As new year’s resolution season approaches, people from all walks of life will be looking forward to the new year, eagerly thinking about the goals they will set that will transform their lives. Unfortunately by about March or so, for many of them that excitement will have turned into disappointment, as they wonder why yet again, they have been unsuccessful in their self-improvement attempts.
Is this scenario a bit more familiar than you care to admit? Don’t worry – I’ve got just the thing for you! The next time you set a goal for growth, I encourage you to create a development plan.
Development plans are, as they sound, plans in which you map out the steps that you will take to grow in a particular area. And, whether you would like to develop in a technical area (like getting further education, training, or experience) or soft skills (like assertiveness, confidence, or relationship building), they can be a powerful tool for increasing your odds for success.
Let’s face it – if personal development were easy, we would all magically accomplish our goals. We would all manage our time effortlessly, become outstanding public speakers, and listen attentively to others – all while being at our ideal weights! The reality is, however, that making lasting changes frequently requires focused attention – and that’s where development plans come in.
How to Create a Development Plan:
To create an effective development plan, make sure to include the following elements:
1. A Clear Goal
Your goal should be as clearly outlined as possible. What would success look like? How will you know that you have achieved it? The more specific you are when describing your goal, the better you will be able to assess how well you are doing with respect to moving towards it.
2. Specific Action Steps
Now that you have the goal in place, break it down into the specific action steps you will take to move towards it. For example, if you want to work on your relationship building skills at work, one of your steps could be to go out to lunch with a co-worker every other week. Or, if you want to become more assertive, perhaps you could take an assertiveness training class. Or, if you want to become more organized, perhaps you will go through all the clutter on your desk.
Set deadlines for your various action steps to create a greater sense of urgency for yourself. The act of personal development very often includes pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. And, given that a lot of us prefer to stay comfortable, it can be easy to procrastinate with respect to taking various actions – even when we know they are in our best interests. As you are setting your deadlines, make sure to be realistic about the amount of time you have to devote to the various action steps – remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
4. External Accountability
We tend to be more successful in accomplishing our goals when we build in accountability mechanisms. Therefore, if you’re really serious about making progress, make sure to recruit an accountability partner. Whether it is your significant other, a close friend, or your boss, getting additional feedback and encouragement will definitely help you.
5. Anticipation of Obstacles
Development usually doesn’t occur as a straight upward trajectory. Instead, setbacks or slip ups are usually par for the course. Thus, it can be helpful to anticipate obstacles that may arise so that you can plan in advance for how you might deal with them. Think of previous developmental efforts that went awry – what went wrong? How can you guard against that result this time around? Taking the time to learn from your past mistakes can help you avoid making them again, and keep you in the sort of mindset in which you focus on progress and the journey, in addition to the outcome.
Make sure to think of your development plan as a living document that you may change or refine across time. For example, once you get started executing it, you might find that you have new ideas about steps to take. Or, you might find that your original timeline was too aggressive, and you need to change some of your deadlines. By adapting the plan to your needs, you will be able to ensure that it continues to work for you across time.
If your instagram or Facebook feeds are anything like mine, they’re filled with inspiring quotes about living the life you were born to live by pursuing your passions and following your dreams. (Heck, I’ve posted plenty of such things myself)!
Here’s one to chew on by Quincy Jones:
“The people who make it to the top – whether they’re musicians, or great chefs, or corporate honchos – are addicted to their calling … [they] are the ones who’d be doing whatever it is they love, even if they weren’t being paid.”
In my own personal life and work with clients, I have found this to be entirely true. It may seem like a cliche, but when you love what you are doing, you feel exhilarated, excited, and eager to create. In turn, you put in more effort and energy, and often enjoy greater success.
But, what do you do when you’re in a job you’re not passionate about? What if you dislike or even hate it? And, what if this realization also happens to coincide with the reality that you have plenty of bills and responsibilities that won’t get attended to if you quit on the spot to become an artist, or run off to Bali, or even just put yourself out of your misery while you look for another position that you’ll like a whole lot better?
