By Rudy Mawer Bellingham
Like many business owners and entrepreneurs, I would previously dip in and out of personal development courses, podcasts, seminars and books. However, in the past 12-18 months, I became hyper-focused and stayed consistent every single week. The results? I’ve probably had a more successful past 18 months than my last three or five years. And consistent personal development has been the key to my success.
Here’s a breakdown of why personal development is key, along with some of my top recommendations and general tips you can use to stay consistent and get your weekly dose.
Why and How Personal Development Helped Me Build a Multi-Million Dollar Business
Although I obviously needed to possess skills in my specific niche and other traits, the list of benefits my extensive personal development provided me is really endless, from helping me stay focused and motivated every day to keeping me more organized. I built vital relationships with highly influential public figures, clients new friends and key connections.
I was able to open my mind to achieve my true potential, allowing me to set much bigger goals. Having an unbeatable mind is a defining trait behind most of the world’s most successful people.
Different Forms of Personal Development
There are multiple forms of personal development, which is just an umbrella for developing yourself and aspects of your life. Topics include:
Like anything, there’s probably not one best method or subject to follow. You will get the best results from a diverse mix. For example, the type and context of personal development you pick should likely be tailored to your desired outcome, areas you need to improve on, the best format to match your learning style, etc. There are multiple learning styles or consumable platforms to pick from. And again, while you may have a main go-to, you should likely get a mix of multiple platforms.
Luckily, there’s now an endless library of personal development at your fingertips. With modern technology and the internet, you can really never be without a form of personal development to consume. Some of the best platforms to get you started include books, audiobooks/Audible, podcasts, YouTube, TED talks, live events, seminars and live feeds like Snapchat, Instagram stories, Facebook Live, etc.
Most Popular/Recommended Personal Development Listings
Like with most big topics, there are hundreds of experts and valuable resources. This shortlist is by no means complete. Below are some of my personal favorites, along with other top-rated authors, books or titles to get you started. From there, you can find what style and topics you love the most then venture down the endless rabbit hole of resources.
Top Personal Development Books or Audiobooks:
How to Stay Consistent with Personal Development
Firstly and most importantly, it’s vital to find your preferred platform and topics you love. Just as with anything in life, you won’t be consistent (or you will have a much harder time) if the method doesn’t match your passions. I personally consume the majority of mine in Audiobook format, simply because it matches my personality and lifestyle and I can absorb it while traveling, performing minor tasks or while driving, etc.
Others may love to watch a one-hour presentation in video format per night or read 30-60 minutes of a book before bedtime. There’s no right or wrong. Just pick what you enjoy and can be most consistent with.
Now, if you want to go with the Audiobook route, sign up at Audible.com. For around $15 per month you get three books, giving you about 25-30 hours of content per month or one hour a day. If, like me, you move fast, play all books at 1.5x speed. It’s still easily consumable and throughout a year you will be able to listen to 50 books as opposed to around 35 — that’s a highly significant difference. I use several techniques to keep myself accountable and work on one book per week. I listen to books while traveling, doing house chores or simply when I am getting ready in the morning or at night. This alone gives you around one hour per day, allowing you to easily finish one book per week.
If you plan to read books, commit by first purchasing 3-5 popular books from the list or in a subcategory you think you’ll enjoy and reap the most benefits from. From there, commit to 30-60 minutes per day and then schedule a set time and make it happen.
Whichever platform you pick, the most important factor is always consistency. To start, set alarms or schedule in a 30-60 minute block per day. After around one, month it’ll be habitual. And after one year, the benefits and results will be crystal clear and astounding. The knowledge from these books has helped me more than double my productivity, set and achieve goals that are probably 10 times higher than what I would have in the past, improve the culture of my team and business and become a more well-renowned and understanding individual in general. I guarantee you will take away some amazing information you can’t find online, from how to develop a killer mindset to how to double your income with just a few small, yet genius tweaks and ideas.
Remember, you are the single best investment you will ever make in life.
Owner of RudyMawer.com, www.caplabs.com, 10xFitnessMarketing.com & real estate. Skilled in fitness, FB ads, funnel creation, marketing.
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If you want to improve, you have to ask yourself the right questions.
Self-reflection is the key to all personal development. People tend to think it’s about reading the right self-help book, or attending a Tony Robbins seminar, but the truth is, personal development can happen in any moment, anytime, anywhere.
All you have to do is ask yourself the right questions, to get to the root of what’s holding you back.
As 2017 starts to come to an end, self-reflection is top-of-mind for me. I like to take the last two months of every year to really look back and audit how things went, what worked well, what didn’t–and most importantly, what I need to improve upon next in order to continue growing.
Here are some of the questions I like to ask myself at the end of every year, and questions I’d suggest as prompts to get you thinking about how you can continue to improve as well:
A fun exercise that always helps keep things in perspective is to question what you were doing a year ago.
A year ago, I was still living in Chicago. I had just left my 9-5 job and was very unsure of my future. Today, I live in Los Angeles and spend my days working with incredibly intelligent CEOs and highly successful serial entrepreneurs through my agency, Digital Press.
