You’ve seen the memes circulating Instagram, but in case you need yet another reminder: 2020 isn’t just a new year. It’s a new decade. The end of one 10-year stretch and the start of a new one creates the opportunity for many to think about long-term goals. Since most career-driven people have experience focusing on short-term wins, thinking more holistically about our vision and aspirations can feel somewhat foreign. But it can be especially useful. Pinpointing our North Star, especially when it’s far out of reach, can guide our choices and path.
Here, female leaders share effective strategies for this sort of thinking:
Write the why—then the how
Ambitious people spend a lot of time developing strategies on how they will arrive at a goal. While being action-oriented is smart, event planner Emore Campbell says when thinking of long-term objectives, honing in on the “why” is more impactful.
Think about it: You may know how to bake a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, but you likely aren’t motivated to do so until a friend needs a pick-me-up. Or, you understand how to write a brief, but you won’t put your heart into it unless you have a driving purpose. “Every goal-setting professional should be writing down the motivation for the goal,” Campbell says. “This and only this will create the longevity and direction for the ‘how.'”
Before an important presentation or when you’re considering hiring a new employee, you take time to study notes, references, and information. But how much time you dedicate to understanding what makes your brain tick? Tiara Zolnierz, cofounder of EnrichHER, recommends setting a weekly date to focus on our internal drivers, strengths, weakness, and beyond.
“Writing in a journal as soon as you open your eyes in the morning is a perfect way to see your mental patterns, aka your inner thoughts,” she says. “Once you understand how you are currently programmed, you can reprogram yourself.” This reserved space for cultivating self-awareness can be beneficial in every aspect of our lives. By discovering patterns, hiccups, or shortcomings, we can tackle challenges we didn’t notice previously.
Share your 10-year target
If you’re at the helm of a company or a team, you have a slew of people looking to you for guidance. We can either find this soapbox to be nerve-racking, or use it as an opportunity to become a human megaphone. After all, one of the best ways to actually meet your decade-long goals is to broadcast them. It also ensures those alongside you are aligned.
“When we share our target with every team member, it empowers our team to make decisions that are remarkably consistent with our vision, and we don’t tend to get off course,” says cofounder of Saalt, Cherie Hoeger. “It also gets everyone thinking and dreaming big.”
Work backwards—without strict timelines
When you imagine 10 years from now, you see yourself as an entrepreneur, running a company you’re passionate about. Great! You have the vision. But to actually achieve it, founder and CEO of OWA Haircare Kailey Bradt says you need to backtrack by setting immediate and intermediate goals along the way. This helps to reinforce the fact that a mega goals don’t happen overnight.
But while setting roadmaps will keep us focused, they shouldn’t be strict. Rather, consider making them a within-a-few-months target. “Don’t stress yourself out over timelines you set for yourself that will result in more anxiousness when you don’t accomplish something in time,” she says. “This is something I personally learned the hard way. However, when I look bad on just the past three years, I cannot believe what I’ve accomplished. I realized I set those irrelevant timelines for myself and, although I didn’t hit all of them, I was resilient.”
If you only give yourself a pat on the back (or a vacation) when you reach that 10-year goal, you’re going to hit a wall fast. Instead, discover ways to delight yourself along the way. As Susie Wang, the founder and chief creative at 100 Percent Pure, explains, people are prone to give up on their goals when they feel overwhelming to accomplish. “All goals should also have micro-goals that lead to the major goal. . . . Each time you achieve the micro goal, give yourself a reward,” she suggests. Wang uses a massage as a way to pause and acknowledge a smaller aspiration was met. What’s yours?
Make a few VIPs
No, this doesn’t mean upgrading yourself to business class for every flight. Liz Bohannon, CEO and cofounder of Sseko Designs, defines VIP as “Very Important Promises” you make to yourself. In an effort to reach your long-term vision, you must make choices along the way that are specific, measurable, actionable, and relevant.
Bohannon says the language of making a promise—unlike that of creating a goal—triggers our desire to be a person of our word. It also helps us cut through the chatter that doesn’t matter as much as we think it does. “When something comes across my plate, I can easily reference my VIPs and quickly evaluate if it will help me fulfill one of my promises,” she says. “When you get crystal clear on your own promises, you are less susceptible to the energy vampire of comparison and other people’s opinions.”
Figure out how to work less
Yep, you read that right: Work less, not more. As founder of The Yoga Expo Fort Lauderdale and Bizzy Yogi, Arianne Traverson reminds us that cutting back on work days have been proven to make us more effective and productive with our time. Many companies have transitioned to a four-day-a-week model, streamlining employee attention in reduced hours.
When we give ourselves time to disconnect from the grind, we lead a more balanced existence. And perhaps more importantly, we won’t burn out in five years, half way to our goal. “A business that makes you happy means you’ll multiply that, and it’ll spill over into your personal relationships, too,” says Traverson. “I see people taking the reins of their lives with models that allow for more travel, location independence, and change for the world.”
Consider not setting goals
If you’ve never really been the type to set goals, why do it now? Or, if you’ve always set goals, only to continuously miss them, why keep disappointing yourself? Sometimes, understanding what works best for us it is the key. As founder and principal of her own public relations firm, Stephanie Wolf suggests considering planning less and improvising more.
“You know that one random phone call that led to that event that led to that amazing and unexpected client, business opportunity, or new partner? Some of our best career years are the ones that flow, where we are open to all opportunities,” she says. “With so much in flux in the world, the 2020s may just be the perfect time to remain open to it all.”