The interesting thing about humans is that we have a marvelous talent of often accomplishing what we set out to do. Our determination through the history of humans has proven that if we set a goal and have a plan we often end up where we want to be (or at least somewhere close).
Sometimes that journey requires that we have help and other times we can accomplish the goal by ourselves. Either way it’s essential that you know where you want to be and have a plan to get there. The famous quote by Yogi Berra comes to mind:
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
So let’s move towards a method of developing a goal and a plan to get where we want to go with our improved skills and knowledge. Let’s D.E.C.I.D.E. to achieve our goals!
1. Detail a description of what you want to know or be able to do.
a. What skill or knowledge level do you want to achieve?
b. How will you know when you get there?
These two fundamental questions need to be answered before you start on your improvement journey. It can be as simple as “I want to pass the BCRSP examination” or as complex as “I need to learn how to drive a forklift.” Either way it helps if you can focus specifically on a statement of what will be true in the future when you have achieved your goal. Sometimes our knowledge and skills will be tested by others to demonstrate a level of competency and sometimes there is no formal “test” to pass. It will then be about demonstrating to ourselves and others formally or informally that we have that knowledge or skill.
It’s important to have clarity here. Be as specific as you can in tangible ways. “I want to be better!” is not clear enough. It’s also essential that you are the one in control of your goal. You cannot control what you cannot control, don’t set impossible goals. It will only frustrate you. Walking to the moon is out of the question! Getting a University Degree by Tuesday of next week should also be recognized as a bit of a stretch!
2. Examine your current level of skill & knowledge.
a. Conduct an evaluation of your current skills and knowledge.
b. Select method(s) you will use to validate your evaluation.
c. Consider ranking your current level from 1 to 10 (1 being the lowest, 10 the highest).
d. Consult with a friend, a teacher, a fellow practitioner, a certified professional, a mentor or a professional coach. Ask them for their evaluation and assistance on observing your progress.
This is where either self-reflection and/or advice from a colleague or mentor will come in handy. Just how much do you already know (and don’t know) and what can you currently do and at what level? If it’s passing an examination then your score on a set of test questions may give you clarity. If it’s a physical skill… just try to do it and see if you can accomplish the task. Whatever the method, this second important step is basically answering “Where are you now?”
In coaching we often use ‘scaling’ as a way to assess where someone is at; for example: assess your current skill or knowledge in “Applied Safety Fundamentals” or, if you want to get more specific, have them scale their knowledge and skill in each one of the competencies. I usually use a 1 to 10 scale, 1 is low, 10 is high. Along with this, they could rate how important it is for them to develop in each area? Again, scaled 1 to 10. Now they can prioritize based on their largest gaps and what’s most important.
3. Clarify the Gap between where you are and where you want to be in your defined knowledge and/or skill.
a. Evaluate how far from your knowledge/skills goals you are.
b. Test yourself.
c. Define your shortcomings and successes.
d. Adjust your plans accordingly.
4. Investigate possible solutions to close the gaps in your knowledge and/or skills.
Now the hard work really starts. How are you going to best close the gap? Is it a matter of self-study? Do you need to take a course? Should you hire a coach? Perhaps there’s an identified association with tools for you to use to gain the certification you are after. This is going to take your exploring what is out there and consider the possibilities. Use your knowledge of your learning preferences to help you decide. Are you a person who is self-motivated and can stick to a plan on your own? Would it be best to have someone help you along the way that may have a superior knowledge of skill level in the thing you want to accomplish. It’s pretty obvious that depending on your particular goal, there could be many possibilities to try.
5. Develop and execute a detailed plan to close the identified Gap(s).
Now the REALLY hard work starts! Execute your plan. This is where the level of your personal diligence to completing your plan is going to matter, A LOT. Great plans aren’t going to get you anywhere unless you actually do it! Nike has it right… JUST DO IT! It will be important that you track your progress and do the next step consistently…
As in any great plan you may need alternatives if you run into a roadblock on your Plan A. Be flexible but not so flexible that you fail to execute progress towards your goal. Procrastination is our common enemy. If you have to alter your progress plan, as soon as possible get back on the path.
6. Evaluate your progress.
a. Return to Step 2.
b. Re-evaluate your Gap Analysis.
How are you scoring on your evaluation? Are you making the progress expected? Should you alter your plan? Perhaps because of your expanded knowledge your goal may even need to change.
c. Celebrate if you have accomplished your goals
Make sure you take time to reward yourself for your progress. Milestones and successes along the way should be self-rewarding. At the very least include some positive “self-talk.” Thinking to yourself that you should be proud of what you’ve done so far is a very good thing!
Well, there you have it. A methodology to not only set specific achievement goals but also develop a plan to get there. All it really takes is that you D.E.C.I.D.E. to do it! Above all… enjoy the journey!