Forget diets and fads, here’s how to set professional development goals this new year

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Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** was a big seller in 2018. Lots of people behave that way, often causing others some misery. They’re easily spotted, and it’s not what the author intended — he is all about refusing to worry about what others think and providing an antidote to the sometimes mindless self-help advice that’s out there. 

But the mere existence of social media and career platforms such as LinkedIn demonstrate the contrary.  People do give a f***, a great deal of the time, and they are constantly trying to be ‘better’.

Setting goals and making improvements

How do we get better?

By setting goals, making improvements, learning new skills, reviewing our mistakes.

So maybe a good place to start is reviewing 2018 and considering what we did well and what could be done better in 2019. We want to be on a ‘better’ path early in 2019.

Setting goals is rather like ‘clean-eating January’. We often turn to all sorts of diets and fads to reboot ourselves. Or we start a new exercise regime.

What about our career and work goals?

Rather than setting goals we might not achieve in 2019, how about aiming for emotional and professional competence in your life? 

The idea of competency has been around for a long time and is used in analysing how we develop skills in whatever one’s occupation or ambitions happen to be. Competence isn’t glamorous; it is about doing something consciously and diligently, to the point that it becomes second-nature. You are in the flow and can therefore flexibly accommodate other tasks. 

The four stages of competence are

  1. Not knowing how to do something and not recognising the deficit;
  2. Realising that you don’t know, and are willing to start learning;
  3. Learning as you go, and being consciously aware of your involvement in executing the new skill; and
  4. Having so much practice in the skill or task  you can demonstrate it without thinking, and even impart it to others (though I would argue that being able to instruct is a fifth, separate stage, because it means consciously assimilating all that knowledge and experience and being sufficiently able to teach others in a systematic way, which is definitely a competence in its own right).

Improve your competence

So, while you’re still in new-year cruise mode (or are perhaps already back at work, where things are a little quiet), think about areas where you can improve your competence  This can be anything from learning new software applications to tackling a skill set you’ve previously baulked at. See what you’re doing as a gradual and incremental. 

You might not be doing the workplace skills equivalent of a ripped physique or flawless skin, but you’re not photoshopping your life’s choices and setting yourself up for disappointment and disapproval either. Emotional and professional competence is not about what others think or don’t think (though we all welcome a little validation). Instead, it’s having a seasoned, even humorous approach to your journey and balancing yours and others’ expectations. 

Free yourself in 2019 for the subtle art of giving while simultaneously not giving a f*** by enjoying and consciously affirming what you do — in all its manifestations.

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