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Make Your Work Goals Match Your Personal Values

Nathan Gilmore
December 16, 2015
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Holly Davis is a digital project manager and certified scrum master at the award-winning digital agency White October. Holly is also the co-founder of DO PM. In her spare time she likes to blog on Medium. You can also follow her on Twitter @ProjectDavis

Are you stuck in a rut? Do you come out in a cold sweat when your manager asks you what your 5-year plan is? Do you feel ambitious but lack a sense of direction?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find setting work objectives difficult.  Looking back, I realise that  my work objectives were not always aligned with my personal goals, but were written with a focus on pleasing my employer.

Earlier this year, I began to explore this area and uncovered some different approaches to goal setting.

The journey started with a book recommendation from my manager - Scaling up by Verne Harnish in which Verne talks about the importance of having a personal plan.

His one page personal plan template helps you to identify your priorities in five key areas: faith, family, friends, fitness and finance. I liked Verne’s very human focus for setting business objectives.  He made me realise that ‘meaningful work,’ or what you do for a living, cannot be looked at in isolation from what motivates you as an individual.

A study by the Harvard Business Review last year found that people feel and perform better when four basic needs are met:

  • Renewal (physical)
  • Value (emotional)
  • Focus (mental)
  • Purpose (spiritual)

I had always thought of my career goals and personal values to be quite separate things, but this study demonstrates that true motivation, purpose and happiness are really only possible when our values and goals are closely aligned.

So how do you ‘scale up’ your personal plan? I admit I struggled with this and felt like I needed something a bit more basic, so I followed the first five steps outlined in this blog post:

  1. Identify past successes - what you’ve achieved
  2. Identify core values - what you believe
  3. Identify your contributions - where you invest your time and energy
  4. Identify your goals - where you want to be
  5. Write your mission statement - put it down on paper

It’s sometimes difficult to identify your core achievements and values, so you might want to call on a close friend or partner to help out.

From this stage I began to think about my priorities in life and identified goals based largely based on my current ‘contributions’.

I then split my goals up into short term (next 3 months), medium term (within the next year) and long-term (3-5 years).

From these, I was able to put together a personal manifesto.  It’s just six sentences long and I pull it out every time I’m faced with a decision that affects my work or personal life.  As a result, it has had a big impact in helping me to write meaningful objectives and make decisions that are aligned with my values.

So, next time your manager asks you for your five-year plan, I hope this post will alleviate the cold sweat and help you to respond with something that aligns your career goals with your personal values.

Further reading

Once you have set some high level goals, you might find it useful to follow the steps in this blog post to help create more SMART actionable steps to help you obtain them.

I also recommend the Strengths Finder 2.0 book by Tom Rath and taking the online questionnaire. If you haven’t taken a personality test before, this will be a fun and revealing experience which will help bring further depth to your personal development plan.