What are your development goals for the next few months?

If you’re anything like me, you spend a lot of your professional life setting goals for your students or trainees, supporting them, giving them feedback and urging them to reflect. As teachers, trainers, mentors and coaches, that’s what we do.

But what about ourselves?

We know that learning new skills restores and energises us; it also helps us to have more impact on our learners. But sometimes our own learning takes a back seat. We get busy; there are so many demands on our attention.  Walt Disney famously said that change is inevitable, but growth is optional- in other words, we each have to make a positive choice about how to grow and develop. It doesn’t just happen.  So how do we ensure that we focus on our own development too? How do we prioritise our own learning? How do we manage our own growth?

In some parts of the world we’ve recently celebrated the start of a New Year. One of the reasons that I like this time of year is that I can take time to reflect on the past twelve months and think about my goals for the next.  In my first blog, I’d like to share with you my framework for goal-setting and one of my own goals, and invite you to take time to reflect too- and jump with me!

Well-formed goals

From time to time we write down our development goals. We want to learn a new language, prepare a good presentation for a conference, learn more about how to give effective feedback… and so on. We feel happy about them.  They look great. Then we get busy, and pretty soon it’s June and we find that we haven’t even started on achieving them. (I know, I’m speaking from experience!)

So how do we make sure we actually realise our development goals?

Here’s a 4-point framework for goal-setting :

1. Know your positive outcome

Know the outcome you want and phrase it in a positive way. The language we use to talk about goals is important. Avoid saying what you don’t want and avoid ‘I’ll try to…’ I find writing it as if it had already happened helpful. So, for example:  ‘An excellent workshop at X conference in October’ is a well-formed outcome.

2. Make your first step specific and achievable.

It’s important when goal-setting to chunk it down to achievable steps- and the first step is particularly important. Write it down and say when you will do it. Make it SMART. Starting well is crucial.

3. Know what you will see, hear and feel when you’ve achieved it.

It sounds an odd question, perhaps, but how will you actually know when you’ve achieved your goal? It’s good to think about that, because often we don’t take time to acknowledge our achievements. Taking the example of our workshop, we might consider what indicators would make us know that we’ve achieved it. Will it be the feedback we get? The applause from the audience? Getting to the end?  There’s no single answer to this- because it will be your goal. But you do need to think about it.  Visualising helps too.

4. Stretch

Stand up and draw an imaginary box around yourself. This is your ‘comfort zone.’ Now jump outside the box. That’s where you need to set your goal. Is it something that really stretches you? Excites you? Maybe makes you a little afraid?  Do you want to try a new technique? A new piece of software? Inserting video in your presentation slides? This jumping outside of the box will help you to develop new skills. It may be scary, but this is a great way of pushing yourself to learn more.

Sometimes you just have to jump!

So, how have I applied those four points to one of my goals this year-the The Training Zone blog?

Well, I know my outcome: I want my blog to be practical and to discuss current topics in teacher and trainer development. I want people to come here, and to get involved in discussions of ideas. I want to be in touch with old friends, and make new ones.

I think I know what steps I need to take, and I’ve written down how I`ll know if I’ve achieved it. I have my targets set. Is it stretching, exciting? Definitely. As I take this first step of publishing my first blog, I’m jumping into the unknown. Here we go……

It feels a little bit scary- but  great!

What about you? Do you take time to set your development goals? How do you go about it? What are you planning for yourself? I’d love to hear from you!