Looking back a single year reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for.
If you’re not enjoying your day to day, no amount of money or external rewards will make you feel more fulfilled.
As the year comes to a close, question what really makes you feel alive and what feels like a burden. Then, question how you can remove those burdens in the months to come.
I am such a firm believer that you are a direct reflection of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
Ask yourself if you’re spending time with true friends, people who enrich your life, or casual friends, people always asking for more and giving you less.
Your friends should be people who inspire you to become a better version of yourself.
I see money as fuel. It’s what powers your airplane and allows you to do the things you want to do in life.
A lot of people forget that there are two ways to make more money. One is to work harder and earn more. The other is to spend less. (Consumerism tends to encourage us against the latter.)
Do a quick audit of your spending habits, and see if you can get some of those impulse purchases under control.
I find most people reach a plateau as soon as they stop being curious, and instead fixate on doing things purely for financial gain–or the approval of others.
But curiosity never leads you astray.
Ask yourself what you want to learn next, what will make you grow beyond wherever you’re at currently, and then make decisions that allow you to nurture that curiosity.
It will only lead to good things.
Each of us has 5 buckets which we fill with our time.
It’s worth taking time to question (on a regular basis) how each of these 5 buckets are being filled. Sometimes, you’ll find you are spending far too much time being social and too little time working toward a project or a goal. Or sometimes, you’ll find you haven’t spoken to your family in months because you’ve been so busy.
Audit how your time is being spent, so that you can keep those 5 buckets as balanced as possible.
It’s taken me a long time to learn that if you can’t spend all your time trying to make everyone around you happy.
You have to prioritize keeping yourself happy too.
Which is why it’s worth questioning both, simultaneously.
What can you do to be more helpful to those around you? How can you be more encouraging, more patient? And at the same time, how can you do those same things toward yourself?
Personal development is an ongoing practice. It’s not a destination. It’s not something you do once and then you’re a “perfect person” for the rest of your life.
Personal development is your ability to continuously ask yourself these questions on a daily basis, and slowly improve over time.
Like water over rocks, who you are is sculpted over years and years.
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When Catholic priest Lijo Thomas came to the United States in 2010 from southern India, he had two goals.
One goal was to continue and complete his education. The other was to expand a program to help pre-teens gain confidence in themselves and develop positive self-esteem.
Thomas developed D.R.E.A.M.S. — an acronym for Desire, Readiness, Empowerment, Action, and Mastery for Success — in 2003 in his home city of Kerala, India.
“D.R.E.A.M.S. is a holistic intervention and development program designed to help underprivileged teens reach their success in both school and life,” he said. “The project has been implemented mainly through summer camps, in school and after-school orientation programs.”
Thomas served as the assistant pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in Monroe after arriving in the United States. Upon completion of his studies, he moved to Bastrop in 2013. He now serves as the pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church.
He is the oldest of four brothers and said he wanted to become a priest and serve the people of God from a very early age. He is the only priest in his family.
As a young child and teenager, Thomas suffered from a lack of self- confidence and self-esteem. As he grew older and gained knowledge through education, he came to the belief that building a child’s self-confidence and social skills can help them become successful and a better citizen.
“As I learned more, I realized that just by providing motivational speeches in schools or summer camps would not really help them change substantially,” he said.
So he started follow up programs that evolved into a 36-month program starting with sixth graders to help them better understand and better cope with the awkward “tween” years.
Later, he chose this as his doctoral research at the University of Louisiana, Monroe. He systematically developed this program as a theoretical model and scientifically evaluated the program impact both qualitatively and quantitatively.
“The study showed that there were significant improvements in the self-esteem, self-mastery, motivation, life orientation and engagement, academic achievements, personal and interpersonal behavior of those who participated in the D.R.E.A.M.S. program,” he said. “The statistical analysis identified that there were more significant positive changes in African American participants than others.”
“With that knowledge and through observations, studies and interactions with local educators, I was able to identify some of the crucial skills the students were missing in our teaching-learning process,” he said. “This prompted me, in collaboration with Maribeth Holzer, the math curriculum coordinator of Ouachita Parish School System, to work to redesigning the same D.R.E.A.M.S program for the children in the United States.”
In July 2012, the first D.R.E.A.M.S project was implemented in Ouachita Junior High School, in Monroe and mainly focused on the development of their personal, interpersonal and leadership skills.
The first year focuses on personal development and self-esteem. The second year focuses on building and strengthening relationships with others, and the third focuses on becoming active leaders in their schools and community. After participants graduate from the program, they return as a mentor to new participants entering the program. Students that could benefit from the program are identified by school administrators and counselors of local schools.
“The program is implemented through summer camps, quarterly one-day follow-up programs (Saturdays) and club meetings (monthly lunch break meetings). The whole group, roughly 35 to 40, would be divided into five or six small groups, and each group would be assigned to an adult and a youth mentor playing a key role in this program.
These meetings help the participants develop team building activities, receive guidance from guest speakers from the community, and through music, and fitness/yoga,” he said.
Thomas has been called back to India and will leave northeast Louisiana the first week of November.
