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How to Setup Intentional Development Goals

Elan S
Elan S
  • Updated

Whether you’re just starting your first job or are well into your career, setting goals can help you gain clarity on the long-term vision for your career and find short-term motivation along the way.

Approaches to goal setting

There are several approaches for you to articulate your goals. Two popular ones are the SMART and HARD goal frameworks. Two of which we suggest combining with our habit-informed approach. This is the idea that by taking small steps each day towards your goals through your daily habits you will make consistent progress in your efforts to achieve them.



Specific: Have clarity about what you’re trying to achieve and what actions you’ll take.
Measurable: Determine quantifiable milestones so you can track your progress.
Achievable: Make sure your goal is realistic and you have the skills or tools needed to accomplish it.
Relevant: Align your goal with your long-term ambition or overall objectives.
Timebound: Set a timeframe to achieve your goal so you have a target to work towards.

This framework is best for well-defined goals and helps you think through incremental steps that’ll move you forward in a specific and actionable way. You’ll start to see your goals as attainable, which will help break down any mental hurdles that keep you from getting started.


HARD Goals

Heartfelt: You should have an emotional attachment to these goals. This will help you stay motivated.
Animated: Visualize your goal and what things will look like if you achieve it.
Required: Set goals necessary for your success to ensure you’re spending your time and energy where they matter most.
Difficult: These goals shouldn’t be too easy. Make sure to challenge yourself to grow.

Like SMART goals, HARD goals require specificity but they also stretch your ambition, get you thinking long-term, and give you a meaningful challenge to aspire to. They’ll keep you motivated by visualizing your success and help you see the bigger picture of your professional development.

Try combining our habit-informed approach with both frameworks for yourself to figure out what works best for you. You may find one more helpful than the other or use a combination, depending on what you’re working towards. No matter what framework you use, setting goals for yourself will help you be more productive.

Beware of these common goal-setting challenges

Your goals are not specific enough:

Vague goals make it difficult to create an action plan that gets results. Make sure you’ve thought through how you’ll meet your goals. Ask yourself questions about what you will do, when, how often, and for how long. Bake these into your goals so that they’re clear and inspire action.

Group 215.png Vague goal: I want to be more organized so my projects are not over budget.
Group 570.png Specific goal: I’ll spend 15 minutes at the end of each workday reviewing my calendar for the week ahead and creating a list of priorities. I’ll do this for 10 weeks to meet my goal of having all of my projects be less than 10% over budget.


You give up too soon:

It’s all about commitment. If you’re not on track to meet your goal in the timeline you’ve set, it doesn’t mean you should give up on your goal. Instead, revisit your goal and try to adjust it to be more attainable.

You adopt an all-or-nothing approach:

We often abandon our goals because we don’t see them reaching the anticipated outcome. Even if you don’t end up exactly where you expected, you may have started some important groundwork or made progress that you can be proud of.


Sharing your goals

Research shows that sharing your goals with someone of higher seniority increases accountability, making it less likely you’ll let your progress slip. You can also gain clarity around your goals. By discussing your goals with someone more experienced, you’ll find out if your goals are seen as relevant to you from their perspective. They may even help you reframe your goals if they’re too specific or vague for you to develop your action plan.

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