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Essay Example 1: Achieving Your Goals
A Technique to Balance Your Business and
One of the greatest challenges we all face is trying to balance our
business and personal life. We may find ourselves having a very
successful business life while struggling with our personal life, or
having a rewarding personal life and wondering how we will sustain
it and still reach our business goals. Often one of these areas
suffers as we focus our major efforts on trying to achieve
particular goals, and we find ourselves juggling balls with neither
area getting the attention it needs to grow and prosper. A
devastating future looms before us if we fail to recognize the
effect neglecting either of these areas will have on our ultimate
happiness. One of the reasons it is so difficult to balance our
business and personal life is we sometimes fail to analyze and focus
on the many layers that make up our personal life.
A “Daily Goals Log” will make it possible to work on the major areas
of your personal life while recognizing and supporting your business
goals. It is also designed to help you get through difficult or
challenging situations that could prevent you from achieving your
goals. The “Daily Goals Log” is used in conjunction with your daily
planner, calendar or “to do list.”
A “Daily Goals Log” can be created in any word processing program,
or manually. You will need to create a table with two columns and
several rows. The two columns should be labeled “Category,” and
“Goal.” The remaining rows can be labeled with any or all of the
categories listed below that are relevant and important to you. A
word to the wise, if you neglect any of the areas that pertain to
you for an extended period of time there will be negative
consequences. The categories are “Self”, “Business Person”,
“Parent/Guardian”, “Spirituality”, “Student”, “Family”,
“Spouse/Significant Other” and “Friend.” Most of the categories are
self-explanatory. The “Self” category includes goals that nurture
your personal care. The “Student” category includes any goal that
supports your personal development. This could include formal
education, workshops/seminars, leisure reading, learning a new
hobby, or sport. “Spirituality” would encompass any activity that
you undertake that strengthens your connection with a higher entity.
Include a place at the top of the page for the date. At the bottom,
after the table, leave room for these two questions, “What's the
most important thing I can do today to bring my business/career
forward?” and, “What three things am I looking forward to today?” A
word of caution, don't feel disheartened if you cannot think of
enough things to look forward to daily. Just make this one of your
goals under the “Self” category!
Once created, and copied, the “Daily Goals Log will take less than
five minutes each day for you to complete by hand. Like any habit it
will take you some time to integrate this technique into your daily
schedule. I highly recommend that you complete this log at the
beginning of your day. Some of my clients use it to center
themselves and regain control when they feel they have not
accomplished anything and the day is almost over. Others rely on the
section where they write the three things they are looking forward
to that day to help them get through difficult times at work or
home. They might select, and do, one thing they are looking forward
to start off their day, another to get through a challenging
afternoon, or escape the nightmare of an unproductive day by
thinking about what they have to look forward to that evening. Some
use it to motivate themselves to work on items they have been
procrastinating about knowing they have selected something to reward
themselves after the task has been completed.
There are two secrets to making this technique work for you. First,
you must select goals that you feel reasonably sure you can
accomplish within the framework of a given day. On some days you may
have to select goals that can be accomplished in an hour. Other days
you may be able to allocate several hours towards the goals you want
to accomplish. Remember, small, consistent steps in the right
direction will get you where you want to go! Second, each goal that
you select must address a specific category. A sample “Daily Goals
Log,” might read like this: Self/repeat affirmations, Business
Person/draft article, Parent-Guardian/family meeting,
Spirituality/meditate or pray about specific goal, Student/learn new
computer skill, Family/call sister, Wife/plan special meal and
Friend/send card. Other goals could include: writing a note,
brainstorming on business ideas, preparing a “to do list,”
researching one item on the internet, reading a chapter in a book,
learning a new vocabulary word, learning a new function on your
computer/cell phone/pager, spending time with loved ones, planning a
vacation, reading something inspirational, enjoying nature, a
favorite drink or treat, bubble bath, massage, dancing, exercising,
photography, letting someone know one thing you enjoy about them or
the relationship, saying I love you, listening to music, attending a
class or cooking a favorite meal.
Unnecessary juggling of the many layers of our personal life is time
consuming, and depletes energy and resources that should be used to
achieve our goals. We often experience major setbacks when one of
the balls we are juggling accidentally falls, at an inopportune
time. On the other hand, there is no price that can be assigned to
the peace of mind that comes from knowing your personal life
supports and makes it possible for you to achieve your business
goals. I wish you success in balancing your business and personal
life utilizing my “Daily Goals Log.”
2: Goal Setting Your Way
to Achieving Goals
Setting Is Only Half the Battle To Achieving Your Dreams in Your
We hear it all the time...and yes I have probably touched on this a
few times now!
Set goals in order to be successful in your own business. It's the
secret of the wealthy. It's the difference between modest success
and explosive success, etc. Do you agree? Well I have read that this
is only half true... Setting goals and writing them down is one
thing. Anyone can do that and many people do. But most never, ever
achieve their goals. Despite your best efforts, you will never
achieve the success you are looking for if you never actually set
goals for yourself and your business in the first place. Let's at
least agree on that. Ask yourself, "What goals have I written down
for myself and my business?"