“I hope to return each year for our annual Let Us Dream Conference at Louisiana Tech,” he said.
A six-member board — John Boudreaux, Maribeth Holzer, Dr. Lorie Babin, Brandy Soileu, Johnson Kuriakose, Father Philip Pazhayakari — will carry the torch for Let US D.R.E.A.M. and its four projects.
“These people were selected for their strength and expertise,” Thomas said. “They have been instrumental in helping with the program, so I feel confident that they will work hard to continue where I left off. We also have a leadership team at each chapter level. Currently, we have DREAMS chapters in Monroe, Bastrop, Houston, and McAllen, Texas. We are currently in the process of expanding to two more cities this summer.”
“I will say my last mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Bastrop on Oct. 29, 2017,” he said. “The mass is at 10 a.m. and a farewell party is planned after the mass. I will introduce Father Joseph to the parishioners of St. Joseph’s on that day.
“The people of Monroe and Bastrop have welcomed me with open arms,” Thomassaid. “They loved me like family and have always been supportive of my dreams and initiatives. I will miss all and I would like to thank each and every one for their support and help over the years.”
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Business challenges can vary by region, but one stands out the world over: The need to prepare the workforce for the future.
When PwC released its 20th CEO survey this year, 77% of corporate leaders agreed skills shortages pose a threat to growth. At the same time, more than half said they planned to add new hires who will all need integration into their new roles.
This is where the World’s Best Workplaces—recently announced by Fortune and Great Place to Work—offer some of the most valuable insight. These companies excel at creating agile, adaptive organizations on a global scale. And analysis of their programs found professional development was the top area separating them from their peers. Here are four examples of how the most respected international workplaces maximize the human potential of their employees.
Cisco: Employee development in real time
Cisco’s UK team members can search for mentors, job swaps and even long-term job rotations to expand their skills using an online Stretch Assignment Marketplace. The app, though, isn’t what makes professional development novel at this Best Workplace. Rather, it’s one part of a culture of continuous learning and development.
Cisco no longer conducts rated annual reviews, replacing them instead with regular conversations focused on performance, career direction, personal strengths and alignment with the wider team. Every quarter, groups of managers run through skills gaps, potential promotions and compensation decisions informed by the topics they discuss regularly with their staff members.
“The extent to which Cisco helps to develop their employees, not just with career development but with personal development, is outstanding,” said one team member. “So much investment goes into supporting and helping individuals develop as people and help their employees maximize their capability.’
Lessons from retraining 100,000 at DHL
Following the global financial crisis, a reorganization and the hiring of a new CEO, DHL undertook a massive training program to reengage its people and refocus them on the company’s customer service. By late 2011, after only 18 months, all of its 100,000-plus employees underwent a series of coursework that remains new team members’ introduction to the company.
The German logistics giant flies new hires to its air hub in Kentucky for interactive courses on the fundamentals of international shipping, the organization’s history and its culture, as well as job-specific training. For managers, this focuses heavily on transparent communication, feedback and clear goal setting.
According to one employee, this investment in professional development continues well afterward: “What makes DHL different, and a great place to work, is its focus on people. Here, we have abundant learning and development opportunities, from training, coaching, job attachment, best-practice sharing, to internal promotion. I always receive feedback from my superiors and am inspired to do my best work.”
Hands on at H&M
When H&M sponsored a TV series called Fashion Planet, staff members in the Netherlands styled the actors and served as extras on set. At press events and store openings, the company also taps employees for photography, hair styling and other duties to incorporate their interests into a work experience that extends beyond the shop floor.
Co-workers at various job levels in the UK have traveled to help colleagues set up new markets in India, the Philippines and Australia. Ninety percent of the sales advisers supporting the Australian project advanced into management positions when they returned. In Mexico, an internship program also fills corporate office vacancies with store staff wanting to explore other parts of the business.
“I found my dreams and goals in H&M. Even though every day is busy, everything I do is worth it when it comes to my goals and my future,” said one H&M associate in China.
Hilton: Preparing the next generation
In addition to supporting career development for its current workforce, Hilton Hotels and Resorts begins filling its talent pipeline at the earliest possible opportunity.
Last year, the organization hosted more than 100,000 young people at 1,260 career events worldwide. In Venice, Italy, one hotel brought in hundreds of students from professional high schools, graduates of a local university and trainees from a beauty college. Chefs, the spa manager and team members across the organization offered them general job-application tips while giving candid advice about the range of careers available in hospitality.
Like all of the World’s Best Workplaces, Hilton realizes that investments in employees are investments in its future. These organizations will grow even more competitive as their people explore their talents and adapt their skills to markets changing faster than ever.
Remarked one employee, “Hilton has given me opportunities to develop myself professionally and allows me to share my knowledge with many team members around the world. Hilton stimulates self-development and offers many varied ways of learning that go beyond your actual day-to-day job.”
Kim Peters and Tabitha Russell Wilhelmsen are Executive Vice President and Certification Program Manager, respectively, at Great Place to Work, the longtime research partner for FORTUNE’s annual list of 100 Best Companies to Work For and other Best Workplaces lists, including the World’s Best Workplaces.
