People with careers in personal growth and development will tell you that creating a strategy and planning its implementation is essential. Why? The problem with ‘personal development’ is that only you, as the person being developed, are responsible for success (you can’t outsource or delegate your development!)
Much like with children, when they learn to walk or use the bathroom, you won’t always know what to do next or how to measure your success, unless you have someone or something to guide you and hold you to account.
Developing a personal development strategy is your opportunity to identify the changes in yourself you want to achieve. Each change or outcome should take you further towards your development goal, and/or enable further outcomes to be achieved. If an outcome you identify doesn’t do that, then question why you think you must do it. Also, when you list all the intermediary outcomes in your strategy, you have full sight of the scale of development you are undertaking – it’s an opportunity to test your commitment. If it looks like too much and you’re not being realistic, then scale it back.
Developing a strategy also enables you to consider the order in which you want to achieve them. It’s important that you decide on the stages of your development as there will, no doubt, be a natural and immovable order in which you have to achieve them.
Let me explain.
Say I want to be an excellent public speaker and two developmental milestones I identify are ‘speak in front of 20 people’ and ‘speak in front of 200 people’. Now it would seem silly, perhaps, to put the ‘200’ outcome first, wouldn’t it? OK, here is another example. Say I want to become a better Project Manager, and I decide that I need to learn how to use a PC, and also become skilful in MS Project. It wouldn’t make sense to expect that I will achieve the latter outcome first, would it?
Just because I have a strategy for my Personal Development, it doesn’t mean it will happen. I need a Personal Development Plan which will tell me (and often my superiors) how I will implement my development. If I don’t have a plan, then achieving my goals will certainly be by luck, not judgment. All my strategizing will have come to nothing if I am not sure I can put in the effort to achieve my goals.
Planning implementation is a matter of breaking down the goals/outcomes into manageable tasks and setting dates by which they need to be achieved. It’s a matter of holding yourself to account! Without a date, then you simply won’t achieve your goals in full. This is an aspect of human behavior that few achieve to overcome. So set yourself dates for completing your tasks that achieve your desired outcomes, and stick to them. Make sure your plan is realistic and it isn’t so aggressive that you’re starting from a point of failure. This will really drag you down and damage your confidence in achieving the final objective. If you have to, use a tool like MS Project – this isn’t goofy if it has a positive effect!
The general approach to your strategy and implementation plan should be to make sure that you can achieve your goals. Be realistic, and get your order right. It’s far better to be a little slower than you would like in exchange for greater confidence in the final outcome. You need to build yourself a track record of sustained delivery and achievement – and you can then decide if you’re able to speed up. Use delivery to build confidence – not missed deliveries to build despair!