I creep on my coworkers. I don’t mean to, but my office is positioned such that I can hear a lot of the daily activity that goes on around me. Occasionally, it gets annoying (i.e. in the way of doing my work) and I shut the door, but mostly I appreciate the hum of action–and I learn a lot.

Today I overheard this conversation:

Person1: The next time the training comes available, I’m going to get my [Lean Six Sigma] green belt.

Person2, with a note of surprise: Whoa. That’s a lot of homework.

Person1, determinedly: I know and I don’t care. I’ve decided that’s what I want. I need it.

I was impressed. So often, I meet people who say they want to move to the next step in their careers. They want a title or a salary increase or the accompanying parking space. When it comes to doing the work it takes to get there–to earn it–those people quickly disappear.

In this case, I didn’t hear a word about the rewards it might bring. What I heard instead was someone who had identified a goal and was willing do to the work to achieve it. If advancement was in her sights, she chose to let it dangle somewhere beyond the horizon as a consequence, not as the immediate call to action. Brava, lady!

I moved on with two takeaways. The first is obvious: if you want something, you have to be willing to do the work. When her coworker brought up the homework hurdle, I half expected Person1 to say something like, Really? How much. Hmm. You’re right; that IS a lot. Instead, she remained unfazed, shrugging it off with an if-that’s-what-it-takes attitude. She was ready.

The second is a bit more subtle: the interim goals have to be worthy for their own sake. If something deters me from reaching my end-all-be-all goal, I don’t want the path I take to get there to be for naught. The stepping stones along the way need to be worthwhile in themselves. They should aid my physical, mental, educational, social, or professional development. They should be independently fulfilling. If not, why expend so much effort doing something I hate? Life’s too short.

So again I say, brava, lady! She has made up her mind and she’s moving forward. We should all be so committed.