Most people never set goals for themselves or their business at all.
One day leads to another and the days continue to disappear without
success. How can you get to where you want to go if you don't know
where you're going?
The biggest roadblock to goal setting is YOU. Setting goals requires
you to actually write down your dreams and put a date of
accomplishment on them. Do not get in the habit of working your
business without goals. This leads to apathy and an empty cheque
account. Goals are the lifeblood of your business. Written goals
that is. Statistics have shown over and over that small businesses
fail within the first five years. We do not want to become a
statistic; YOU want to become a success. So how do you become
successful at setting goals?
The first step, obviously, is to write down your intentions or
exactly what you want to achieve. What intentions do you have for
your life and your business? Write them down. When would you like to
achieve them by? Put a date of accomplishment on your goals. Get a
pad of paper and start writing NOW? Be bold and write them all down.
Your intentions are now your goals. Think BIG! You must be clear...
You now have goals with deadlines. Your first step is accomplished
but this is only half of the battle. Now comes the tricky part. Do
you feel as though you can achieve your goals? Do you actually
believe you can achieve your goals?
Ahhhh, “Of course I believe I can achieve my goals" you say. "Why
else would I have written them down?" Well, writing them down is all
fine and good but if don't actually believe deep down that you can
achieve your goals, then they are meaningless. And THAT is why most
never achieve their goals with their business endeavors. If you do
not believe you can achieve your goals...You can't.
You say you can. You wrote them down. But, if you do not truly feel
you can achieve your goals with absolute certainty...You won't. You
must be crystal clear. This is where your mindset comes in to
play - the other half of the battle.
Let's take this whole goal setting process just one step further
now. Pay close attention here...
In your mind, see the goals you wrote down as already accomplished.
What does it look like when it has been completed? You've nailed it.
How does it make you feel? How has your life changed?
Go to that place right now (the outcome) and WRITE DOWN that part in
addition to the goals you want to achieve. Get into the state of
mind as having already achieved the goal instead of always wishing
or hoping for it like everyone else does.
Assume the feeling of the outcome. Stay in that state of mind as
often as possible. Once you actually feel the outcome you will then,
and only then, be able to attract the goals that you wrote down.
This is a fundamental principal that has stood the test of time. DO
NOT take it lightly. So, it's really a two step process, yes? "What
you hold in your mind with energy and focus will tend to be created
in your reality." Read that again.
Remember, success doesn't happen to the uninvolved. Success happens
to those who are not only persistent in reaching their goals, but to
those who make a decision to reach their goals, get clear on what
they want, and already feel themselves victorious in the so called
goal setting battle...
Without question…. the difference maker. You should never be without
goals. Keep your intentions and your goals before you. Be clear,
feel the outcome, and stay focused on the end result…… Take action!
3: Strategies to
Setting goals is easy but achieving them isn't. That's why setting
"SMART" goals - Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and
Timely - is the first step in making your goal a reality.
Make your goal as Specific as possible and express it in positive
terms. Do you want to stop losing money or do you want to start
making money? How much money do you want to make?
How do you Measure success? You'll need a way to evaluate your
progress and determine if you're moving towards your goal. For
example, if you want to improve your finances, then you should have
a way of keeping track of income and expenses.
Is your goal Achievable? Consider whether you have the resources
necessary to achieve your goal. If not, you need to determine if you
can assemble everything required to streamline your process. Remove
any obstacles before you get started! Realistic goals are achievable
goals, unrealistic goals are just dreams. It's not necessary to be
negative but take time to honestly evaluate whether you're being
realistic. Losing 30 pounds in 2 weeks is not impossible but it's
not very likely and certainly not healthy.
Make your goal Timely by stating a due date for your goal AND the
action steps involved in achieving it.
2. Align your goals with your values. If your goal doesn't reflect
your beliefs and character then you'll have difficulty achieving it.
And even if you do manage to get what you want, you won't be very
happy. Set a goal which is meaningful to you and be clear about the
consequences of your outcome.
3. Share your goals with three to five key people. Not everyone
needs this strategy with every goal but almost everyone can benefit
from it at some point. Finding supportive, positive people is key
because you certainly don't need anyone sabotaging your progress.
4. Assemble everything you need before you need it. This prep work
is vital in eliminating the frustrating and time consuming "running
around" which can derail your progress later on.
5. Minimise potential challenges. There are 3 key ways to prevent
overconfidence and poor planning from creating obstacles down the
* Create a complete, measurable, action plan which includes all the
steps necessary to achieve your goal. Don't forget due dates for
* Incorporate all your actions into your schedule. Add them to your
calendar with anywhere from 10-20% flextime to help you control any
* Regularly evaluate your progress. You may need to make changes or
adjustments as your project takes shape. Anticipate them so you
won't get blind-sided.
