Not Licensed to Fail: 11 Tips for Achieving Your Goals

Read Time: 15 Minutes
Expertise Area: All Career Fields
Career Stage: All Career Stages

Expert Career AdviceGoal Setting ➜ Not Licensed to Fail: 11 Tips for Achieving Your Goals

You've worked hard for your professional license. And now you're finally "there," with license in hand. Maybe you've had it for a while now, or maybe you're fresh out of school. Either way, you likely have BIG dreams. So what's the best way to achieve those dreams?

Two words: Setting goals.

Now, we know what you might be thinking. Goal setting?! That doesn't sound exciting or fun.

We hear you. And while we all wish we had fairy godmothers with magic wands that made our dreams come true, this is life. This is reality.

And real life requires goals.

But here's the good news: Setting and achieving goals can be fun and exciting. And here’s the even better news: You’ve done it at least once before. After all, you achieved a BIG goal already: getting your license.

Do you remember how you felt on your first day of beauty school? Equal parts excitement and terror, right? But you had a plan, and you stuck to it: going to classes, racking up hours in the student salon, and passing the state exam. Remember how good it felt as you reached each milestone?

Your beauty school career is a perfect example of goal setting in action. Today, we’re going to formally break down the process so you can apply it to your career goals as well.

"I failed at going to a traditional college. I overcame that failure by attending cosmetology school and starting my journey as a beauty professional. A goal I set and accomplished was attending cosmetology school, and I finished with flying colors."

~ Lakeitha Carter, Licensed Beauty Professional & Instructor at Delta Technical College 

1. Always be working toward a goal.

According to Happiness ON, "Setting goals and making progress on them can make us happier and more satisfied in life." It's very much about the journey, not simply the destination.

Remember, the goal can be BIG or small. You won't always be working towards a big, hairy, scary goal, and that's OK. Like so many things in life, you'll experience ebbs and flows. Perhaps you just achieved a big goal, and now you are content with focusing on smaller daily goals. Most of us will have a mix of both during the course of our professional and personal lives.

As Cynthia Jones, a multi-licensed professional who manages a high-volume salon says, "I think goals are a driving force that help a person get things done and help you validate and track where you’re going, what you’ve accomplished, and what needs to be reassessed and revisited."

2. Keep in mind that you shouldn't set goals with a "silo" mentality.

Goals often intersect, especially when it comes to the professional and personal aspects of your life. For example, if your dream is to buy a house in five years, that goal most definitely intersects with your professional goals. What goals would you need to achieve professionally in order to reach that big personal goal?

Along the same lines, don't underestimate the power of a team approach. For example, maybe you and a colleague decide you want to go into business together. Two people working toward the same goal provides even more energy than just one person.

Kathy Davis-Rees, who holds multiple licenses across various disciplines, including cosmetology and esthetics, is currently the education director at the National Institute of Medical Aesthetics (NIMA) Institute in Utah.

She says her team recently achieved a big goal together. "Team goals are the most fulfilling and rewarding by far," she explains. "In fact, one of our biggest achievements was creating the first online esthetic curriculum in Utah that is comprised of 30% online and 70% onsite... I can't even describe the overwhelming feeling of team unity, and gratefulness to be working with some of the most creative minds in education, marketing, and business. To see this program be so successful during a time of hardness was truly remarkable and one of the most unexpected achievements."

3. Give yourself a realistic timeline.

Remember your approach to beauty school. You didn't accomplish that goal overnight or in a month. It took many months—even years for some students.

Being realistic with your goals is one of the most important steps—and admittedly one of the hardest to gauge. After all, with beauty school, someone set the pace for you. You just had to follow it.

Now, with your own career goals, you need to figure out what's realistic in terms of a timeline. Don't guess. Research. Google your goal (you'd be surprised how much info is out there). Talk to colleagues you trust. Listen to your gut. (The adage "know thyself" comes into play.)

For example, let's say you're a recent beauty school graduate and your big, hairy, scary goal is to open your own salon. What feels realistic? A five-year plan? A three-year plan? Whatever you decide, don't get too caught up in whether it's "right" in a general sense. Your timeline wouldn’t work for everyone, and that’s OK. Make sure it feels realistic to you. Be honest with yourself.

4. Once you have an approximate timeline for your goal, work backwards.

Breaking down a big goal into smaller goals is a MUST. This exercise will also help you see if you're truly being realistic with your timeline. You might realize you can accomplish a goal sooner—or that you need to add in more time. This is OK!

Here's how to approach this exercise:

  • List out all the small goals you need to accomplish in order to achieve your big goal.
  • Put the small goals in order from start to finish.
  • Give each small goal a deadline. Again, be realistic.

Note: When we say list your small goals, we mean it. It's not enough to envision your goal. Studies show that if you write down your goals, make an action plan, and build in accountability you'll have a greater chance of accomplishing your big goal.

We've talked about writing down goals and creating a plan. Now, let's talk about accountability.

