I’m not much of a person making New Year’s resolutions. Mostly, I avoid making them because I assume I won’t be able to fulfil them. Last year was different, though. I decided, for the first time in my life, to set up a goal for my career and follow it. What happened that I changed my habit? I realised that the thing is not about reaching the goal, but about the road we follow trying to reach it.

Now, after the whole year of fighting for my goal, I want to share with you my personal guidance for setting up a goal:

1. Be honest with yourself

You choose the goal. Not your leader, nor your employer. They may offer some guidelines, which direction is desired, but the choice is yours. Do not look at what other people take as goals or what is present in the articles on the Internet. Be inspired, but don’t follow it blindly.

2. Be enthusiastic about the goal

For everything to succeed, you need to believe in this goal with your whole heart. The easiest way is to combine it with something you’re passionate about. Any hobbies? Try to find the way to combine your hobby and the career. Remember that all this hard work needs to give you something in return.

3. Make it hard

Do you have an idea in your mind already? Aim higher. The goal should be very hard, but achievable. This way, you’ll need to start right away. Not tomorrow, not next month, but exactly now. Also don’t get frightened by dark thoughts, by all those what-ifs. They’re very common when you’re trying to exit your comfort zone!

4. Define steps or checkpoints

I call them mini-goals. It would be very depressing and demotivating to work, and not be able to see the end of it. With mini-goals, I know I’m going in the right direction. I am also very happy when I meet them. That can be small or big things – it’s up to you.

5. Share it with the other

Tell everyone about your goal. Tell your family, friends, and employer about your goal. Nothing bad can come out of it. First of all – you can be surprised how helpful other people are. Secondly – they will be a natural and constant reminder. This way even if you’re down and don’t want to do anything, someone will approach you and ask ‘hey, how’s your preparation going?’. This will easily bring you back on a track.

This is how it worked for me.

My goal was to make a presentation at a foreign conference. I came up with this idea because I was able to see a clear benefit from finishing it – making my start in the testers’ world. This goal seemed to be crazy hard because I have a huge problem with speaking in public and expressing myself. The only public speaking I performed so far was during the review with a client. I defined checkpoints on the way – prepare a biography, find a topic, make a presentation inside my company, find written materials about public speaking, learn about public speaking from other speakers, appear as a speaker at any conference, gather feedback and learn. I shared my idea with my family, friends, and employer. They raised many questions and constantly reminded me about the deadlines for submission of my application. Many fingers were crossed so the committee would accept my papers.

I didn’t complete my goal this year, however, it gave me many advantages. The list of benefits starts with me taking a quick look at foreign conferences, listening to other speakers and checking their topics and biographies. This way, I even developed my own, personal gurus (Zeger Van Hese and Rob Lambert). I started to write about testing in English and prepared a workshop with my colleagues. It was a great success (see Agile Lego Tests). Every month, I wrote down the ideas for presentations and then I was working on them. Two Polish conferences invited me as a speaker. I applied for two more, but they didn’t respond. In December, I applied for one more Polish conference and my first foreign one.

My goal was a motivator for every single thing on this list. Following this path was a great experience and I will continue to do this. I encourage and dare you to join me.