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Achieving Goals Essay, Example Composition Writing on Achieving Goals
Essay Example 1: Achieving Your Goals
A Technique to Balance Your Business and Personal Life
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.”
Essay Example 2: Goal Setting Your Way to Achieving Goals
Goal Setting Is Only Half the Battle To Achieving Your Dreams in Your Home Business
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!
Essay Example 3: Strategies to Achieving Goals
1. 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 line:
* Create a complete, measurable, action plan which includes all the steps necessary to achieve your goal. Don't forget due dates for each step.
* Incorporate all your actions into your schedule. Add them to your calendar with anywhere from 10-20% flextime to help you control any unexpected delays.
* 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.
Essay Example 3: Steps to Achieving Goals and Dreams
1. 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 it go.
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!
Essay Example 4: Goal Realization
When 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 goals.
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.
Essay Example 5: A Six Steps Plan to Achieving Your Goals
It's comforting to know that there is a proven formula for achieving your goals.
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 critical.
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 try….
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.
Essay Example 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 goal.
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 same time.
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 it?
The answer is simple: Because we did not have a strong enough desire.
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 strong enough.
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 almost certainty.
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 knowledge.
• Choosing to go to the library and get a book on bonds would be a task.
• 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 success.
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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 years
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 performance
12. I am confident that I know how to improve my performance in most circumstances
13. I know how to apply my expertise in one area to a very different field
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 problems
22. I am confident about making competence-based applications for jobs
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 other situations
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 change.
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 professional area
• 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 your progress!
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 its resources?
• 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 people?
• 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 forward?
• 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 actually involved.
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 company:
• 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 outcome?
• 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 are.
• 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 becomes.
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 achieve it.
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 forward!
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 family.
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 Goals
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