Career Management and Life Planning Tools: Eight Powerful Questions About Your Future

"Most people don't plan to fail. They just fail to plan." This old saying applies to any area of your life where you want to make some positive changes. Prior to planning, however, you must get absolutely clear on your intentions, and then keep those intentions top-of-mind as you make your plans and live your life. Identifying your intentions is particularly key if you are setting professional goals for the coming year, or considering a career transition.

The following questions are designed to help you identify your priorities and GET AT what your intentions are. If you are like most people, you have a nagging, vague sense of where you need a course correction, but your thoughts are too fuzzy and ragged to have much of an impact on your actions. Work through these question on your own, or work with a partner or a coach. I have seen many successful people clarify their intentions with these questions, and then use them to inform their career transition or other life changes. These eight clusters of questions apply, whether you are making major changes or simply fine-tuning. The clearer you become with your intentions, the more powerfully they will impact your life.

  • What are your intentions for your next work chapter? What do you want to bring to it that has worked for you before and what do you want to do differently? What do you want to bring forth from yourself in this new adventure? What experience are you looking for, and what kind of support do you need for that to happen?
  • What are the things you have tolerated or are currently tolerating (people, behaviors in yourself or others, low standards for this or that, and so forth), and how can you eliminate these tolerations as you move forward?
  • What experiences do you want to have had, 10 years from now, looking back over your previous 10 years? You might express these experiences in very concrete terms, such as, "I want to have seen fields of tulips in bloom in The Netherlands." Or you might express these in more abstract terms, such as, "I want to have learned to recover more quickly from 'mistakes,' and to have grown thick-skinned enough that I no longer dwell on things I wish I'd done differently," or, "I want to do something groundbreaking with my team, where we all pull together and do something amazing."
  • What do you want to learn in your next professional chapter, whether at your current position or somewhere else?
  • Do you want to create some shift in any of these areas?
    • simplifying your life
    • finishing incompletes (with projects, with people)
    • handling money, creating reserves
    • taking care of your mind, body, spirit
    • extending your boundaries, being well protected (insurance, as well as more abstract protections)
    • raising your standards
    • re-orienting around your values, strengths, and what delights you
    • creating a healthy support network
  • What might de-rail you or get you off track or out of balance as your life gets busier? What can you do in advance so that doesn't happen?
  • What are the ways you are holding yourself back from dreaming big -- ways you are telling yourself to only shoot for, say, St Louis, rather than the moon?
  • What do you most fear about your future? Get very vivid and clear and detailed about the fear; get friendly with it. Then figure out a way you would deal with that which you fear -- not just how you would survive it, but how could you come through it with strength and even some grace. Then figure out yet another way you could deal with it. What is your intention regarding this fear?
  • If you could use some support for any part of this process, including how to make your intention become a reality, do not hesitate to get help from a career professional. There is just no reason to stay stranded and alone. Most career coaches will provide a complimentary initial consultation which will give you a strong sense of what coaching can do for you.

    Copyright 2004, Sharon Teitelbaum.

    Sharon Teitelbaum is a Work-Life and Career Coach who works with high achieving women with young children, people at mid-career, and professionals seeking greater career satisfaction or work-life balance. Her book, Getting Unstuck Without Coming Unglued: Restoring Work-Life Balance, is available at her website,

    Certified as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Sharon works by phone with clients around the world and in-person in Boston.

    She delivers keynotes and workshops on work-life balance issues, has been in national publications including The New York Times and Working Mother Magazine, and has appeared on cable and network television. She publishes Strategies for Change, a newsletter offering practical tips for work-life success.

    Sharon has been married for 30 years and is the mother of two amazing young women. You can contact her here.

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