6. Complete at least one action per day. Consistent actions will
propel you towards your goal. Even choosing a small task will make a
dent in your to-do list and may motivate you to do even more.
7. Establish a support system. Who or what can provide you with
encouragement, advice, healthy feedback or a willing ear?
8. Reward Yourself. Don't wait until you achieve your goal,
especially if it's a long-term one. Reward yourself as you reach
certain milestones. Something as simple as scheduling time for
yourself or perhaps a special treat that you've felt guilty about
indulging in can keep you motivated to keep going.
3: Steps to Achieving
Goals and Dreams
Dream it – Everything begins in the heart and mind. Every great
achievement began in the mind of one person. They dared to dream, to
believe that it was possible. Take some time to allow yourself to
ask What if? Think big. Don't let negative thinking discourage you.
You want to be a dreamer. Dream of the possibilities for yourself,
your family, and for others. If you had a dream that you let grow
cold, reignite the dream! Fan the flames. Life is too short to let
2. Believe it – Yes, your dream needs to be big. It needs to be
something that is seemingly beyond your capabilities. But it also
must be believable. You must be able to say that if certain things
take place, if others help, if you work hard enough, though it is a
big dream, it can still be done. Good example: A person with no
college education can dream that he will build a 50 million dollar a
year company. That is big, but believable. Bad example: That a 90
year old woman with arthritis will someday run a marathon in under
three hours. It is big all right, but also impossible. She should
instead focus on building a 50 million dollar a year business! And
she better get a move on!
3. See it – The great achievers have a habit. They see things. They
picture themselves walking around their CEO office in their new 25
million dollar corporate headquarters, even while they are sitting
on a folding chair in their garage headquarters. Great free throw
shooters in the NBA picture the ball going through the basket. PGA
golfers picture the ball going straight down the fairway.
World-class speakers picture themselves speaking with energy and
emotion. All of this grooms the mind to control the body to carry
out the dream.
4. Tell it – One reason many dreams never go anywhere is because the
dreamer keeps it all to himself. It is a quiet dream that only lives
inside of his mind The one who wants to achieve their dream must
tell that dream to many people. One reason: As we continually say
it, we begin to believe it more and more. If we are talking about it
then it must be possible. Another reason: It holds us accountable.
When we have told others, it spurs us on to actually do it so we
don't look foolish.
5. Plan it – Every dream must take the form of a plan. The old
saying that you get what you plan for is so true. Your dream won't
just happen. You need to sit down, on a regular basis, and plan out
your strategy for achieving the dream. Think through all of the
details. Break the whole plan down into small, workable parts. Then
set a time frame for accomplishing each task on your dream plan.
6. Work it – Boy, wouldn't life be grand if we could quit before
this one! Unfortunately, the successful are usually the hardest
workers. While the rest of the world is sitting on their couch
watching re-runs of Gilligan's Island, achievers are working on
their goal – achieving their dream. I have an equation that I work
with: Your short-term tasks, multiplied by time, equal your
long-term accomplishments. If you work on it each day, eventually
you will achieve your dream. War and Peace was written, in long
hand, page by page.
7. Enjoy it – When you have reached your goal and you are living
your dream, be sure to enjoy it. In fact, enjoy the trip too. Give
yourself some rewards along the way. Give yourself a huge reward
when you get there. Help others enjoy it. Be gracious and generous.
Use your dreams to better others. Then go back to number 1 and dream
a little bigger this time!
4: Goal Realization
you honestly work to achieve your goals, there is nothing that
anyone can say to you that matters, except of course others opinions
that you count on. Some people I know have a habit of sticking their
nose where it doesn't belong. That makes me really mad when someone
buds into a conversation that they were not even a part of. There
are always going to be opinions that are given to you that you
really don't want to hear. However, you need to just block them out
and focus on what you want to be your goals in life. I am going to
take the time to tell you about a few goals that I have accomplished
in my life so that you will be able to get a basic understanding of
The first goal that I ever made was the goal to graduate. Throughout
the whole time that I was in school, my mother told me that I wasn't
going to graduate. The reason she said this was because of the
people that I was friends with. It mad me mad, because I worked hard
to make straight A's on all my report cards and in the end it was
only to hear that “ I wasn't going to amount to a hill of beans”. I
guess she didn't believe me when I told her that “my friends
couldn't make me do anything that I didn't want to do”. However in
the end I did and it felt so good to prove her wrong. See all I had
to do was keep my focus on my goal and I was able to achieve it with
no problems. Yes, I had to struggle a little making sure not to lose
focus but it was worth it all in the end. I also enrolled in the
National Guard while I was in school because I wanted to be like my
father and serve in the military. Those were pretty big shoes to
feel because it was in the Vietnam War but I knew that if I tried I
could do anything that I put my mind too. After a year in the guard
I was medically discharged due to the fact that I had cervical
cancer. However, I never lost my faith and I kept going.