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By Kumar Arora
When entrepreneurs are craving more personal and professional development, they often turn the pages of an inspiring book. The wisdom discovered in a great read can certainly change your life. It’s definitely changed mine.
Interestingly enough, reading is a benchmark of entrepreneurship and success. Warren Buffett read 600 to 1,000 pages per day when he began his investing career. In fact, Buffett still devotes 80 percent of his day to reading. Reading among entrepreneurs is not a rarity. On average, Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. Mark Cuban reads around three hours daily. The evidence is quite clear: entrepreneurship and reading are synonymous.
Every entrepreneur who wants to grow professionally must have an active reading list firmly in place. However, deciding what is worthy of your office library can be challenging. To get you started, here are five books that changed my life.
Start With Why, by Simon Sinek
It is most certainly all about the “why” when it comes to loyalty and trust in Simon Sinek’s book. Conventional wisdom would drive many entrepreneurs to begin every project, investment or sales pitch with “what.” Sinek turned this on its head for me, and I began to focus more on the “why” myself.
Sinek introduced a new theory for business investors, salespeople and entrepreneurs. Sinek’s reasons that the “why” is your most valuable asset. For instance, why did you want to begin a new entrepreneurial endeavor? Why are you are passionate about something? And why should people care about it?
In practice, if someone you met in a networking event asked you what you did, what would your response be? Perhaps it would sound like, “I’m an entrepreneur.” It is indeed what you are and do, officially, but there is much to be desired. By focusing on the “why,” your answer may instead be, “After my father was misdiagnosed with a serious health issue I began seeking new ways for people to attain fast and accurate medical second opinions via an accessible database of doctors through a mobile app.”
The second one certainly sounds better, and it brings out the passion behind your entrepreneurial drive. Which reply would you be more likely to bring into an investors meeting?
Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
In what way does opportunity come knocking at the door of entrepreneurs? Gladwell explores this in his third consecutive bestseller. He examines what really makes people successful and challenges the common myth that success is self-made.
In an opposing theory, Gladwell explains that successful people “are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.”
Specialization, time, place, collaboration and culture are all attributes of successful men and women. This may sound quite familiar to any entrepreneur, since most of these attributes are part of our daily mix-up. This part of the book changed how I approach my entrepreneurial endeavors. Understanding each attribute allowed me to see my own strengths and more importantly, places I can improve. Success is a combination of opportunities and time dedicated to one’s craft.
The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss
If you are in a creative slump and want to light a fire under your entrepreneurial feet, this is a must-read. Ferriss may change how you see business forever, potentially uncovering new inspiration to aim high and succeed on each page. He blows the 9-to-5 grind assumptions many people have out of the water. One of the most profound takeaways from Ferriss’ examination of true personal development is that we are whom we surround ourselves with. If you want to be inspired and successful, surround yourself with like-minded people.
There are plenty of examples that would support this theory of success. If you woke up tomorrow and wanted to make healthier lifestyle choices, like run more and eat better, you would most likely begin to gravitate toward people who will keep you on that path. The same goes for entrepreneurs. You want to surround yourself with those that share your passion and vision.
All In, by Bill Green
Bill Green is a serial entrepreneur with more than four decades of experience. His book is a roadmap to success based on his own journey, experiences, wins and setbacks. This rare glimpse into a lifetime of entrepreneurship goes far beyond expectations. Green serves up 101 valuable insights to take your startup to publicly traded company.
The journey into Green’s entrepreneurial career is also an excellent reminder of how we all began. From gas station attendants to grocery store baggers, most entrepreneurs go from mediocre jobs to greatness.
Green’s emphasis on the drive and 100 percent commitment it takes to be an entrepreneur has helped in my own personal and professional development. Seeing someone else’s perspective has helped me see the overall journey as far more important than the last chapter of the book. I know that the more I focus on specific challenges, the better equipped I am in the future. There is much to be correlated with dedication, passion and entrepreneurial success.
The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau
Many people believe that you need a trust fund or million-dollar seed investors to create a successful startup. The $100 Startup will definitely change those perceptions.
It turns out that you don’t need investors or a large bank loan hanging over your head to make it as a successful entrepreneur. Guillebeau recants tales of how people uncovered success from opportunity, odd circumstance and by turning passions into profit, all for around $100. This is a must-read for anyone still on the entrepreneurial fence highlights how you can turn your hobby into a business. Sure, not all passion projects will become successful. But for $100, why not try?
Guillebeau also examines traditional marketing efforts being employed and how you can turn them on their head to really reach your audience. Looking at who shares your passion and values may just be more important than age, gender and location.
These are only a few of the books that changed my life. The entrepreneurial journey is everchanging, and when you find yourself at a fork in the road, it may be best to pick up a book to get your journey moving forward. The evidence is indeed clear: reading is valuable to an entrepreneur’s success.
Kumar Arora is a serial entrepreneur turned investor, and one of the sharks on CNBC’s “Cleveland Hustles,” produced by Lebron James.
