Goals give you something to aim for; something to steer toward. What happens when you achieve a goal, but don’t have another to steer toward yet? Or maybe you have another goal, but it’s in a different area and you don’t want to lose the momentum that accomplishing your goal provided? What can you do to make best use of the time and energy unexpectedly at your disposal?
If you treat your plan for the year as the itinerary for a journey, recognize that the situation is a bit like finding yourself with free time on a trip. If traveling and already in an area, you want to take advantage of this; maybe explore something you didn’t think you’d get to see, or spend some time hanging out with the locals, shopping or relaxing with a more expansive meal than you’d usually have for lunch.
Does the analogy translate?
Let’s say you’ve completed a research project. Maybe there are some related areas that turned up while you were working on the project that you couldn’t explore. Now you can. Or you found several expert resources that are accessible in person or by phone. Now you can see if you can do some short interviews. Maybe you found an area where there was much recent work but didn’t have time to review it as it wasn’t immediately pertinent. Go back and take another look at material that seemed especially rich that you didn’t have time to dive into deeply. Now you can immerse yourself.
The space between goals is great time to do some day dreaming too. Blue sky,” what if”, thinking thrives in the breaks between focused efforts.
Often your goal will be one step on the journey to a larger goal. Now you have some time to visualize the end point with the information you’ve gained from accomplishing your interim goal. Does it change anything? Suggest any course corrections or new avenues of exploration? Did it point to some things to stop or discontinue? Use this time to reflect on the meaning and implication of achieving your goal.
Reap the rewards
What did you learn? Can these lessons be used as you go forward? What did you learn about how you work? What did you most enjoy? Dislike? Were you able to use your strengths effectively? What could you do to leverage your strengths as you move forward? Did you have everything you needed? Are there any resources you need to ask for before you proceed? Who deserves appreciation and thanks for their contributions and support? Who do you want to stay in touch with or work more closely with? What pleased you about this work? Where were you dissatisfied? Is there anything else you need to do to complete this phase?
Building in some time to stop and reflect when you reach your goals will help you gain more from achieving them. All too often we tick them off the list without reflection, debriefing or celebration. Do all three to get the most from your achievements.
Join the conversation: What happens for you in the space between goals? How do you use this space? How do you explore what you learned from achievement?