That is why it is important that you keep your mind on the important
things in life, everyday drama isn't worth losing grip of your goal.
After I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college but I
wanted to take some time off, after all I deserved it. During the
time that I took off from school, I met a guy, who is now my husband
and I had a baby. Since this totally changed my plans, I wasn't able
to go to college like I wanted to but I was able to enroll in an
online course where I could go to school from home and become a
medical transcriptionist and I am still working on this right now.
The point of this whole article is to let you know that no matter
what comes up in your life, you can reach your goals. All you have
to do is keep looking ahead and never look back, no matter what. The
things that you done in the past don't matter today, they are in the
past leave them there.
5: A Six Steps Plan to
Achieving Your Goals
comforting to know that there is a proven formula for achieving your
Here they are:
1. Create specific, challenging goals
2. Get immediate feedback from someone who is skilled at coaching so
you get the guidance you need to stay on track
3. Get feedback on performance, not on you as a person, so you stay
focused on what you're doing not what you are
4.Get positive feedback so you are motivated to continue
5.Feedback needs to be focused on the future so you're inspired
6.Be sure your goals are created mutually, by you and your coach, so
they are your goals, not those of someone else
Notice that steps two through six assume that you've got someone
dedicated to helping you achieve your goals. Let's see why that's so
Why We Aren't Our Own Best Coach
Do you remember, as a little kid, when you colored a picture in
first grade—very creatively, you thought—and the teacher told you
that you had done it wrong? That a person's skin shouldn't be
colored cobalt blue? (your favorite crayon, by the way, right?) Your
attitude changed suddenly from pride of accomplishment to shame and
embarrassment. What did that incident teach you? Never be creative
again. Decide what the authority thought was ‘right' before you
started. Or, better yet, just don't try anything. That's safe! In
fact, there's a study that found, by the age of eighteen, we've been
told ‘no' an average of 148,000 times! That ought to teach us not to
That's not all. Studies show we lose 94% of our creativity at age 7.
You guessed it. We go to school and learn that creativity isn't
good. Risk isn't good. Play it safe. Woops. Then we go into real
estate and are told to take risks, try new things, and accept
rejection. However, we've got only 3-5% of that creativity left. (We
lose another 3% by age forty). Unfortunately, we don't have much
left to counteract all the rejection we're experiencing as we sell
and manage in real estate!
Counter-Balancing What We Learned in Childhood
Because of our childhood experiences, most adults have great
trepidation about trying something new. We have even greater fear of
someone watching and ‘critiquing' us. So, to assure we put a formula
in place to counteract that little negative sub-conscious voice,
we need someone really good at the coaching skills below to give us
feedback on our performance that is:
Immediate—coach frequently and positively reinforces great behavior
right after it happened—the proven best motivational tool available
Performance-related—Unfortunately, we adults draw way more from a
‘critique' of our behavior than is probably there. We don't just
think we did something badly; we conclude we are bad. So, be sure
your coach focuses on the behavior, not the person.
Positive—Just remember the words to the popular song: “Accentuate
the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with mister
in-between”. Realize that some adults grew up on negative
reinforcement, and find it difficult to compliment themselves on any
of their behavior. During this course, I find that some participants
don't want to give any positive feedback on their performances. They
are anxious to tell us all the things they did wrong. So, we have to
remind them to think and verbalize something they liked about their
performances. Why? Because if you can't think of something you did
that you liked, you won't keep it in your performance repertoire.
Focused on the future—we all beat ourselves up over and over for a
mistake. So, your coach doesn't need to remind you! Focus on the
future. Today is a new day, and, armed with the game plan that you
and your coach have laid out, you and your coach are working
together to try out new behaviors.
Your Big Pay-Off
You will create much greater productivity by applying the six point
formula to goal achievement. Even better, you will have re-trained
your brain and your emotions to try new things, create more risk,
break through those achievement barriers, and be the person you were
meant to be.
6: Seven Steps to
Achieving Your Goals
Step 1: Choose a Goal
You should start with one goal and stay focused on this goal at
least for 30 days. If after 30 days you feel you're doing well and
getting closer to the desired outcome you can start with the second
The simple rule is: Don't set a lot of goals at the same
time. You won't achieve any. The key to goal setting is staying
focused. And it is impossible to focus at many goals at the
Step 2: Intensify your Desire to Achieve your Goal
Have you ever failed to achieve your goals?
Do you know the single most important reason why you couldn't reach
The answer is simple: Because we did not have a strong enough
Some may argue with that. "But I did have a strong desire and still
I didn't get there."
Sorry, but if you didn't reach your goal your desire was still not
So what is the intense desire, passion?
It's what keeps people working all hours, up early, late to bed. The
desire dominates conversation, thinking, actions. Take a moment to
think about the goal you've set for yourself.
