I’m a big fan of setting goals and I love the idea of a fresh start at the beginning of the year.  Goals make me feel like the possibilities are endless.  But, like many others, I often struggle to achieve them.  I take small steps, but they don’t always lead to big changes and when my success is measured in terms of a promotion, losing 20 pounds, or learning Spanish, I often give up when it starts to get tough.

This changed a couple of years ago when I set a goal to find a new career.  I gave myself plenty of time, knowing it could be a significant change.  I talked to people about their jobs, and researched areas that sounded interesting.  To be honest, I didn’t make much progress and I was on the verge of giving up when my coach asked me to change my thinking from what I wanted to do to who I wanted to be.  The three questions below shifted my thinking and allowed me to consider the opportunity and choice that surrounds us every day.

1. What values do I want to live my life by?

A values exercise is a great place to start and will help explain why some areas of your life feel good and others feel “off”.  Knowing your values allows you to take a closer look at where you’re being authentic and where you need to make new choices.  I struggled some with the exercise as I had to take ownership of times when I didn’t live or lead by my values.  But doing so gave me the ability to make different choices right away and to experience change right where I was.  I challenged myself to live my values with intention in my current role, rather than waiting for a new job.  I allowed myself to find peace and to trust that my values would lead me to my place.

2. What impact do I want to make on others?

Like many, I tried to be a good leader.  But some days, stress got the best of me and I just wanted people to get things done.  Those were the days I felt the most run down and defeated.  I realized that I wanted to feel good, to encourage and inspire others and to have fewer days where I felt like I needed to apologize.  I wanted to make a positive impact on others, and to share joy and hope more often that I caused frustration or dread.  So, I started changing the energy I contributed, one person at a time and one day at a time.

3. What story do I want my life to tell?

Wherever you are in your life or career, you are creating your story.  Is it the story you want to tell?  I was generally pleased with mine in most areas, but in others I was not, so I started rewriting.  Small edits at first but then as I became more confident, I grew bolder and my new story began to take shape and it was one I am proud to tell.

I still set goals each year.  I achieve some and miss others.  But when I filter my goals and decisions through my values, my impact, and my story, I know I’m being driven by more than what I want to do – I’m being driven by who I want to be.