If you reflect upon the question, “what did you learn today,” you will realize that, at the very heart of success, is your personal and professional development that require rising above the status quo enough and starting to learn something new. Human nature is such that we tend to stay where we are and cling to the status quo. We do not wish to make changes or take the necessary effort to put us into a glide path for professional and personal development. Here are five steps to keep yourself sharp professionally and help you achieve more and enjoy success more.
- Focus on the General Principles. A surfeit of people, lessons, training programs, classes, courses, and self-help guidebooks promise to lead you by the hand to the promised land of personal and professional success. The challenge with self-development is that, in the real world out there, things are often more difficult than the how-to-guides make them out to be. It is always a better idea to consider particular specifics less and the values, disciplines, philosophies, and personal attributes that bring success more.
- Take Charge. Take responsibility for your own professional development. Nobody else–your parents, your spouse, your boss at work– can take responsibility for your development. Responsibility for your professional development should lie squarely on your shoulders, especially when learning and professional development budgets are increasingly reduced and fewer good resources are available at low costs. Do not play the victim and become defensive about your underperformance or blame it on circumstances or other people.
- Become Self-aware. Without self-awareness, you cannot become cognizant of your strengths, your weaknesses, and your development needs. Results from personality tests like Myers-Briggs, Predictive Index, and StrengthsFinder can help you develop a framework for self-awareness helps to classify your strengths and weaknesses, and then discover your development needs. Then try to understand the values you wish to gain through the development program—such values may be personal and professional contentment, happiness, or an opportunity to move up the career ladder. Connect your development needs and concentrate on what matters to you deeply. Jog your memory of the value that your development program will bring to you whenever you need motivation to maintain your learning discipline and improve the efficacy of your learning. Acknowledge what is in your control to change and what isn’t.
- Manage Your Weaknesses. It’s important to acknowledge the things you aren’t good at. As a minimum, acknowledge to yourself what areas of weakness in technical or managerial capabilities you must master to do fully your job well. Create a process that helps mitigate your weakness. Weaknesses can often be conquered, and transformed into strengths with adequate effort. Some weaknesses are more important to focus on that others. Bear in mind the long-term benefits of changing a weakness into strength. If you have any weakness that involves character (anger management, inability to deliver negative feedback, lack of openness and sincerity, the tendency to overpower others, etc.,) put these on top of your development needs — working on these career-inhibiting weaknesses is essential.
- Ask for Help and Get the Mentoring You Need. Remember that the best person in any field or endeavor didn’t get there alone or become an expert just on his or her own efforts. Many people—friends, family, bosses, mentors—respond better to a direct “I need help” than they do the various explanations, excuses, and rationalizations that you might proffer for poor performance and lack of effort necessary for self-development. Ask for criticism and advice about how you are performing in your personal and professional life and ask for suggestions for improvement. Sincerely ask for advice, feedback, and help. Another benefit of involving others in your development is that they can appreciate your progress and become accountable for your development goals.
When you understand yourself, your development needs, listen to your gut, trust your learning instincts, try to get help from multiple sources and do the hard work of integrating everything you’ve learned into your latticework of knowledge, you can all realize your full potential.