Let’s face it, becoming a mogul, juggling multiple jobs, and keeping some sanity (and fun) in your life can get overwhelming. So with this being my first article for my Ms. in the Biz column, “How to Build Your Empire,” I thought it was only appropriate to start off on the importance of creating professional and personal goals for yourself, your career, and your peace of mind.

The reason why setting specific goals for yourself is so powerful is because it creates a framework and foundation for your ultimate career success. Think of it like pruning a tree – you have to cut away some of the extra stuff in order for the tree to grow and develop into the strongest tree possible. Creating specific goals is an easy way for you to figure which of those extra things needs to be cut away in order for your career and your pockets to flourish.

So how do you know what to cut?

Think about what your ultimate career and life look like. Whether it’s winning an Oscar, international travel, owning your own magazine, winning a Grammy, having you own talk show, or all of these, whatever you ultimate dreams may be, get very clear and specific on what that looks like. Once you have you have your ultimate goals in mind, make career decisions based on how they serve your master plan.

When proposed with a project or job offer think:

  • Is this in alignment with my ultimate goal?
  • Does this serve me in the bigger picture?
  • If I were at the next level in my career, would I take this job?

If the answer is yes to those questions then it should be easy to take the job, if the answer is no then it’s time to get tough and pass on that opportunity. Having these simple questions in place can alleviate any anxiety around whether or not to take on another project when you are feeling overwhelmed in deciding which projects to move away from so you aren’t spreading yourself too thin.

For example, one of my ultimate goals is to win an Oscar (article on The Power of Dreaming Big to come) and I was offered a featured background role on an MTV show a few months ago. It was paying, but no lines or legitimate character name. I’m not trying to knock background work, there are benefits of doing it, however, I had been there, done that, having spent hours doing background and the occasional under 5’s on One Life to Live when I was first starting out in my career. I made the decision to not do background work anymore – at this stage in my career it not longer served me or helped me to get to my ultimate goal because it wasn’t adding to my credits in a meaningful way, it wasn’t a stepping stone to a larger part in the future, and it wasn’t stretching me as an actor. I respectfully declined the background work but told the casting director to please keep me in mind for any upcoming roles that had lines and a legitimate character name.

Setting this boundary of the type of work I would accept based on my ultimate goal was powerful because:

  • It created boundaries with the casting director for the type of actor I wanted to be seen as in the industry:
    • Candy is an actor that must have a legitimate character name.
    • Candy is an actor that has to multiple lines in a scene/show.
    • Candy is an actor that has paid her dues and is at the next level in her career.
    • It gave me power. After declining the background work, I felt powerful in my career. I had the power to shape and mold the direction of my career and the types of roles that I get seen for and perform in.
    • It taught me that saying “no” wasn’t closing a door, but it was opening the doors of many other opportunities that are in alignment with my ultimate goals.

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Here is a quick guide on getting specific on your goals:

Set aside an hour or so of alone time in a comfortable environment, light some candles, play your favorite music, pour your favorite beverage, get out some magazines, markers, and poster board, and then it’s time to get to work.

Relax and meditate on fulfilling your ultimate dreams and goals. What does that look like? Draw and write out your biggest dreams for your life on the poster board and cut out images from the magazines that reflect these goals for inspiration. Have fun and let loose and dare to dream and visualize you heart’s wildest desires.

Remember, the trick here is to get very specific, see below for a sample of what mine looks like and different questions I asked myself to dive deep into what I want to realize in my career and life:

Overall goal: To be an award-winning actor.

Questions: What kind of awards? What type of actor?

Specific goals:

  • To be an award-winning film actor whose movies win at Sundance, SXSW, and Cannes.
  • To be an Oscar-winning actress.
  • To be an Emmy award-winning television actor on a hit primetime TV series.

Overall goal: To be a fashion designer and expert.

Questions: What kind of designer? Where would your clothes be sold? What does being a fashion expert entail?

Specific goals:

  • To be a fashion designer that shows during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
  • To be a designer that is sold at the top boutiques and top department stores worldwide.
  • To host and guest-host fashion-based television shows. To be a fashion expert with a published book on style.

I have more goals, but I’ll stop there. Once you have a clear vision of your specific goals in place make decisions based on fulfilling those goals. But remember to incorporate a spirit of flexibility as well. Allow for change and modifications that are still in alignment with your goals for ultimate growth.

Have questions on creating specific goals for your career or want to share your goals? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below or tweet me @CandyWashington!

This article first appeared in my column for Ms. In the Biz here

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