• How committed are you to achieving this goal?
• Under what conditions would you give up?
• What if you wanted them so badly that you knew with absolute
certainty that you would absolutely, positively
never ever give up?
Step 3: Develop a Strong Belief That You Can Achieve Your Goal
If you don't believe you can reach a goal you won't.
If there is any doubt in your mind that you can achieve something,
you don't give it your all. In fact, you may very well just set it
aside. In order to fully achieve anything, you must believe it is
possible at a cellular level.
If you believe that you can be successful, that you'll enjoy being
successful, then you will be successful.
Step 4: Set a Deadline for Your Goal
Set a realistic date when you plan to accomplish your goal.
Don't commit to “as soon as possible”!
If you don't have a specific deadline for your goal, you won't have
a sense of urgency and you'll start to put things off. What's the
hurry, if you don't have a deadline?
Deadline will move you to action!
Step 5: Write Your Goal Down
You've probably heard hundreds of times that it is crucial to write
your goal down. But do you know why this step is so important? When
you put pen to paper you turn your thoughts into something tangible.
You can actually see it, touch it, and even smell it if you want to.
Your goal is no longer just a thought! It becomes something, what
motivates us and creates a gut feeling inside.
Even the act of using the eye in coordination with the hand holding
the pen makes a much stronger impression on our mind as we write out
the phrase or expression. Now when we read and re-read that phrase
or sentence the impression on the mind becomes deeper and deeper.
There is something semi-magical about writing one's goals
down which makes achieving well-written goals an
Step 6: Break Your Goal Down To Mini-Goals
Now is the time to start planning the route towards your goal! We'll
start by breaking up your big goal into smaller mini-goals.
Most people fail to achieve their goal simply because they don't
break them down into smaller steps. All they can see is this big
overwhelming goal they've set for themselves and they don't know
where to start working on it!
• Mini-goals let you track your progress more efficiently
• Mini-goals are not so overwhelming
• Mini-goals are easier to achieve
• Mini-goals let you feel the progress.
Every goal can be broken into mini goals. Mini goals
should never be too difficult or too long. You don't want to be
overwhelmed by them. Ask yourself: “What steps do I need to take to
achieve my goal?" These steps will be your mini-goals.
Step 7: Define Your Tasks for Every Mini-Goal
We're going to make it even easier. We'll break down every mini-goal
into small easy-to-accomplish tasks.
Tasks are usually the simple things you must do to accomplish a
mini-goal. If you've set a mini-goal, for example, to have a
complete understanding about investing in bonds by June 15th, you
will have to accomplish a number of tasks for acquiring that
• Choosing to go to the library and get a book on bonds would be a
• Reading the book for one hour on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday,
could be three separate tasks.
• Visiting the Investors Skills' website for their bond information
would be another task.
• Calling your buddy who's had success in the bond market would be a
task as well.
All of these tasks must be set with a deadline. By focusing your
mind on the easy-to-accomplish tasks, and completing those tasks,
you'll be making great progress towards your mini-goals
without feeling overwhelmed.
Make sure to write down ALL tasks, even those that take only minutes
to complete. Then, when they're accomplished, check them off.
As more and more tasks are successfully accomplished, and checked
off, you'll find yourself becoming more encouraged, and more
confident about your abilities.
And the more tasks you complete on time, the closer you'll be to
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What is Personal Development Planning?
Studying at university is not just about learning a lot of
things that are fascinating in themselves but — at least in the
case of most Arts subjects — rather disconnected from ‘the real
world'. At the same time as you develop your knowledge of your
subject and the skills required to perform well in it, you're
actually developing a whole range of skills and intellectual
abilities that can be transferred to other areas of life,
including your future employment. Arts subjects don't generally
equip you for a specific job; they actually equip you to
undertake almost any job that doesn't required specialised
scientific training. Moreover, university life is intended to
present you with all kinds of chances to develop yourself as an
individual with a range of interests and experiences, and not
just as someone reading books, writing essays and taking exams.
An Arts graduate should be versatile, imaginative, critical,
flexible, incisive, confident and articulate, and so ready for
any challenge or task — if only you can recognise these
abilities in yourself.
This is where Personal Development Planning (PDP) comes in. With
an ever-increasing number of well-qualified graduates entering
the labour market each year, it is crucial to your success after
completing your studies that you know exactly what skills you
have to offer — academic, work-related and personal — when you
start applying for jobs, and that you can provide solid evidence
of those skills. Your studies will have helped you develop
crucial transferable skills and personal atributes, and so will
many of your extra-curricular activities; you just have to be
able to articulate these to prospective employers. PDP helps you
to keep track of what you've learned, how you learned it, and
what you might do with that learning later on; it can also help
you to plan for the future and to identify what skills or
attributes you may need to develop in order to achieve your
goals. Getting involved with PDP should help you to:
• Consider what you really want to do
• Make the right academic, personal and professional decisions
• Set personal goals and targets
• Identify programmes and extra-curricular opportunities and
training to help you develop your skills
• Plan ahead to achieve your goals
• Evaluate your own progress
• Record different kinds of achievement
Personal Development Planning is one part of your university
‘progress file'. This is not an actual document but a
combination of any personal development planning activities that
you engage in and record, as well as the formal academic
transcript of your marks that your university provides you with
at the end of your studies. It offers a detailed, rounded
account of everything that you have achieved at university.
