Monday, February 4, 2008

Do you have a personal goal?

I have this habit of asking the youngsters who come to meet me frequently in the course of work what their goals were. I am not talking of young men from IITs or B schools who have clear idea of what they wish to achieve. I mean the many working in small positions with no degree from prestigious institutions. While most of these youngsters would make a sheepish grin, some would trot out some vague goals in general terms, like getting their sisters married, educate their younger siblings, give rest to ailing father or reclaim the mortgaged lands in the village and some such fair objectives. I never let them go easily and keep asking how they would accomplish these aims. With age and rank on my side, I would persist till I get them motivated. I would ask them whether their work is after their aptitude and their academic discipline, whether they derive any job satisfaction, whether they see a future in the organization and whether they joined by conscious choice. Many of them had no clear plans of what they wished to do and hoped they can decide as things unfold over a period of time. Drawn mostly from lower middle class families they were not in a position to pursue higher studies and were compelled to take up the first job that presented itself to supplement the family income after the education. The question about their goals looked to them a bit strange. I set apart thirty minutes, whenever the pressure was less for such an exercise. I knew in many cases it would not yield any results but I had seen how in a few cases the young men have transformed themselves. I have been witness to quite a few setting their goals in my presence and achieving them in a few years.
I tell the willing ears that goals should not be general like I want to become rich like Ambani, be happy in life, take up a big job or be like Tendulkar. It should be specific and have a road map. Without goals, and clear plans to reach them, one is like a ship that has set sail with no destination. I give them some guidelines.
I explain thatgoals are for everyone. One need not hold high position to set personal goals. Even the hawker who sells his wares on the platforms or the boys who distribute news papers can have their own goals. I also tell them that personal goals should be their own. It should not be decided by someone else though one should be open to ideas. It should be the outcome after careful deliberation of what one really wants. It is only then there would be total identification and commitment.
I stress that it should be achievable. The goal is after all a help to move where one wished to be. It should not be like wishing to be a billionaire in five years without a concrete plan to back it. Being unrealistic would defeat the person even before one sets his goals. Goal is no wishful thinking but something definite and tangible. It should be like acquiring a new skill like a computer course or a law degree in the evening hours. One has to organize his priorities. Yet another requirement is that goals should have specific target dates. If there is no time frame and goal is open ended, there would not be any focus or urgency. It ran the risk of dragging on and possibly not achieved at all. The feeling of accomplishment would also be missing when the goal is realized. If there is change in the personal or external circumstances, one can revise his goals. They are not unalterable...
Sadly many of us do not have goals.I have found many young men with no special qualifications have benefited from the advice. Some boys who were not even graduates became one in the first instance. They joined different courses. Some joined software insitutes, some joined law courses, and some started dairy business buying and selling milk, and some opened paint and hardware shops. One chap learnt publishing business, started getting orders for publishing and got the printing done in various presses. Eventually he had his own press with roaring business in printing calendars and diaries for many companies. All of them have come up in life and are well settled. They keep raising the bar every three years with fire still in their bellies to achieve more.

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