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How to get better at achieving your goals

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We’ve passed so many milestones in our history, which began in 1904 when eight men in London decided to create an accountancy qualification open to all.

  • In 1996 we changed our name to ACCA
  • In 1998 the UN used our syllabus as a basis for its global accountancy curriculum
  • In 2004 we celebrated 100 years with 100,000 members around the world
  • We launched our first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) in 2014, delivering courses electronically to millions worldwide
  • In 2015 we were the world’s first accountancy body to partner with a university to provide an MA and an accountancy qualification at the same time
  • In 2015 we launched ACCA-X digital courses, providing learning opportunities to a wider audience of learners who face challenges accessing high quality, affordable learning provision.

That’s just a few of the things we’re proud of, not to mention that as of June 2017 our member and student base had almost reached 700,000 globally, and so we continue our mission to open doors to the accounting profession to as many people as possible around the world.

Goals… it’s all about goals

You don’t get to the ripe old age of 113 years young without setting a few goals, after all ACCA is in the business of goals, yours, helping you achieve the career success you dream of.

Achieving goals is a skill, beginning with identifying and planning them.

‘Firstly, make sure you have goals you truly want to achieve and feel you can,’ says Dr Sally Ann Law, a personal and executive coach. ‘Then break them down into small, achievable steps with a date attached to keep you on track.’

Get your career goals written down on paper, says Ros Toynbee, director and lead coach of The Career Coach. ‘There was a famous study in the 1970s from Harvard Business School in which their MBA students were asked whether they had set clear written goals and made plans to accomplish them and only 3% had. The 3% by 1989 earned ten times as much as the other 97% who had goals but hadn’t written them down, or simply had no defined goals.’

Consider the motivations behind your goals, identify the reasons for choosing them, or as Ros puts it, the ‘big why?’ ‘Why specifically do you want that job or secondment? What do you believe it will bring you? List all the reasons you can, and then pick the one or two that resonate most. Do this as you set your goals, putting your ‘big why?’ next to them, and it will keep you focused when you hit challenges (which are inevitable when pursuing any worthwhile goal).’

Indeed, says Sally, you should expect some setbacks - ‘you're only human. Work out what caused the temporary derailment and decide what to do about it. Maybe the goal was unrealistic in the first place, maybe you need some support, maybe you need a bit more time – don't let setbacks win the day.’

Think SMART - back up your ‘big why?’ with some detailed planning

SMART goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based.

‘It is easier to work out how to achieve a goal when you first get SMART about it,’ says Ros. Say you’d like to land a traineeship with one of the Big Four Accountancy Firms by April 2018, that’s great. However, it’s going to be more realistic and achievable and put far less pressure on you to widen your job search to say the top 20 Firms or even the top 50 in the location you want to live and work in, while still achieving your ‘big why?’.

Create an action plan, break it down into baby steps and stick to it, doing a little bit everyday no matter if you’re not feeling ‘in the mood’, says Ros. ‘Every day or every week, commit to taking one more action towards your goals and do it.

Bonus tip - share what you plan to do with someone you trust to keep you accountable such as a trusted colleague at work or a friend, and have them call or email you to check if you’ve done what you said you would. Research shows that the very act of saying a commitment out loud, massively increases the chance that you will do it.’

Stay motivated, stay focused

When setting your goal, think about the resources you have at your disposal. ‘Some will be internal (your self-belief, personal strengths, skills and knowledge). Others will be external – the network of people you know who know how to do what you want to do, and their encouragement and belief in you,’ says Ros.

When motivation dips, which is completely normal, having a list of resources you can refer to can be crucial. ‘Who has done this before you and can show you the next steps you need to take? Asking for help is, contrary to popular belief, not a sign of weakness, but a sign of a true professional who takes their career building seriously,’ says Ros.

Another great motivator is rewarding yourself, and not just when you reach you goal, but along the way, when you complete a task or milestone. Celebrating is definitely a good idea, so is celebrating milestones,’ says Sally. ‘It’s very helpful for motivation and it's usually too hard to stay motivated all the way to an end point if it's an ambitious target – that's why recognising success along the way is crucial.’

If starting your journey to becoming a fully qualified accountant is one of your New Year goals, why not take some inspiration from some of our existing students and members on how they triumphed in their careers.

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