In recent years, universities have become more aware that their
students need to be highly employable, and that means not just
graduating with a good degree but being able to demonstrate a
whole range of skills and abilities that will help you to gain
and maintain the employment you want. Getting used to setting
targets for yourself and evaluating your progress now will stand
you in good stead for success in your future working life, and
one of the key aims of an Arts education at Bristol is to help
you realise that learning is a truly life-long activity, not
something that stops when you leave university. We want,
therefore, to encourage you to reflect regularly on your
performance; we aim to provide useful guidance on how to go
about this, for example through this guide, and to provide
regular opportunities for reflection and discussion, above all
through the personal tutor system. Ultimately, you have to take
responsibility for your own personal development, but we'll do
our best to help and support this process.
Do I need Personal Development Planning?
Try this self-evaluation exercise. For each of the following
statements, rate your responses: strongly agree = 0; agree = 1;
sort of agree = 2; disagree = 3; strongly disagree = 4.
1. I am certain that I can keep myself motivated towards
achieving my degree for the next few years
2. I am very clear what my goals are for the next five
3. I am confident that I have planned sufficiently to enable me
to achieve my goals
4. I am very clear how my degree fits into my life plans
5. I am clear which skills employers are looking for
6. I am confident I have the skills employers are looking for
7. I am very clear about the importance of reflective activity
to professional life
8. I am comfortable that I am able to undertake structured
reflection without guidelines
9. I am confident that I can develop an effective strategy to
meet most circumstances
10. I am confident that I can set well-formed targets
11. I have a clear understanding of how to evaluate my own
12. I am confident that I know how to improve my performance in
13. I know how to apply my expertise in one area to a very
14. I am confident that I can see myself as others see me
15. I am confident that I have effective listening skills
16. I am an assertive person
17. I am a good ‘self-starter'
18. I am aware of the best roles for me to fill for team work
19. I am confident at problem-solving
20. I am confident that I know how to make best use of my mind
21. I am confident that I will take a creative approach to most
22. I am confident about making competence-based applications
23. I am always very clear about which skills I am developing
24. I can see clearly how my skills apply to a wide range of
25. I know where my own ‘developmental edge' lies
The higher your total score, the more likely it is that you need
to undertake some form of personal development. Even if you feel
that you do not need this right now, this may change over the
course of weeks or months, as you need to keep self-evaluating
and identify key areas for development as your circumstances
Learning From Experience
If the self-evaluation exercise has left you feeling that you
need a lot of personal development — or that you don't even
understand what half the questions are getting at — don't worry.
Chances are that you already have a great deal of learning
behind you to draw on; you just need to learn how to articulate
it clearly. We all learn from experience, and PDP will help you
to get into the habit of regularly recording that learning as
well as thinking about how it could be applied in the future.
This is known as Kolb's Learning Cycle. A simple example is that
of a young child's first experience with fire:
Stage 1 Child puts hand in or near to fire and feels pain.
Stage 2 Child reflects on what happened.
Stage 3 Child begins to form a theory or conclusion that contact
with fire produces pain.
Stage 4 Child may approach the fire again in order to test out
or check the theory that fire equals pain.
Fans of The Simpsons may recall the episode in which Lisa runs
an experiment on ‘Is my brother dumber than a hamster?' —
illustrating the perils of not learning from experience.
There are two challenges involved. Firstly, most of us don't
take the time to think about and reflect on what happened, what
went well and what didn't — we'll look at how to reflect
critically on our own performance a bit later on. Secondly,
learning through experience can be disorientating and sometimes
stressful, especially when things don't go according to plan. To
progress and develop means reviewing the ways in which we
usually act, but change can be difficult. If you are looking to
improve your performance in a particular area (get higher essay
marks, give a confident presentation, be a better listener) this
often means altering your existing habits and patterns of doing
things. Basically, if you keep doing things in the same way as
you always do them, you'll keep getting the same results… Make
some small changes, and things might turn out quite differently,
and hopefully in the way that you want them to. This is known as
leverage — making small changes to get big results.
Spending some time recording what you are doing, what results
you're getting and then planning ahead is a process of critical
reflection. If you take on board the fact that employers cite
self-awareness as a crucial graduate skill, you can see how
important this process is to your future prospects, as well as
helping you to improve your academic learning right now.
Reflecting On Your Learning
Many areas of work now require a ‘reflective practitioner'
approach which is built into the work cycle in some way, such as
through reviews or appraisal. Typically, this means taking
personal responsibility for:
• Your continuing professional development (CPD)
• Making a fair and reasonable evaluation of your personal
experience, strengths, qualities and skills
• Identifying ways of using your strengths well within your
• Identifying personal limitations and areas that could be
improved through training, practice or informal learning
• Recognising the effects of your own responses and behaviour
and taking responsibility for these
• Making useful contributions to team discussions
• Improving individual and team performance
• Identifying your own contribution to the results of a task,
project or outcome
• Your own mistakes and your team's mistakes
It's standard practice in Arts that you should reflect on your
progress before meetings with your tutor; you should make use of
the ‘Progress Review Form' available on the Faculty webpage (www.bris.ac.uk/arts/skills/review.doc)
and let your tutor see this in advance of the meeting. Depending
on your degree programme, you may also be asked to reflect on
and record your learning and skills development as part of a
particular unit or a study abroad year. Having PDP opportunities
built into your degree makes it much easier for you to start
recording and reflecting, but that doesn't mean that reflecting
under your own steam isn't necessary or extremely beneficial to
If you already keep some sort of diary — one where you write
about your thoughts and feelings, not just keeping track of your
appointments — then you will have a head start on recording and
reflecting on your experiences and achievements. It's important
to record your thoughts in a way that appeals to you, so that
you feel more inclined to do it. If you like to use a PC then do
so — maybe you're already a keen ‘blogger', or maybe this is
something that you've thought about trying! However, many people
find that the physical act of writing can stimulate reflection
and critical analysis, so find a notebook that you like and
start using it.
People's preferences can differ widely when it comes to writing
about their learning and experience. Some students like to write
at set times and establish a routine — every Sunday evening, for
example, looking back over the previous week and setting some
goals for the next one. Others are only prompted to write
when they have experienced something significant and meaningful.
Do which ever suits you best. Recording and reflecting on
experience is a highly personal activity so do it in the way
that has most meaning for you. Writing freely like this about
your experiences and learning is known as open reflection and is
just one way to get started with this useful skill.
Adding Some Structure to Reflection
If you're trying to build up a useful resource or portfolio of
your skills and experience for use later on — when putting
together a cv, for example — then it will help you if you get
into the habit of structuring your thinking and organising what
you record. Again, it is up to you how you do this — perhaps by
areas such as Academic Skills, Career, Work-related, Interests,
and so on. Remember that this portfolio of evidence is for your
use — it is unlikely that an employer would ever ask to see it
in its entirety — and that you should be able to get at key
information and evidence quickly so that you can answer
application form questions or prepare for job interviews.
To get yourself started with the reflective process it can also
help to have some questions to ask yourself until the whole
thing becomes a bit more natural. Reflecting is a type of
thinking. It is associated with deep thought aimed at better
understanding. It includes a mixture of elements, such as:
making sense of experience, standing back to get some
perspective, going over something several times, striving for
honesty, evaluation of your performance or skills, aiming for
clarity of understanding, making judgements and drawing
conclusions. There are some templates for these sorts of
questions available on the webpage, www.bris.ac.uk/arts/skills/templates.html,
but here are some initial ideas:
You might want to start by reflecting more generally on your
personal and professional development:
• What skills are you developing? Are there obvious gaps in your
profile of skills and experience? Will these matter when you
apply for jobs?
• Are your programme choices the right ones for the type of
career that you have in mind?
• Are you focusing too much on study at the expense of other
experience which would help your career?
• Are you making the best use of all that university has to
offer to develop your skills, experience and CV?
• Is there some kind of work experience you could undertake to
develop your people skills in the workplace?
• Are you making good (and early) use of the Careers Service and
• Would it be useful to have a mentor from the area you are
considering for a career?
Maybe you want to reflect on a critical event, like a group
presentation or a job interview. Try these questions to assess
your performance and decide what action you need to take:
• What happened generally - the context?
• What did you do - your own role?
• What were the outcomes or consequences of your actions?
• What alternative actions could you have taken?
• How might you prepare differently for a similar occasion?
• How did your performance or action differ from your
performance on other occasions? What were the reasons for this?
• How did you use or how could you use feedback from other
• What is the one main area where you need to focus to improve
your performance? What do you need to do in order to take this
• What did you gain and learn from the experience?
Employability and Career Skills
Regular reflection on your experience and performance will help
you build up a highly useful resource to use later on when you
start applying for jobs. It's not enough to trot out jargon such
as, “I'm an effective team player with a proven track record in
problem-solving” unless you've got the evidence to back it up.
From the other direction, however, maybe you became Production
Manager on the play that your friend was putting on just to help
out and/or for a bit of a laugh, and maybe that's all a
potential employer would think — until you reflect on how many
different skills of organisation, managing and motivating
people, thinking on your feet and improvising solutions it
What Are Employers Looking For?