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The Pratt High School Go Day activities challenged students to work on personal development and promoted team work.
Crying babies, trash and debris, tests for tests and lots of information about potential jobs kept Pratt High School students busy all day Sept. 13 as USD 382 presented GO Day, an all high school event that gave students a very focused look at their future and where they are in that journey.
The words for the day were on the special GO Day shirts: Grit, Respect, Passion, Valor and Team.
Seniors began their day at Reality U, a realistic look at the costs of the future and dealing with a crying baby at the same time.
Seniors took on the roll of being 26 years old, being married or divorced or single and having to take care of baby that cries continually as they visited stations in the old Frog Dome and learned the realities of how much it costs just to live, said Patrick Sehl, director of Reality U that is made possible through the Pando Initiative.
Each student selected a career and that was combined with their actual GPA to determine how much money they could make in a month, Sehl said.
Seniors learned living costs including housing, utilities, insurance, child care, food, automobile expenses, health costs, clothing, credit cards and other day by day expenses. Many of the students were surprised at the cost of living and how fast it made their income disappear.
The crying babies were part of the process. The baby dolls were set so they would cry all the time no matter what the “parent” did. Students had to take the “babies” with them as they visited each station to get a feel of what really happens when they have to take care of a child. The cost of day care was a big surprise. A couple of students said they wondered why their parents had so many kids. Other students saved food expenses for last and discovered they had no money left.
Some wondered how their parents afforded to raise a family while others were positive they could do it.
While the activity was an eye opener, Sehl said it was not too late for students to make good decisions that would help them financially.
He encouraged them to visit with their younger peers and share their Reality U experiences.
While the seniors were getting an eye opening look at the future, the juniors were reviewing their classes and determining if they had the skills necessary to go into the workforce. The Sophomores got an introduction to the ACT exam with a practice examination.
The freshmen spent their morning doing community service clean-up at Blythe Family Fitness, PHS, May Dennis Park, Pratt Teen Center, Pratt County Food Bank and PHS shop.
In the afternoon sessions, the featured speaker Brandon White, a motivational speaker who focuses on teen character development and persevering though life, helped students find out who they are, what they want out of life and what holds them back. Topics included leadership, identity, anti-bullying, character and responsibility.
Then he took the students to the PHS gym, had them pair up and taught them how to swing dance using simple steps. Students had to introduce themselves to their partner before they started dancing so everyone got to talk to several people. White also had the boys rotate from partner to partner so everyone got to dance with several people.
Senior Makenzie Baird said dancing was a good way to get to know other students. She spoke and danced with a freshman boy she and never spoken with before and didn’t even know he attended school at PHS.
Baird said she really enjoyed White’s message and he helped put life in perspective in ways she had never thought about.
“I would listen to him again,” Baird said.
The day concluded with over 60 guest speakers from the community sharing information about a wide variety of careers.
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Lia Rae Edmunds was annoyed when her department asked for an individual development plan (IDP) after she started her postdoc in developmental biology. “I thought it was an unnecessary hoop to jump through,” she says.
But despite her misgivings, Edmunds’s IDP has helped her to establish, review and update her goals and achievements with her supervisor. “As postdocs we have very loose guidelines on what we’re supposed to do, day in and day out,” says Edmunds, who works at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Adapted from Getty
She used her IDP to set a weekly plan for activities in and outside the lab that would help her to complete her year’s goals, including writing a first-author paper (which she has now started) and mastering specific in vivo metabolic techniques. It has essentially become an informal contract between her and her supervisor. “We’re on the same page,” says Edmunds.
Not every university, study programme or lab head requires PhD students and postdocs to prepare or maintain an IDP, but many junior researchers say that it helps them to identify their skills and skill gaps, set professional goals and objectives with specific timelines and build a positive relationship with their supervisor, particularly around shared aims.
Those who have used IDPs say that to be most effective, the plan should be reviewed and updated at least once a year, with input and guidance from the principal investigator or mentor.
IDPs and similar tools, including career- and personal-development plans, have long been used in government and industry, particularly in Western nations, as a way to help employees to achieve short- and long-term career goals and to improve their performance on the job. Data are sparse on the number of researchers who use them, but science-career experts who advocate such tools say that it is crucial that the a plan has specific, detailed objectives.
Some junior researchers agree that IDPs are most useful when they are highly detailed and have multiple sections. Uschi Symmons, a molecular-biology postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, created a customized version by merging the university’s graduate-student IDP template with one for postdocs from Stanford University in California. She used her university’s section on self-reflection, skills analysis and goal setting, and Stanford’s progress-review section. The personalized plan helps her to consider and identify her skills and objectives in a clear way, she says. She knows that she wants to stay in academia and her plan has helped her to tick off important steps towards that goal, including publishing a paper and learning to do peer review. “It was useful to write down goals that I could measure, that I could influence,” she says. “If I hadn’t had that, achieving those goals would have been tougher.”
