This is all about engineering yourself.
Maybe you are an engineer who has studied planning skills, critical path methods, GANTT charts, and other analytical decision-making tools. Or maybe you are a master planner for a family, planning meals, weekly activities, budgets, long term expenses or running a business. Whatever your chosen career or path having goals will help you get where you need or want to be. For me, Lewis Carroll summed up the reason for planning your life in the classic book
“Alice in Wonderland.”
"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. 'Which road do I take?' she asked. 'Where do you want to go ?' was his response. 'I don't know,' Alice answered. 'Then,' said the cat, 'it doesn't matter."
Think about and consider:
What kind of work do you do well and importantly want to do?
You have a choice. You can go through life by intentional planning and goal setting, or you can simply “go with the flow and hope for the best.” It comes down to what you want out of life, what your ambitions are and how motivated you are to achieve your goals.
Goals, some structure
Imagine yourself at the end of your career looking back; what accomplishments would you like to see? From what position do you imagine retiring? What is the legacy for which you wish to be known? These are all hard questions for a person to answer, but they are important to think about and helpful in reaching your goals. “Begin with the end in mind.”
Success is not commonly achieved by randomly wandering through life and hoping to end up at the final goal. Decisions, sometimes difficult decisions, need to be made along the way. To do this I recommend structuring decisions in a manageable way by thinking about the near term, medium term, and long term. For example, set goals for:
- 6 months
- 2 years
- 5 years
- 10 years
- 20 years
It is also important to be prepared for the unexpected and to evaluate and change, if needed. Even with the best goal setting unforeseen obstacles can occur. Another way to achieve goals is by visualization and having photos or pictures around your home or office of what you want to achieve. For example, a photo of the car or house you want to purchase, the places you want to visit, the kitchen you want to renovate, the college you want to send your children to, the bridge you want to build, or the faces of the communities’ members where your work is instrumental in their life. By doing these things and seeing your goal(s) it will help you reach them successfully.
Sometimes simply looking at a job site, or the home you want to purchase will let you envision a thousand opportunities. If your road is straight and clear that is great. But sometimes the opportunities you see will take more time to reach. If this is the case plan for that change and set your goals accordingly. Change can be intimidating, change can be challenging, but change can also be exciting and fulfilling. It is your choice how to respond to life’s opportunities and occasional setbacks, and how to ultimately reach your life goals.
Always invest in yourself. Strengthen your skills, learn new skills. Be sure in what you are doing and listen to others and learn from their experiences and knowledge. Ask yourself, how can I do this better next time? If you are lacking inspiration, or even confidence on how to pursue and plan your goals watch some Ted Talks, listen to a podcast, read a book, or speak to people in your life whom you admire and from whom you feel you can learn. Look for and find the motivation you need to live your best life and reach your goals.
Travel safe and travel wisely on your life’s roads.
For more information about this topic, you can watch a recent presentation by David Harris, PhD, PE, F.SEI, F.ASCE to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Life Member Meeting “Milestones and Stages of a Career." The link to the presentation is here.
Carroll, Lewis., “Alice in Wonderland”
Covey, Stephen., “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”