Personal Development: How to set effective goals and actually achieve them.
Its National Learning at Work Week this week, so here is my first written discussion on this subject. I have discussed this with people from all walks of life and of all ages over the years, both inside my work and outside. I am currently studying my CIPD Level 5 Diploma in L&D and have been involved with L&D for over 10 years. I have read books, journals, articles, attended webinars and watched videos on setting up an effective personal development plan.
So where do you start when it comes to thinking about your own goals and objectives. The difficulty we have is that most of us think about our personal development plans in reaction to a performance review with a manager, or because the business we work for, requires us to ‘prove’ our development to secure bonus/appraisal etc.
Development should be about you for you. The only beneficiary of a personal development plan…is YOU. Taking the time out to think about your own development is as crucial as breathing (a bit of an exaggeration). It’s really important.
Why? Because knowing where you are now and where you want to be, provides the focus you need as a key ingredient to success. Knowing how to fill the gaps and what is needed for you to get from A to B is an important planning process for effective goal setting. Development needs to be viewed within the context of your whole life and not in isolation of other aspects such as work, family, relationships, health, fitness, mental health, social life, money, assets etc. It’s important to assess where you are now in each area and where you’d like to be. Even if you’re happy in your current role, think about how you can stay afloat and develop yourself in your current role.
It’s also important to think about your thinking. The subconscious mind doesn’t process negation. If I told you not to think about something, your subconscious mind will make you think of exactly that. So state your goals in a positive affirmation, ask yourself, what you want instead of focusing on what you don’t. See The Secret by Rhonda Byrne for more on this.
Whichever template you use to document your PDP, its important to make your goals SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). Your subconscious mind needs clear direction with details to the level of making yourself uncomfortable. Someone once said to me, you only develop when you make yourself feel uncomfortable.
Let me give you an example of this. Several years ago, I had just passed my driving test when my manager asked me to travel to Rotherham for training purposes. I asked if I could go on the train (terrified I wouldn’t be able to drive on the M1) She told me I had to use a company car for insurance purposes. On the day, the car hire company turned up with a large 7 seater vehicle. I didn’t even know how to start the car and had to call my fiancé in London to help me. Terrified, I made my way to the motorway, convinced this would be the end of my life. I didn’t put my music on and whispered Arabic prayers for Allah’s (swt) help. I was so uncomfortable for the whole journey and all day, spent the day worrying and dreading the drive home. On the way back, it began to rain heavily, I didn’t have my car lights on and didn’t know how to work the dash or the wipers. I had cars flashing their lights at me, probably calling me all the names under the sun! Convinced I would kill myself on this journey, I pulled over on to the hard shoulder and broke down in an emotional meltdown. I began googling where to find the basics in my car. I cried a bit more. But eventually I learnt a lot and I had to start driving home. I couldn’t stay on the hard shoulder all night. The moral of the story, I was so uncomfortable but I developed myself. I felt more confident the next day and the day after and by day 5, I had learnt to drive on a motorway, drive an automatic car and also felt comfortable travelling in a company car to and from work.
Development needs to be viewed in terms of your whole life, and not just something you do at work. It needs to be discussed with loved ones, with work colleagues and with friends. If setting effective SMART goals is the first step to development, then for me, the second step is networking with like-minded professionals. Having an up to date Linked In account, having access to the right conversations on Twitter and allowing some time in your diary to reflect and review your progress are all integral parts to development.
Another key aspect is writing them down. A study by Edwin Locke & Gary Latham (1990) showed the effectiveness of writing goals down. They found that the 5% of students, who had written their goals, had a bigger net worth 20 years later. Other studies have also focused on the effectiveness of thinking, discussing as well as writing about your goals. For more reading on Locke & Latham, see https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_87.htm
Setting up a PDP needs to be part of your own development plan and not for a performance appraisal at work. Anyone actively working on a personal development plan will tell you the benefits of one. Setting specific goals, documenting them using SMART objectives, reviewing them in a timely manner and achieving goals should be done in a circular format where its continuous and lifelong.