5. Find an accountability method that works for you.

Use an accountability method that lights a fire under your butt and keeps you honest.

  • Maybe you like recording tasks in an online calendar or using goal-setting apps.
  • Maybe you like working with a peer, one you regularly check in with (weekly, monthly) to review successes and cheer each other on.
  • Maybe you like working with a career coach.
  • Maybe you like working with a mentor.
  • Maybe you're a lover of "to-do" lists and you like recording daily/weekly tasks on a legal pad—and you thrill in crossing out each task.
  • Maybe you like a combo approach—lists, calendars, motivational quotes.

6. Be willing to adjust deadlines.

Life happens. You might get married. Or have a family. Or you reduce hours to take care of kids at home. Or a family member gets sick. Or a pandemic happens! Our point: Sometimes you need to adjust the deadline and push it out by weeks, months, even years. It's OK. It happens.

It might sting and feel disappointing. You might even feel like you’ve failed. Acknowledge what you're feeling, but don't dwell. Recalibrate and start working toward the new deadlines.

7. Be kind to yourself along the way.

To go along with the previous point, learn to be kind to yourself along the way. Celebrate smaller goals, but don't over celebrate or let the success of a small goal distract you from the big prize. And when you have to move out a deadline or you fumble along the way (and you will!), again—be kind to yourself.

8. But know when to get tough.

The flip side to the above: Sometimes we self-sabotage. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Sometimes we drop the ball, and we continue dropping it. You need to be honest with yourself when this happens, too. (Not always an easy task, we know!)

If you find yourself continually stalling or stuttering, take a step back and reassess.

  • Do you need to break down small goals even further? Simplify the steps. Treat each basic step as a small goal. You’ll see the successes rack up faster, and this could help motivate you.
  • Do you need a different method of accountability? Maybe you thought you could monitor your own progress, but the reality is that you do need a person to "report" to, like a mentor or coach.
  • Has your BIG goal changed when you weren’t looking? This happens! Perhaps the issue isn't so much your lack of willingness to do the daily smaller goals. Perhaps the issue is the goal itself. For example, maybe you thought you wanted to run your own business, but after working for someone else, you discovered you LOVED this lifestyle more. It's OK when the big goal changes. Come up with new goals and focus on those.
  • Is there something else going on in your life that you need to address first? For example, maybe you're in a relationship that isn't supporting your goals. So this might require focusing on that issue first before you return to the big goal.

9. Address what’s holding you back.

Are you being honest with yourself about what’s holding you back from achieving your goal, and how you can address these things?

For example, maybe you want to be an instructor, and you know you’d be a great one if only you could get over your fear of speaking in front of a group of people. Instead of dismissing this dream, maybe you should address what’s stopping you from going after it. This could involve a short detour. In the above example, maybe you join Toastmasters or work with a public speaking coach.

Kevin Nguyen is a licensed barber and instructor/ Wahl educator at California Barber & Beauty College in San Diego. He has a smart perspective on addressing weaknesses.

"For bettering ourselves, we must understand our weaknesses," he says. "Once I discovered my weaknesses, I then worked on them and turned them into strengths. Becoming a Wahl Educator and being able to represent not only myself but the number one clipper company in the world was one of my greatest achievements. I reached that achievement by getting out of my comfort zones and set daily challenges to better myself and strive more towards that goal."

10. Find contentment in achieving small goals.

This goes back to our first point that not everyone is going to have a BIG goal they're aiming for at any given time. Sometimes, we'll be in between the big goals. Or maybe you simply prefer smaller daily/weekly goals. Not to mention that a big goal is nothing more than an accumulation of smaller goals.

Bottom line: smaller goals are important, so it makes sense to find contentment in achieving them.

Kathy Davis-Rees from the NIMA Institute says, "I think short-range goals are the most important. I set four to five short-range goals that will lead to a long-term accomplishment. I love crossing things off a list. I try to reach all short-range goals before I add any new ones."

Some examples of short-range goals:

For that last bullet above, you might break it down into additional steps: Each month this quarter, I'm going to attend a networking event where I'll get three solid leads at each event. Then, I will send a personal note to each person with an offer on services.

11. View "failures" and setbacks as opportunities.

The writer Samuel Beckett said: "Try again. Fail again. Fail better." You've probably encountered this quote or variations of it in social media memes. It is relevant. We all fail at times. And yes, some failures do hurt. But the best way to approach failure is to turn it into an opportunity—to learn from our mistakes, grow as humans, adjust our strategies, and eventually get it right.

Kevin Nguyen says, "I definitely had career goals that didn’t work in my favor, but it definitely did not stop me. Failing is only a lesson in order to achieve greatness. My advice to future professionals and even professionals now is to build a strong mindset, have tunnel vision for your goals, and give it 110% every day."

Sounds like excellent advice to us.

Like what you see?

Get more expert career advice in your inbox by telling us what you're focusing on: