Self-improvement should be a constant ongoing focus for anyone who is keen to progress in their career, but unfortunately it’s often something remembered at the beginning of a new year, only to slip in priority once workload mounts. If you set out to learn a new language in 2015, enhance your coding skills, gain a new level of fitness or maybe even write a book, the chances are it never really happened. Apparently just 8% of us achieve our New Year’s resolutions, despite more than 40% of us setting goals for self-improvement.
There are various explanations for why most of us fail at prioritising self-improvement, but very often it comes down to two main things. Firstly, we are often too ambitious with the goals that we set for ourselves, often creating huge bucket lists or planning extreme makeovers of our professional or personal life. Secondly, we lack willpower or self-belief in what we can achieve, and give up on our goals too easily.
So in 2016, how can we stick to the aspirations that we have for self-improvement? Here are six tactics for being more successful at goal setting, to help your career flourish this year…
- Make your goals specific
Keep your goals for self-development simple and specific, and bound by achievable metrics. Rather than setting a bunch of competing goals, select one or two of highest importance, which you will hopefully be less daunted by.
It can also be sensible to set “small, attainable goals throughout the year, rather than a singular, overwhelming goal,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka. So, to use myself as an example, my overarching goal to write a book, could maybe be more realistically tackled by being broken down into smaller ambitions, such as researching my subject, planning the book outline and making important connections with publishers and agents.
- Put together an action plan
In the same way that you would plan and manage a large project at work, your goals for personal development need some sort of action plan too. Think about courses that may be helpful to enrol on, or conferences or events that would be relevant to attend, and maybe research some highly recommended books and blogs to read as well.
It can be helpful to make a clear to-do list, in which you set yourself weekly and monthly goals, all focused on the overarching target or resolution. Many believe in sharing your goals with trusted friends, mentors or work colleagues, to help you remain accountable. For example, a woman named Anna Newell Jones had run up a debt of more than $23,600, and she made a New Year’s resolution to work her way out of it. So she launched a blog, And Then We Saved, to chronicle her efforts, and in less than a year and a half, she’d paid off her debt.
Another tactic is to create a ‘vision board’ which uses imagery to depict the place you want to get to, through your self-development plan. You can cut pictures out of magazines and newspapers, print photos that you’ve found online, and include inspiring words and quotes, and notes to yourself. Stick these all on a large piece of card, and display somewhere easily visible, such as in your home office.
- Invest in education
Self-improvement means constant education, but once you hit your mid 30s to 40s, and particularly once you start a family (and experience proper sleep deprivation!), it can be easy to believe that you no longer have the capability to learn anything new. It’s important to recognise that this isn’t true.
Bestselling author Josh Kaufman, in his TEDx talk, ‘The first 20 hours — how to learn anything’, explains how it’s possible to approach learning in a whole new way. He says that in 20 focused hours of learning, it’s possible to go from knowing absolutely nothing about a subject or skill, to being reasonably good at it. So even with a hectic schedule, it can be possible, maybe by dedicating an hour every other evening, to learn something new.
- Chart your progress
The only way to become better at something, day-in and day-out, is to stay on track. And you can’t do that without some sort of daily or weekly review.
If you find a way to track your progress, it will help to make sure that your goals for self-improvement are measurable ones too. So for example, you could keep a journal of your progress, and if you have nothing to write one week, it will be obvious to yourself that you have lost sight of your overarching goal. Once you’ve attended an event, completed a home learning course, finished a book or hit a milestone target, you’ll feel an immense sense of achievement when you document it, and this will spur you on towards over overall target.
- Believe in yourself
It’s easy to feel full of determination and enthusiasm at the beginning of a new year, but once we hit a few bumps in the road, it’s easy to lose faith and slip back into a place where we feel comfortable and unchallenged.
Your journey towards self-improvement will be more successful if you believe in yourself. I found this to be particularly true when needing to get back into shape after having my first child. It took me two years to believe I could get my fitness and strength back, but once I did, there was no stopping me!
- Look after yourself physically
None of the above will be achievable if you’re not taking care of your physical needs. Keep your brain sharp and body energetic by getting enough sleep each night, exercising regularly, and having a healthy diet. If you’re relying on caffeine to get you through the day, for example, now’s the time to make some life changes.
If you were successful in hitting your goal for self-improvement in 2015, we would love to hear below how you achieved it!