An IDP should include four components, says Philip Clifford, an associate dean for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who has been developing templates for and advocating IDPs since 2001. Those include sections for self-assessment and reflection; career choices and pathways; short- and long-term goals; and ways to achieve and implement those goals. All goals need to be specific, with timelines and action plans for each, says Cynthia Fuhrmann, an assistant dean of career and professional development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester (see ‘Goal setting’).
Research suggests that people who use professional-development plans such as the individual development plan (IDP) rank themselves higher on indices of success and achieve greater success within science and other fields according to some metrics (T. W. H. Ng et al. Pers. Psychol.58, 367–408; 2005).
Cynthia Fuhrmann, an assistant dean of career and professional development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, recommends that researchers apply the SMART principle — specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, time bound — to their goals. “It will transform planning from vague goals to specific ones, with timelines and action plans,” says Fuhrmann. Here are some of her tips for using the principle.
Gary McDowell can attest to the power of self-assessment. Now in his main role as head of Future of Research, a scientist-advocacy group in San Francisco, California, McDowell had initially aimed for an academic research career. But candidly reflecting on his life’s goals as part of his IDP helped him to realize that advocacy was his true interest. “I was looking at what I actually valued,” he says. “And had I done it earlier, this would have been a more obvious route.”
Reflection, together with considering career choices, also proved invaluable to Sarah Saminadin-Peter, who advises clients on food-contact regulations at Intertek, a quality-assurance company based in Brussels. While doing a postdoc at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, she found that her IDP helped her to determine that she has superior organizational and project-management skills, and led her to mull alternatives to academia. “From there, I started to explore career paths that could match my competencies,” she says. She also wrote in her plan that she wanted to meet people from industry through conferences organized by her postdoc association. Soon afterwards, she connected with the consulting company Dr Knoell Consult in Mannheim, Germany, where she worked as a project manager for two years before moving to her current position.
Some researchers use other techniques. Rachel Yoho, a research associate studying science education at Michigan State University in East Lansing, uses job advertisements to identify gaps in her competencies. “If an ad says that I need a specific skill, I can see I need to go out and get it,” she says. She learnt through scanning ads that employers in her speciality sought candidates with strong teaching and leadership skills, so she bolstered hers through short courses. Yoho has since landed a faculty teaching position that she starts this month.
Some universities place little value on IDPs. Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, doesn’t advocate them for its graduate students and postdocs, says vice-provost for graduate education Zlatko Skrbis. Instead, Monash offers activities that are led by alumni and external trainers on career planning, project management, networking, negotiation, leadership and entrepreneurship, along with other topics relevant to professional development. The university encourages students to collaborate with their supervisors in coming up with a customized scheme. Research students can attend all activities for free and, depending on their doctoral programme, may be required to complete at least 120 hours of such training modules during their studies.
“Discussing elements of your plan with your supervisor or mentor means that he or she is aware of the goals.”
Those who are working on a written IDP, however, should ensure they discuss it with others to stay on track, says Furhrmann, who recommends that researchers share it with their principal investigator. “Discussing elements of your plan with your supervisor or mentor means that he or she is aware of the goals,” Fuhrmann says. Some universities, including the University of Pittsburgh, are experimenting with formal mentoring committees that connect a researcher with two or more academic staff members. These mentors can also help the junior researcher to stay accountable to their development plan and review their progress. “If you do have a disagreement over a project, technique or goal with one mentor,” says Edmunds, “there are two other people who signed off on the IDP”.
Occasionally a supervisor or principal investigator is not the best choice to confer with. Some graduate students and postdocs report that their principal investigator objected to non-academic career goals they had set out in the plan and tried to steer them into an academic-research trajectory. McGill University in Montreal, Canada, for example, will tell junior researchers not to automatically involve their supervisors when it launches a mandatory IDP initiative next year. “The idea is to not presume that the supervisor is the person with whom they should have that conversation,” says Lorna MacEachern, McGill’s graduate career-development counsellor. “A lot of students report anxiety around discussing their professional-development plans with their supervisors.”
Although Edmunds was initially sceptical about the value of an IDP, she is now a believer. In addition to helping her to articulate and achieve her goals, it has provided leverage. “You can use the IDP to advocate for yourself,” she says. “And that puts you in a stronger position in your current job — as well as for your future career development.”
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By Nathan Vink
UCF Forum columnist
I have vivid memories from my childhood of traipsing through the woods near our house, a forest that had yet to be razed and developed, as it would be decades later. The pines and maples grew thick and laid down a soft bed of leaves to walk along.
My friends and I would make up elaborate stories about the things we found along the way. Occasionally we would run from barking dogs when we got too close to the forest border and get lost every once in a while.
I feel lucky to have grown up with the freedom to explore the natural world around me. I truly believe the human spirit is grounded in nature, making a connection to the natural world important in personal development.
That’s why we must continue to educate our children in all that the natural world holds.
During my career in outdoor education, the goal of getting young people outside and experiencing nature in an exciting way is always present.
In Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, he speaks of the growing gap between children and the outdoors and the physical and mental repercussions. He theorizes that rises in obesity, ADHD and depression in children correlate with spending less time outdoors and more time inside plugged in and stagnant. I am one that adheres to this line of thinking and while other factors certainly exist, today’s children have less connection to the natural world then ever before.
