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.

3. Deadlines

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.

6. Flexibility

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.

 

Want more  tips and exercises for professional growth?  Then  check out my book, The Consummate Leader: a Holistic Guide to Inspiring Growth…in Others…and in Yourself.

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