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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Getting Ahead

Your Career Goals Are Only Too Big if You Don't Ever Start

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You know those lofty goals that are always lingering in the back of your mind? The ones that you promise you’ll get to “one day”?

Maybe you want to make a career change. Perhaps you’ve been planning for years to get a side hustle up and running. Or, maybe you want to further your education or obtain some sort of certification.

Those ambitions are exciting. But, let’s face it—they can also be paralyzing.

Let’s take a career change as an example. In order to successfully make that switch, you need to completely revamp your resume. In order to do a halfway-decent resume refresh, you need to get a little more relevant experience. In order to get more experience, you need to put yourself out there for volunteer opportunities or side gigs. In order to land those jobs…well, you get the idea.

You continue this domino effect until you back yourself into a corner of complete inaction. There’s too much to do—so, you do nothing.

Take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone in this self-defeating habit. I’m guilty of this very same thing (and I’m sure many other people are as well). That’s why I found this article by Josh Spector so inspiring.

In the piece, Spector presents a seemingly obvious (yet often-overlooked) piece of advice: Just get started.

“Stop looking for reasons you can’t do the work of your dreams,” he writes. “Start looking for ways you can.”

Seriously, have you stopped and considered what would happen if you just got started? If you stopped mapping out each piece and overanalyzing every possible blunder and just took a single step forward?

Spector goes on to encourage readers to skip right past any kind of preparation phase (which, I do think there’s some merit to). But, if you’re a tried and true planner like me, there’s still a way you can apply this advice—without sending yourself into a panic.

Here’s what that might look like in practice: Take that long-term goal that’s on your list and identify one thing—big or small—you can do today that gets you one step closer to the finish line.

Reach out to someone for an informational interview. Buy a domain name. Sign up for a webinar or online course. Submit your name for a volunteer opportunity. Start a website. Write a blog post. Find one job you want to apply for. The list goes on and on.

The trick? When you’ve picked out just one task, actually do it today. Tomorrow, do one more thing that pushes you in the right direction. Before you know it, the snowball will keep rolling and—slowly, but surely—you’re picking up momentum where you were previously at a standstill.

Put simply, don’t fall into the common trap of confusing the act of planning to take action with actually taking action. When you stop making excuses and delaying your own progress, Spector says, things really start to happen for you.

“You’ll get experience. You’ll create opportunity. It will lead to things you can’t currently imagine,” he concludes. “You just need to decide to do it.”