Apart from a solid class of degree in your chosen subject,
employers are looking for evidence of all the transferable
skills we've mentioned so far, as well as several more that you
might not expect.
Generally, employers are looking for an ‘all-round individual' —
someone who didn't just focus on their academic studies but who
can also offer some work experience and some evidence of
involvement in extra-curricular activities. Another phrase you
may hear is ‘someone who can hit the ground running'. This means
that employers value students who have already had experience in
the world of work and are aware of professional behaviours,
displaying a mature approach to their role; someone who has
learnt how to learn, and so can learn on the job. It's also
increasingly the case that employers do not specify a degree
subject that they want you to have. This means that you are
selling the skills you have to offer in comparison with
graduates from a whole range of academic disciplines.
Below is a list of what employers call ‘competencies' — these
are what they use to assess your potential value to their
• Flexibility and capacity to cope with change
• Analytical ability and decision-making
• Communication and interpersonal skills
• Team working and, potentially, leadership ability
• Organisation, planning and prioritisation
• Good client service skills
• Ability to innovate
• Mental and physical stamina
These competencies will be measured during the application
process in a number of ways: interview (solo or panel), group
exercise, presentation, psychometric and numerical testing, the
application form or CV & covering letter. Always start by
looking at the ‘person specification' that the company will
offer to you with information about the job. See what experience
you have that matches what the company wants and come up with
some examples of when you have put those desired skills into
practice. One way to do this is to use the STAR structure - this
means describing the Situation, Task, Action and Result for each
example that you give.
Using STAR can also help you to answer tricky application form
and interview questions. The examples below are all genuine,
even if they seem difficult or just plain odd! Without adequate
reflection on your skills and experience, as well as evidence of
your performance to draw on from your portfolio, you will not
give satisfactory or interesting answers to these questions. Try
answering one or two of them to get some practice — what
examples of your experience will you use? how can you best
communicate your skills and abilities?
• Describe a specific experience working in a team situation
where there was conflict. Describe how you approached the
conflict, what worked well and what didn't. What was the
• Tell me about a complex problem you had to solve and walk me
through your thinking as you solved it.
• Looking at your life as a whole, indicate three experiences
that you consider to have been instrumental in shaping who you
• Pick your favourite song lyric and identify what it says about
you as a person.
The more time you spend reflecting on your skills and
performance, the easier answering these kinds of questions
Goal Setting For Success
To help you get from where you are now to where you want to be,
setting clear goals and establishing the actions you need
to take can really help you get results. Research shows that
setting goals and reflecting regularly on your progress
gives you a much higher chance of succeeding in what you set out
to do. Goals keep us moving towards something, moving
forward all the time.
‘A goal is a dream with legs. What does this mean? Goals
are what drive us forward. They are what we want. Why do we even
get out of bed in the morning? Because we want something. It may
be trivial, like breakfast; it may be great, like improving
someone's life through worthwhile work […]. The opposite of
goal-setting is problem-thinking. This focuses on what is
wrong.' Focus instead on what you want and how you intend to
The Seven Golden Rules of Goals
1. Goals are expressed in the positive. They should be
about what you want, and not about what you want to avoid. If
you set out to stop smoking for example, all you will think
about is your urge to smoke. Think about what you do want, which
is better health in this case.
2. Make the goal specific. It's hard to pin down the future, so
the closer the goal is to you the easier it will be to identify
its specific characteristics. Saying, ‘I want to go to the gym
more often' is vague and unhelpful. ‘I go to the gym three times
a week for forty-five minutes each time, so that I will lose two
kilos' is much better. Note also the use of the present tense to
make the goal more immediate — no deferring it until tomorrow!
3. Decide on the evidence you need to see for progression. What
milestones will you set so that you know you are making
progress? Cutting down to two cigarettes a day by the end of two
weeks? Being able to run consistently for twenty minutes?
4. Marshall your resources. Do you need books, agreements with
friends, family or your tutor, time, role models, skills to help
you to achieve your goal?
5. Be proactive. Keep doing something; keep taking action. This
is especially important when you don't get the result you had in
mind. Review your goals and actions and keep moving
6. Pay attention to the wider consequences. All your actions
will have consequences; like dropping a pebble into a pond, they
will create ripples. What effect will your actions have on other
people? Don't be so single-minded about achieving your
goals that your actions have adverse effects on friends and
7. Make an action plan. When you define the steps to your goal,
you are putting legs on your dream. Breaking down your goal into
smaller steps can make achieving it a much more
manageable and realistic process.
Once you've established your goals and the actions you
need to take, make sure that you build in some rewards to keep
yourself going — small ones for the interim tasks, and a big one
for when you achieve your main goal. These could include, for
smaller goals, an evening out at the cinema, a new book
or cd, or, for the bigger goals, a weekend away or a new working
wardrobe if you've succeeded in getting your dream job!
Essays About Achieving
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