How The Right Action Items Transform Your Personal Development

Dreams are the perfect platform from which to launch your personal journey toward a better tomorrow.

Their hope and optimism fuel an inherent desire to perform, powerful enough to lift and shift self-confidence, guiding alignment of authentic intentions with Personal Goals and Objectives.

But goals without action remain dreams.

Step 4 within our Personal Development Planning (PDP) process includes Action Items, a personal curriculum of activities destined to influence behavior and inspire growth. With the power to overcome complacency, each activity systematically works to transform your PDP from “What if?” to “What is!”

Depending on your goals and timeframe, these activities will vary in number and impact. Just remember . . .

Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day

But it was built brick by brick.

You have set the intention for growth and development. Now design a plan that moves you forward.

Using a series of experiences structures learning, fostering confidence in behaviors and habits necessary to respond to changes and sustain growth over time.

An experiential approach based on activity and evaluation is designed to connect you with the intrinsic value of each Action Item by:

  • Taking a step back to examine the learning experience (What just happened?)
  • Evaluating the impact of that experience (What does it mean?)
  • Generating ownership through introspection (How can I grow from this?)
  • Improving comprehension, application, and self-confidence (I can do this!)

Sometimes the process of evaluating your Action Items reveals a more realistic application of your development energies and focus.

Off Target Effort

My Development Area for that year was Professional Acumen, with a Development Objective of achieving Certified Hospitality Trainer (CHT) certification through the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute.

Having been with the Learning Organization for several years, the opportunity to measure awareness against a broader scope of industry professionals was something my Director and I were both excited about.

The certification exam was being administered later that summer in Miami. A surge of travel commitments prior to the event consumed time and energy originally tagged for study and preparation. Not what I had planned, but reality comes with its share of speedbumps.

When the Exam Proctor announced, “Open your packets” I felt a familiar rush of uncertainty before diving headfirst into the content.

It was a difficult exam. I worked through the 165 questions systematically, first answering the ones I knew, then skipping the ones for which I had no clue, and finally reasoning a ‘best guess’ for those in between.

Staring out the window during the flight home, I was left wondering “What did I accomplish through all of this?”

No Action, No Growth

I passed the Exam with an 84%, well ahead of the percentage required for certification.

The experience served to confirm two things: One, the Learning Organization had done a fabulous job keeping us aligned with both adult learning science and industry application. Knowledge accumulated within our professional development had more than prepared me for an external certification.

Second, and perhaps more telling, was that both my Development Objective and Action Items were off target. The CHT was itself a measurement.

Pass or fail, it would at best determine a current state of development prior to exploring new avenues of awareness. This became even more noticeable when I reviewed my Action Items:

  • Register for CHT Exam
  • Complete CHT Exam

There was completion without movement, no identifiable personal growth or influence on vital behavior. I still had to answer the question: “How do I grow from this?”

Applying Learning Logic

I revisited my PDP to address growth opportunities exposed within the CHT exam.

Building in additional Action Items created a learning logic, practical steps aligned with my stated objective in support of purposeful growth.

You would follow the same logic in pursuit of other personal endeavors.

Let’s say your objective involved enhanced wellness and vitality. You might consider exercise and diet as suitable action items. If those actions started with a weigh-in and ended with planning a menu, progress would most likely fall short of achieving your objective.

Incorporating Action Items that specify an exercise routine and address essential dietary changes begins to validate your efforts. Your plan makes sense.   

Having applied this logic to my PDP, I felt a renewed sense of empowerment. Completing each Action Item boosted self-confidence and marked progress toward my original Development Area: Professional Acumen.

The following Key Learnings will guide you in efforts to apply learning logic to your Action Items:

Key Learning #1: Begin to Begin

Schedule and complete your initial activity.

This can be critical to overcoming inertia, the complacency we referred to earlier. For example, if your Development Objective involves reading a book, take credit for locating or purchasing a copy.

Follow this same thought process when identifying a mentor or coach, registering for a course or assessment, finding a local chapter of a professional group or organization, enrolling in a language program, etc.

In my personal example, this involved locating and registering for the CHT exam. Check one off the list.

Begin your journey by taking that first step and taking full credit for doing so.

Key Learning #2: Build Your Rome Brick by Brick

Choose a series of activities that move you systematically along the learning curve.    

Learning is frequently designed as a linear process, meaning that activities perpetuate comprehension and are meant be completed in order.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule within your Personal Development Planning, just be mindful to include activities that influence your behavior: adapting to a new skill, improving technique, or enhancing awareness.

Then complete them in the order that best fits your schedule and availability.

What’s most important is that you experience movement, a progression toward your intended outcome.

Once I revised my Action Items, there were three areas of growth identified, each representing a facet of learning that would enhance my overall abilities. They were not linear in their application or bound by sequence, so I could schedule and complete them individually.

Their overall completion represented movement toward my goal of enhancing Professional Acumen.

Key Learning #3 – The Reviews Are In

Review completed learning activities to evaluate impact and determine practical application.

Introspection translates what you’ve accomplished, providing critical perspective to help transition learning from intention to application.

Discussing your results with a coach, mentor, or subject matter expert adds dimension to your efforts. Be open and transparent, share discoveries from the journey that may inspire even further development or awareness.

This was the case with my original PDP, when I was left admitting that I hadn’t learned anything new, other than my current state of readiness.

Moving to What Is!

The beauty of a well-designed Personal Development Plan lies within simplicity.

Setting your intentions for growth should align with actions taken to achieve results. Whether or not I am familiar with your industry or specific skill set, what you do should align with reasons for why you’re doing it.

This describes the intuitive connection shared between your Action Items and Development Objective.

Applying learning logic adds a sense of practicality to the process. Follow key learnings to:

  • Schedule and complete your initial activity.
  • Choose a series of activities that move you systematically along the learning curve.
  • Review completed learning activities to evaluate impact and determine practical application.

Perhaps most importantly, enjoy the process of You Working on You. Allow the hope and optimism of dreams to continue transforming “What if?” to “What is!”    

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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