Despite what your instagram says, sometimes the best thing to do is to make the most of the job you have while looking for the one that will stoke your passions. After all, a lot of us have hard time feeling blissful when we’re concerned about being evicted or don’t know where our next meal is coming from! So, if you find yourself in this position, here are some tips that can transform the way you look at your work while you are in the midst of getting ready for your next move.
Take a hard look at yourself. Are you one of those people for whom the grass is always greener? Have you gone through a string of jobs and been miserable in each one? While it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that you’re just having a hard time finding something that’s the right fit for you, it’s also worth exploring whether something else is going on. After all, the common denominator in all of these situations is you. If you’re someone who makes a habit of pointing the finger at other people and circumstances to explain your dissatisfaction, it might be time to do some inner work to get happier. In turn, you’ll likely put yourself in a better position to appreciate your future professional opportunities.
2. Make a Plan
Being in a job you hate can feel paralyzing. It’s not uncommon to feel hopeless, stressed, or just plain stuck when you’re working in a position that you know isn’t right for you. To deal with this, I encourage you to fight the urge to succumb to helplessness and instead, take your power back by creating a plan.
Consider what would you prefer to be doing. What steps could you take to get there? Unsure of the steps to take? Make a list of people you talk to in order to get more information, and reach out to them. Completely at a loss for what fields interest you or how you can best use your strengths? Look into working with a career coach.
3. Work your Plan
Once you have your plan together, it’s possible you could feel overwhelmed. After all, getting more education or building a business from scratch, for example, are no small feats! To make things more manageable, think of one thing you could do right now that would move you towards your goal and do it. Whether it’s reading a book, conducting an online search, editing your resume, saving money, or talking to someone in the field, moving forward can break your feeling of inertia. Continue taking these small actions, and not only will you feel much more empowered, before you know it, you’ll have some serious momentum going that will propel you forward to your next adventure.
4. Don’t “check out” of the job you have
I once worked with a client (I’ll call Sarah) who was sick of her job. She respected her boss and was good at what she did, but she was at a place at which she could work on autopilot. Instead, she dreamt about being assigned to an international position in which she could do bigger and better things career-wise. But, since it looked like that wasn’t about to happen anytime soon, she became disengaged – showing up late and putting in less effort. She felt justified in doing so because she was “in a rut and hated her job.”
Now, the average person reading this might think, “If you want a promotion, what the heck are you doing slacking off?” However, Sarah was entirely blind to this point. It wasn’t until I said to her, “If you were leaders in the company, trying to select the person who should get a great assignment, would you pick someone who is constantly late and doesn’t seem to be trying that hard?” Once she acknowledged the irony of her situation, she got her act together and became much more productive.
And, even if you have already decided that you are going to leave the company, this advice still applies. After all, is there a possibility that you might need a reference in the future? Make sure to keep the long game in mind, and put in your best effort as you prepare for your next move.
5. Change how you look at your job
As you’re planning your next move, it’s certainly not in your best interest to continue to feel overwhelmed with misery in your current job. After all, what if your next career move is a few years in the making – is it worth it to be unhappy for that whole time?
To address this, it can often be helpful to reframe how you are looking at your work. One way to do this is to consider what there is in your professional life for which you can be grateful. Do you have a funny co-worker? Has the work helped you to develop new skills (even if it’s the emotional intelligence to deal with your ornery boss)? Does the job keep food on your table and a roof over your head? We often take these sorts of things for granted; however, acknowledging them can help you to better appreciate your work.
Finally, consider how your work aligns with your values. For example, if you’re someone that enjoys helping people, think about how your job contributes to a better world for others. If you love learning, think about where there are opportunities to learn in what you are currently doing. Being more mindful of how your values can be expressed in your work can increase your level of satisfaction. And, it might even give you some ideas about projects to pitch to your boss.
Finally, when all else fails, you know there’s always an inspirational Maya Angelou quote for you: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Hmmm…might just put that on my instagram!