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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

January 13, 2019
Question

The Right Way To Achieve Your New Year’s Career Resolutions. 

answer
Julie Q. Brush

5!…4!…3!…2!…1!………….

Haaapy New Yearrrr!

December 31st, at the stroke of midnight, roughly 40% of human beings on earth vowed to be better people. Better to family, better to friends, better to colleagues, better to ourselves. All achieved through…the New Year’s Resolution.

But with a failure rate reaching close to 90%, New Year’s resolutions are not what they’re all cracked up to be – and are often ineffective solutions to our personal and professional fallibilities. Why? Because for most, resolutions are merely declarations – with no real substance, thought, plan…or resoluteness behind them. And while blowing one’s New Year’s resolutions has become a household punch line, these “failures” can have a real impact – and over time, chip away at a person’s confidence, self-esteem and evolution. It’s dangerous ground for legal professionals who often include career achievements as part of the New Year Me.

But such fate does not have to be the case…this year. And 2019 could…and should mark the beginning of a beautiful career if you focus your resolution(s) on the following strategy for success:

  1. Set Goals.

Seems obvious right? But many neglect this exercise and don’t set goals…the right way. Setting goals isn’t easy. It requires self-awareness, careful thought, specificity…and action. To do it correctly, sit in a quiet place and THINK. Think about where you are in your career and where you want to go. Are you happy? Why or why not? What’s working and what isn’t? What more do you want/need? How do you want to improve? What do you want to achieve? What’s motivating you to do so? Next, write down your answers to these questions and your accompanying feelings. Then condense this information into a working list of goals. The initial list will be long (too long), but will sharpen over time. Finally, put your list away and take a break for a few days. When you return…review, revise and reassess.

As you tackle this exercise, make sure that you are in an emotionally neutral place. Too many people make decisions and set goals when they are charged up – i.e. angry about being slighted or on a high from a big bonus. Emotions compromise logic and rational decision making. So before you commence, channel your inner “Om”.

  1. Make Goals Realistic.

As the New Year begins, we feel fresh, invigorated and ready to roll! This enthusiasm is fantastic, but can lead to biting off more than one can chew in the goal department. Goals come in different shapes and sizes – many of which can be unrealistic in quantity and reasonableness. So, as you reassess your working goal list, prioritize your goals and settle on a number that is manageable for you. You may not know what that number is immediately, but you’ll have a better sense after you develop your action plan. In addition, assess the practicality of your New Year goals: Are you a Corporate Counsel gunning for a public company GC role in 2019? Do you want to increase your base salary from $150k to $350k? Are you a partner who wants to take his/her book from $400k to $4million? If you’re not sure whether your goals pass the laugh test, ask an expert, mentor or colleague. Remember, the more goals you achieve, the better you feel and the more successful you will be. So, start small and build from there – and make sure your targets are always in the ballpark.

  1. Create an Action Plan.

It’s the Achilles Heel of the New Year Resolution. In order to get to where you want to go, you need to determine how to get there…specifically. Sorry folks, you can’t wing it. You can’t trust the universe. You can’t start “tomorrow”. And you can’t count on others to make it happen. You need to create a plan of action…Now. Where to start?

  • For each goal, create a list of variables that are key to its success: things to do, people to know, information to gather, data to master, resources to leverage, time required etc. These will become the core components of your action items.
  • Organize this information and categorize it.
  • List the steps you need to take to support each action item. Then prioritize.
  • Set deadlines and goals for each item with time benchmarks: weekly, biweekly, monthly or quarterly.
  • Keep written track of your progress and hold yourself accountable for results. You won’t be perfect so cut yourself some slack when needed. Sometimes life gets in the way of the best laid plans or perhaps your goals were a wee bit aggressive. If failing to move forward becomes a pattern – or if you are feeling excessive stress, you will need to recalibrate.
  1. Recalibrate if Need Be.

If you find yourself falling behind, losing steam or changing direction, revise or tweak your plan immediately – or risk tanking the effort altogether. There’s nothing wrong with changing things up mid-course either, so don’t let ego get in the way. Some view recalibration as a sign of failure, when in reality, it’s the tool of winners.

  1. Celebrate the Victories.

Every victory no matter how small is worth celebrating. It doesn’t mean confetti, balloons and Veuve Clicquot every time, but a pat on the back to acknowledge an accomplishment is. So, don’t underestimate the importance of a personal high-five. It makes us feel good about ourselves, keeps us motivated and enables us to approach our bigger challenges with greater confidence. High performing legal professionals are notorious for poo-pooing crowning moments. Make 2019 the year for recognizing You!

  1. ‘Tude Rules!

Positive thinking, upbeat disposition, determination, fortitude, effort and gratitude: High achievers possess them all. If you want a credible shot at New Year’s Resolution success, you’ll need to come to the challenge bearing the right attitude. There will be ups and downs as well as roadblocks that will confront you– and your decision between what is right and what is easy will hinge on your attitude. So, as you prioritize your goals, focus on the most important and meaningful ones – as they will inspire your best foot forward.

As we kick-off 2019, the New Year brings with it promise and the hope of better things to come. And while resolutions seem like the fastest and easiest way to make change happen, their failure rate demonstrates that wishful thinking won’t get the job done. So, as you determine what you want to achieve this year, set your plan, execute and be resolute – and you’ll be on your way to making the best of this year’s fresh start.

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