How to Reverse Engineer Your Personal and Professional Development Goals

Inside: Eight steps to achieve your personal and professional development goals through reverse engineering.


When a company wants to figure out how a competitor’s product works and make one of their own, they go through a process of reverse engineering.

Don’t fall asleep on me! I’m not going to make you dive down a rabbit hole of widgets and circuits because I do not know a darn thing about widgets or circuits.

But the process of reverse engineering is crazy powerful for helping you achieve your personal and professional development goals. And as busy working moms trying to keep all of these personal and professional balls up in the air, crazy helpful is good.

My career coach AND working mom hats are firmly secured on my head with a million bobby pins to walk you through this. Let’s go!

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8 Steps to Reverse Engineer Your Personal and Professional Development Goals

Step 1: Dream Big (Bigger!)

In The Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes says “dreams are for losers.” She says it with perfectly good intentions because she wants to encourage people to stop dreaming and start doing.

I’m all for being a do-er. Baby Shark do, do, do, do, do, do, do.

But there is a time and place for a dream and I think that place is right now.

If you’re ready to start, grab a notebook, the notes section of your phone, or a blank Word document, and start writing about your dream life. Where would you live? Who would live with you? What would you do during the day? What would you do at night? How about the weekends?

Now take that dream life and do a gut check. Are you being cautious in your dreaming? If so, cut that out right now. We’re in dreamer stage, baby!

Now write down that dream life. Yacht and all if you’re super into the idea of a yacht!

I got my swim trunks and my flippie-floppies

Step 2: Who Has That Life?

So now you have your dream life written down. How does that look to you? Amazing? Intimidating? Scary? A little sad because it costs 4.5 trillion dollars?

That’s fair.

But don’t stop dreaming just yet. Dreams are good!

Instead, think about if you know anyone out there in the wild blue yonder who lives that life. Or who has pieces of that life.

When I did this activity I dreamed about working for myself, managing my own schedule, and writing books. I dreamed about getting my kids off the bus. I dreamed of having more time to read and exercise, and some extra cash to travel.

There were no yachts in my dream scenario, but there were beaches.

So I started to think about who lived a life like this? I knew my friends Amanda and Lyndsay worked for themselves. My brother and sister-in-law were hopping, skipping, and jumping around the world. I knew author Jenny Lawson wrote hilarious books I loved. And so did Erma Bombeck, and Tina Fey, and Jennifer Fulwiler.

Who do you know – famous or not famous – who has pieces of your dream life?

I'm just living the dream

Step 3: How did they get there?

We’ve identified the Apple iPhone of people that you are trying to emulate in one way or the other, so how did they get where they are?

If it is people you know – ask them!

Did I genuinely want to feature Amanda and Lyndsay on my blog because they are wonderful and I want readers to know about their cool working mom gigs. Yes. Did I also want to pry into their lives about how they got where they are? Also yes.

If it’s people you don’t know, thank your lucky stars for the internet. Start by researching. Read their books, listen to them on podcasts, read articles about them. Get nosy! It’s fine. They aren’t going to know, until that one day when you find your six degrees to Tina Fey and make that phone call!

What you’re trying to do in this part is figure out as much as you can about how someone else achieved something you also want to achieve. You aren’t going to mirror their plan exactly but learn from those who have gone before you. Don’t reinvent the wheel to achieve your personal and professional development goals. Learn from the wheel!

I'm watching you

Step 4: Turn Your Dreams into Personal and Professional Development Goals

Now that you’ve identified your dreams and found people who have lived that dream in one way or the other, it’s time to take that dream life and turn into a plan and corresponding goals.

Dream language includes words like “wish,” “hope,” and “want.” Goal language includes words like “will,” “plan,” “strategy,” and “timeline.” It takes what you’re picturing as amazing and forces you into taking action towards getting there.

I’ll use myself as an example.

Dream: I wish I could make my own schedule and be my own boss.

Professional Development Goal: I will start my own business and scale it to $X yearly revenue by July 2020 through 50% career coaching and 50% writing while maintaining my full-time job. In July 2020, I will take my business full-time with my own clients and freelance and contract assignments with a goal of $X yearly revenue. In September 2020, I will be there to put Jack on the bus for kindergarten and pick him up off the bus at 3:15pm.

Way more specific right?

You can do this with personal dreams too. Start with the wish your heart makes, and then make it tangible and SMART. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timebound.

You guys, I'm like really smart now, you don't even know.

Step 5: Break The Goals Down Into Mini-Goals

You’ve taken your big dream that’s rooted in all the things that are super meaningful to you and turned that into a goal. Now that goal needs to be broken down even further and that’s where we go back to our reverse engineering model.

Look at the research you did on how your models got to where they are today. Oprah didn’t wake up one day being Oprah. Your neighbor didn’t wake up one day and run a marathon. All the entrepreneurs I interviewed and listened to on their podcasts didn’t cross their fingers and hope they would build successful businesses.

So what little steps do you need to take to get to that big goal? If it’s a certain amount of money you want to make in a year for your business, how much do you need to make each month? If you are want to be promoted, what skills do you need to develop in the next three months? Want to run that marathon like Sally down the street? How many miles should you log each week?

Let me break it down for you.

Step 6: Write Down Your Personal and Professional Development Goals

Get your note-taking medium of choice back out and get writing. Let’s pretend your medium is a little notebook that you keep in your bag like one of these guys. (Mine is!)

Page One: Your big dream that you turned into a personal or professional development goal.

Page Two: The goals you want to hit by the end of the year to get you closer to that big goal.

Pages Three – Fourteen: The goals for each month. For example, January – Sign two new clients. Or March – write two chapters.

Both your big personal and professional development goals and the mini-goals that will help you get there should be SMART goals and they should be written down so you can stay focused on them.

Write it down - Will Smith gif

Step 7: Take Action

It’s time to move it, move it!

Start taking action towards achieving your mini-goals for the month. Don’t go all rogue and start going after goals on page 7, stick with your current month and tackle those goals.

Then make sure you adjust as necessary. Part of the reverse engineering process is testing and then fixing things. If you’re finding that you don’t actually know how to attract new clients, learn that new skill, or run a mile, figure out how you are going to learn about it before you implement. Then try out what you’ve learned and keep making adjustments.

Remember that these are YOUR goals, no one else’s. Your goals help keep you focused, but if you decide that you need to make a shift then make a shift. Or go back to the drawing board and change the goal altogether if you decide that dream life was shiny but not actually what you want.

Long story short, take action.

We've got to do something

Step 8: Find Your Accountability

A huge part of achieving personal and professional development goals is accountability.

Not sure the best method fo accountability for you? Check out Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies self-assessment. It’s all about what motivates you and what keeps you moving towards goals.

Once you have figured out what kind of accountability you need, then go get it!

Perhaps your accountability comes from a coach. While I can’t help you with your marathon, I can help you on the professional front. That’s totally my jam. Set up a free fifteen-minute consultation and we’ll chat!



I hope these steps were helpful for you to break down something huge into something totally do-able. And most importantly, I hope you’re ready to head out there and do the do-able.

It can be easy to put our own goals on the back burner as busy moms, but your dreams and goals matter. They really, really matter! And when your kids see you going after them, that’s some serious icing on the cake.

You’ve got this, and I’ll be here cheering you on!



Read More on Achieving Your Goals:

How Picturing the Worst Case Scenario Can Help You Achieve Your Career Goals

How to Advance Your Career in One Minute

Embrace Imperfection by Shooting for B- Work


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