How can ambitious engineering wizards, and non-wizards, prepare themselves for success in the dynamic 21st century?
First, our concept of success must be defined in relation to our life goals. No one should start out on a journey unless they know where they want to go. Goal setting is a difficult task even when we know our destination!
Are you a drifter? Most of us drift through life simply reacting to opportunities as they present themselves, with few-if any-specific goals to guide us. Perhaps the person who made the following observation speaks for many others as well. "I am in my mid-forties, and what have I accomplished with my life? All I do is get up in the morning, rush off to work, work against an impossible time schedule, rush home, go to bed, and start all over again."
Our supply of time is perishable. The only variable available to us is the use we make of this invaluable resource. It is much more important that we budget our time than it is to budget our money. We only get one try at life so we should make the most of it.
Too often we just drift from one situation to the next without giving much thought to where we are heading or what we are actually accomplishing. Much like the stainless-steel ball in the pinball machine, we bounce off one bumper to another, while winding our way down to the bottom. When we ignore goals, we substitute fuzzy alternatives, such as "to be successful."
To many, success involves outdoing others: a nicer home, nicer furniture, better car, longer vacations, and better schools for their children. These goals may transform into a formula such as "make as much money as you can," until we end up clutching a tiger by the tail.
The person who has had one year's experience ten times faces no particular challenges, risks, excitement, or defeats. He or she plods along day by day, year by year. Yet, I believe that life is intended to be more exciting than that. It is not the days of your life, but the life in your days that count.
Three steps. Our first step should be to determine our life goals. What do we want to achieve now and then later on? Hopefully, we achieve some of our goals through our chosen profession or else we may be in the wrong profession. In setting our goals, let's not forget our families. It is easy to rationalize that we work for them, yet spend little time with them. The rewards of family and community outweigh those of corporate America.
Setting goals and priorities generally involves a three-step process.
Set goals. Try to decide what you want to accomplish in life, both on and off the job. Goals are not set in cement, so you might want to change them to reflect drastically changed circumstances.
Establish priorities for your goals.
Determine and implement those activities required to achieve your goals.
Remember, your lists of goals and tasks are not carved in stone. Review and change them as necessary. Place your list in some important place, such as the kitchen refrigerator, where you will see it often. This list should be an up-to-date representation of your life's goals. Then discuss them with your spouse and children too.