I’m a huge fan of GPS. Before that, I was a constant user of websites like MapQuest and Google Maps. Before that, I possessed a 50-state road atlas, State of Michigan map with detailed inset maps of various cities and two county map books that included every street within the county. When I’m driving, I definitely want to know where I’m going.
When I first started in my professional career, I was driving to a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. To this day, I remember working my way through the various pages of the atlas, comparing routes and then eventually highlighting which expressways I would take that would be the quickest option. Doing this type of planning can seem tedious, or worse, pointless. However, I believe planning your trips saves enormous time in the long-run, keeps you out of trouble areas and allows you to remain focused on your long-range destination.
Planning Your Life
You see, I don’t know anyone who ventures out on a trip – whether for business or pleasure – and operates with the mentality that they don’t know where they’re going, nor do they care. I don’t know anyone who gets in their car and says, “Let’s drive south for a while, and where we end up, that’s our vacation destination!” I don’t know anyone who travels for business and does not know exactly where they are headed. Unfortunately, I know a lot of people who treat their lives that way. Each new day that they wake up is unplanned, unfocused, and very accidental with respect to direction.
In March of 2012, I was reflecting on the importance of having purpose in life, and tweeted what proved to be a profound statement that I use quite frequently now in trainings and consultative services: “You will never drift into purposefulness.” So, if you can’t drift into purposefulness, then it has to be intentional.
How to Create a Personal Development Plan
A friend of mine always tells people that his favorite leadership quote is from the movie, “Alice in Wonderland.” An odd place to find leadership principles, but a quality statement, nonetheless: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” Now, to be clear, this isn’t advocating multiple options to the same destination, this is talking about the end destination not mattering, so your options are all equally valid (or to be fair, invalid!). This is like getting in the car and saying, “Let’s drive south to our vacation!” This type of attitude about our lives is unacceptable to me, and I’m hoping it is unacceptable to you as well. To keep yourself from falling into the trap that you can drift into purposeful, I’m proposing something different – a Personal Development Plan. So, what does a Personal Development Plan look like? Here are some ideas to get started:
- Where do you want to go? What do you want your life to look like in about five years? Having too long of a timeframe (over five years) can make the end seem unrealistic. Having too short of a time frame can make the progress seem too incremental. My suggestion is to look at all areas of your life: professional, educational, financial, personal, physical, etc., and determine what you want to look like at the end of five years. That becomes your “destination location” – you now know where you want to go.
- Begin taking each of the categories and identifying what has to happen in your life to get there within the timeframe. For example, if you’re going to be pursuing an advanced degree, it isn’t enough to put on your plan that you want to graduate. You also have to think strategically about every step. You may have an entrance exam requirement to fulfill like a GMAT or GRE, the application process, etc. You need to include every aspect into your plan.
- Determine what you need to do differently beginning today, to start reaching the goals that you have. If you want to be somewhere different in five years from where you are now, then you have to do things that are different. The layman’s definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but to expect a different result. So, what do you need to do differently? Some examples include reading a certain number of books on your area of expertise within your industry; begin blogging; identify a mentor within your industry; or, attend conferences that will force you to expand your learning.
The Benefit to You
Having a Personal Development Plan sets you apart from your peers. It will create options for you both personally and professionally. A recent study shows that 42% of college graduates do not read another book after graduation. If you’re not reading, you’re missing out learning best practices. The fact is, leaders are readers, and if you’re not reading, you won’t be leading.
By separating yourself from your colleagues, you begin to be the one who people go to for additional opportunities, for answers to questions and for input on strategic decisions. All of this helps to get you to your intended destination that you’ve targeted for yourself in your five-year plan.
Let the Institute for Professional Excellence Help…
With our professional development and/or executive coaching services, the Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx) at Davenport University can assist you regardless of your level within your organization. IPEx will help you reach your greatest potential by providing education and training opportunities to support your Personal Development Plan. We want to make sure that your future looks different from your present and you stay on track to achieve your goals. IPEx can help you identify and arrive at your desired destination.
© 2016 | Dan Rundhaug | Executive Director
Institute for Professional Excellence (IPEx) | Davenport University
Dan can be reached at:
firstname.lastname@example.org or 616.233.2582