How to plan your career goals and make them happen

At the end of last year, I attended a Vision Day which to give me a kickstart for 2016 by helping me imagine where I wanted BA Mentor to be at the end of 2016 and building the foundations to making it to happen.

It was a very inspiring session and really helped me bring to life where I wanted BA Mentor to be and also to have the courage to be bold and believe that it could be done.

This approach is equally appropriate for you as an individual so I wanted to share some of what we did during that day.

There are two key elements to achieving your goals that I want to draw your attention to in this post (there are other elements but I want to focus on these as they are your first steps).

Step 1: Decide on your goal
What? This is obvious surely! It can be obvious but sometimes we shy away from this because if you haven’t decided what you really want to achieve you won’t be disappointed if you don’t get there.

You will all have your own goals but I’m going to make one up here for the sake of this exercise.
The goal is to speak at a BA Conference on a topic I am passionate about in the world of business analysis.
Scary isn’t it? Once you have it written down, all of the reasons why you can’t do this rush to the front of your mind.
What could I talk about?
How would I approach my speech?
But I’m no expert
I don’t have any time

That has certainly happened to me in the past. Perhaps you have more of a positive mindset (or maybe you are not setting yourself some stretching goals!).

(by the way, in the interests of transparency, my goal this year is to create a thriving BA community which makes the difference for BAs and enables them to achieve their goals by providing the resources and support whether they are aspiring or very experienced. This is quite scary for me as I have a good view of what is needed to help you be successful and know that will be challenging. But it is very inspiring as I would be very proud to say that I have been able to help you. And it’s not like I haven’t been working on providing solutions over the past few years!)


Step 2: Bring your vision to life

So how can you do that? And why would you want to?

Well, the inspiration that was presented from my Vision Day was the story of how this was instrumental to Muhammad Ali’s success.

Muhammad Ali would visualise each fight in advance and mentally walk through the entire fight from the dressing room through to arriving in the ring, fighting his opponent until he knocked him down and walking back to the dressing room. (This is called a Future History exercise and is described in more detail here).

This may seem impossible but that it was the key to his success. He would rehearse the fight many times before until he knew exactly how he was going to play it.

So in our example, it might go something like this:

  1. You arrive at the conference venue in plenty of time for your talk
  2. You are feeling excited because you know you have a great talk that people will want to hear
  3. You are feeling confident because you have practiced and prepared so you are very comfortable with the material
  4. You find your room and sit quietly for a few minutes before your talk, enjoying the build-up
  5. You walk around the room and chat to a couple of people because you are not worrying about your talk
  6. You are given a warm introduction
  7. You step up to the microphone with a warm smile on your face and introduce yourself.
  8. Everyone is sitting up and attentive and several people are smiling
  9. You can see a couple of colleagues who have heard this before smile back at you

Can you see how strongly positive this image is? You abandon all of your negative thoughts and just paint a detailed, vivid picture of the perfect talk. It is very important to bring this to vivid and detailed life.
(quite enjoyed how this article explains the power of the imagination in this exercise)


This exercise does a few things:

  • gives you a positive target and removes the negatives
  • motivates you to realize your vision
  • ‘trains’ your brain to start noticing resources that will help you towards your vision

Now you need to start working backwards from your vision to work out the steps leading up to it.

So, how would you gain that level of confidence? Perhaps you have practiced it before. How many times? Would ten run throughs make you confident? Ok, start putting them in the plan.

How would you be confident your audience will appreciate it? You would want feedback as early as possible so you can refine and improve it. So pick a colleague who you know wel enough to try out an early version and explain you want their frank and honest feedback.

When you are feeling more confident, perhaps you could invite some internal colleagues to an internal presentation on the understanding that they must give you honest feedback.

In this way, you can build up your plan so that the vision seems very achievable.


So why not start 2016 positively? Throw away those new year resolutions which punish you for all your bad habits but create an inspiring vision for you.

Give yourself this gift and start creating your own future.

About Alex Papworth

4 Responses to “How to plan your career goals and make them happen”

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  1. Esther says:

    Thanks for sharing Alex. Powerful article!!

  2. Michael says:

    Great article Alex – and I really like the example goal you have given as it is something that I think is actually a really good one for all BA’s to consider doing.. The achievement of putting oneself in front of a crowd as an expert and one who has a valid or different point to make not only develops the presentation skills as well as the confidence in the BA skills …

    Thanks !

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