As a father of a 6-year-old, I’m always excited and nervous to introduce my son to new experiences, especially in the outdoors. This summer my family spent a week camping along the Arkansas River in the mountains near Buena Vista, Colorado. We came together with two other families with children the same age as our son. Our connection to these families stretches back long ago to when we all began working as outdoor educators and guides. The friendships run deep and we were excited to connect again, as parents but also as our children.
When we arrived I was struck by how quickly the kids got past shyness and hang-ups and began exploring the area. We watched their imaginations at full potential as they created new worlds out of thin air.
The creativity among the families began to grow, as one father brought out his knife and a couple pieces of wood and began fashioning rudimentary boats for each of the kids. The parents and kids worked together to move rocks and boulders around to create a miniature river course along the shore. Hours were spent running the boats along the current and fixing different channels with new rocks. What had started as a little project to pass some time had turned into hours of imaginative play, stemming from a lack of distractions and a freedom to create.
Kurt Hahn, educator and founder of Outward Bound nonprofit education organization, once said, “I regard it as the foremost task of education: to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial, and above all, compassion.” These five qualities would become the tenets by which the Outward Bound philosophy was created.
I spent eight years educating others in the outdoors based on these ideas and I strongly believe in what they stand for.
Just by putting our children in the outdoor environment while we were on vacation, I was able to witness each and every one of the tenets take place with little or no effort.
This is what all children should learn from the natural world. The freedom they will experience will benefit them more than we can imagine.
To put it simply, just let the mountains do the talking.
Nathan Vink is the assistant director of UCF’s Outdoor Adventure. He can be reached at Nathan.Vink@ucf.edu.
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In times of corporate change, the only thing you can control is you. Here’s how to make it count.
The best way to handle change at work is to change yourself. Change does not mean that you need to wear different clothes or find a new way to convert your workplace. You change yourself by putting the focus on how you can impact your life and work in the present. This type of change focuses on personal development that helps you redefine yourself and the way you connect to work. The goal for you during change is to let go of your reactions and instead put your energy toward the things you can control. The focus becomes developing yourself in the face of challenges.
One important element you control includes your behavior. Behavior encompasses management of thoughts, words and actions. The way you think about work can take energy, especially in a place of change. Instead of thinking in terms of wrong or bad, try to become objective in the way you handle the changes at work. Don’t focus on what is wrong about the change; focus on how you can present yourself in this new environment. Rethink the idea that change is a bad way to do the work. You can address your discomfort by looking for new ways to think, speak and act about the change. Challenge yourself to think, talk and act in a way that supports who you want to be as a person.
The goal of behaviors in personal development is not to give up your identity or beliefs during the change but to find beneficial ways to integrate yourself into the new environment. The more you practice this behavior shift, the better chance you have of finding peace within the new work environment. It is valid not to like the way something has changed. Your personal development comes from moving yourself from disappointment or frustration to focusing on behaviors that support you in any situation within the new reality.
Choose a few words to describe who you want to be as a person, such as helpful, efficient or friendly. These words help you focus on yourself in the change. Use them as motivation words to maintain your behavior in change. When you are challenged by changes, keep these chosen behaviors aligned with your thoughts, words and actions. The disconnection between thoughts, words and actions causes fractures in your authenticity.
Even with challenges in change, you can keep a personal focus that allows you to maintain a constant level of professionalism. For example, if the company moves from customer service practices that accept ratings of 8 out of 10 instead of 9 out of 10 on customer satisfaction because the change doesn’t impact the bottom line, you can find ways to maintain your sense of customer service within the context of the company. A friendly tone and helpful attitude can go a long way toward customer satisfaction despite the bottom line. Managing behavior in this way becomes a useful skill to achievement, especially during times of change.
Other new skills can also help give you the edge in the changing landscape of business. GMAT surveyed more than 11,000 business school alumni who provided insight into the skills they consider essential for work. The top three skills were communication, problem-solving and critical thinking. Refining these skills, along with technical business skills, offers you focus when the work environment changes.
Take some time to evaluate what skills you currently have and find ways to integrate these established skills into the new way of doing business. You can also determine if there are other new skills that you could obtain to build on your current collection. Use this time of change to grow your skills and acclimate to an ever-changing industry. Personal development of your skills and abilities helps you use change as an opportunity to enhance your business portfolio and keep the focus on how you connect to the organization.
You can also take time to learn new information and trends. Vanessa King, a psychology expert at Action for Happiness, identified learning as a core need for psychological well-being. Learning can help you build confidence, become more cohesive in the way you approach situations and connect with others. King suggests that human beings have an inherent desire to learn and progress when looking for mastery. Learning can also fuel creativity, finding connections between seemingly unrelated situations or relationships. Learning becomes a practice that helps with personal development. The more you learn about any topic, the better able you are to expand the way you do business. For example, if you are concerned about corporate culture in an organization, reading about culture can help you find new ways to support corporate culture. Learning more information makes you better prepared to deal with events as they change.
