Pamela Stewart’s experience with audacious goal setting predates her professional career. Today, as senior vice president of national retail sales at the Coca-Cola Company, Pamela is a seasoned “goal-getter.” But when she entered high school, her mom had just gotten a divorce, and the family’s finances were tight. At that time, no one in Pamela’s family had ever attended college, and there were few African American female leaders as role models in her life.
“I didn’t have a mentor whom I could call up, so I defined and envisioned who I wanted to be,” says Pamela. While her peers aspired to be doctors or lawyers, she wanted to become the US secretary of state or a United Nations ambassador. As Pamela mapped out her plan, she realized it would require a full-ride college scholarship.
The next four school years required a lot of hard work, including applying herself academically, participating in extracurricular activities, and excelling in sports. But it paid off because Pamela entered college on a full scholarship, becoming a first-generation scholar.
“I would encourage you not to define your boldest dreams by your history. Dream bigger,” says Pamela. She presses mentees to expand their vision of who they can become, saying, “If you feel 50 percent or more confident that you can achieve the dream, you’re not dreaming big enough. Make sure that it is truly bold and aspirational.”
When your job becomes second nature, or you’re too enamored by the credibility and respect that you have in your role, it’s time to think about taking new risks, Pamela says. “If you wake up every day knowing what to expect, and you’ve learned all that there is to learn in your role, that’s the moment to step out of complacency.”
Is it time to recalibrate your aspirations, dream bigger, and set an even loftier goal?
The next exercise asks you to dream bigger and declare where you’d like to be in three years, by setting a lofty career or leadership goal.
Own It: Dreaming Big
Where do you imagine yourself being in three years?
Review the questions below and choose one that calls to you the loudest. Then, start freewriting for at least one page, and give yourself the time and space to dream up your answer:
- What’s your highest vision or aspiration for your professional self?
- What outcome would be the most tangible expression of your professional purpose?
- What contributions would you find most meaningful?
- What accomplishment would be deeply satisfying?
What’s your lofty, bold-ass, brassy, electrifying, vertigo-inducing goal? Put pen to paper or fingertips to keyboard and name it. Then, commit to it and make it your mission.
Excerpt from Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive, by Jo Miller, p. 36 (McGraw-Hill December 13, 2019).