There is a pattern for what we perceive as normal and comfortable. When that pattern disappears, your brain feels lost and responds by trying to recover that feeling of safety. The rules and relationships that helped define your work and the company for many years have now disappeared and are replaced with the different way of looking at the same business. Some people respond by attempting a hostile takeover to get rid of the individuals who are trying to make the change. Another reaction might be to silently curse the change and create a negative atmosphere both personally and organizationally. Moving to another job is also an alternative. When you focus on professional development during times of change, you build resiliency within yourself and prepare for any changes that come your way.
Mary Lynn Pulley, in her book “Losing Your Job – Reclaiming Your Soul: Stories of Resilience, Renewal, and Hope,” discusses the relationship between change and resiliency. Resiliency allows you to recover from change. Pulley submits that resilient people demonstrate flexibility, endurance, optimism and openness to learning. Without resiliency, employees can experience burnout, fatigue, defensiveness or cynicism.
When you remain steady with your behavior and show individuals around you that calm ensues, even in the change, you demonstrate the strength of commitment to personal development in the face of challenges. Learning skills and advancing knowledge helps you explore new ways of working and find interconnections that could help build success for yourself and other people in the workplace. The constant in any change can be you.
Writer, researcher, and facilitator with an emphasis on human potential for personal and organizational development. Dr. Reed has mentored people from a variety of organizations to include businesses, not for profit organizations, schools, allied health agencies, Chambers of Commerce, governmental entities, and churches. She has taught courses on world religion and world cultures and also continuing education courses approved by the American Planning Association for ethics, HRCI, and team building/leadership training sessions approved by the Texas Education Agency for continuing education of teachers, superintendents, and school board members. Her current literary contributions include an executive summary paperback titled, Fixing the Problem, Making changes in how you deal with challenges, as well as some book contributions, articles, and guest radio appearances, and a series of children’s books with Abingdon Press. She is also a founder and board member of the Institute for Soul-Centered Leadership at Seton Cove. Her academic background includes a Doctor of Ministry in Spirituality, Sustainability, and Inter-Religious Dialogue and a Master of Science in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
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Three months ago, I finished my Ph.D. studying the spread of waterborne pathogens. My next logical moves would be to get a postdoc in a related field, publish extensively, and scramble like hell to try to get on the tenure track. Instead, later this month, I’ll be starting a postdoctoral fellowship studying chronic pain. So why am I drastically switching fields, potentially risking my academic career prospects to effectively start over again in a new discipline? It’s because I’ve begun to consciously make professional choices that are deeply tied to my personal life, incorporating past moments of struggle, joy, and clarity into my career development.
“I decided to … interweave my personal experience with my scientific life.”
I didn’t always think this way. My plan going into college was to find a job where I could make plenty of money and live my real, meaningful life outside of work. I meandered through the first half of college with this plan, when suddenly my health started failing. I spent 13 months afflicted by mysterious pain that started in my hands and quickly spread throughout my body. I had trouble sleeping, and my mind felt foggy. I slogged through the medical system, received multiple unhelpful diagnoses, went to physical therapy and a chiropractor, changed my diet, and tried many other approaches to relieve my symptoms. Nothing really helped.
Finally, I received an accurate diagnosis: fibromyalgia, a lifelong pain condition. This diagnosis scared me but also came as a relief. Now there was a chance for effective treatment. Through trial and error, I started developing a toolbox of management approaches. I practiced yoga, worked on my sleep habits, and occasionally used medication. My health slowly improved. I finished college and started working at a private company, testing water filters. To sustain my health, I exercised daily; ate carefully; and, with my wife and friends, started a communal vegetable garden and raised chickens.
The experience gave me a better understanding of how health could be bolstered by the interplay between personal behavior and community support, which bled into my approach to my career. I decided that I wanted to focus on doing actionable research that is responsive to people’s needs. These goals led me to start an environmental microbiology Ph.D., which would equip me with tools to tackle public health challenges.
I also decided to learn more about fibromyalgia and realized that I was one of 100 million Americans with chronic pain. My struggles with the medical system were not unique, but commonplace. Inspired by this new knowledge, I decided to try to interweave my personal experience with my scientific life. I sought out a chronic pain researcher, and we ended up working together on a study showing that medical cannabis could improve patients’ quality of life and reduce their opioid use. This project allowed me to exercise both my personal and scientific voice, and I knew that I had found my ideal field. When I was offered a postdoc that would allow me to continue in this area, I jumped at the opportunity.
I had some misgivings at first, because making such a shift and allowing my personal life to guide my scientific path conflicted with advice I have heard throughout my career: Remain objective and become an expert in one discrete field of research. But I believed it was the best way for me to live a fulfilled life, both personally and professionally. And once I clearly communicated my personal connection to the chronic pain field, my Ph.D. advisers were supportive.
I’m excited to explore this new field and to continue breaking down the walls between the personal and professional compartments of my life. I’ve learned to be open to allowing my personal experiences to shape my work and career, instead of feeling locked into past trajectories or what is “expected.” I plan to continue approaching my career decisions in this holistic way so that my work will be meaningful, both personally and, hopefully, to society.
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