Have you already forgotten or dramatically renegotiated the New Year’s resolutions you set just a couple of weeks ago? You’re not alone. But don’t worry… Traditional resolutions are ‘so 2014’. 2015 is the year of real, sustainable change. It’s your year to establish, pursue and realize your learning intentions.
A resolution, by its very nature, is designed to solve a problem. It generally focuses on some idealized future state and is characterized by an ‘all or nothing’ sort of approach. (Examples: ‘I will work out for 90 minutes every day.’ ‘No desserts this year.’) As a result, resolutions are easily broken, leading to demoralization and a return to the behaviors we are trying to change.
By contrast, learning intentions reframe the gap to be addressed, establishing it not as a problem but rather an opportunity to explore, develop, and grow. Learning intentions:
- Act as kinder, friendlier aims that drive action.
- Are more sustainable and inspiring.
- Cultivate discipline and positive, reinforcing experiences that can support the achievement of other important goals.
- Build unbeatable capacity that enhances personal and professional effectiveness.
So, what do you want to learn?
Think for a moment about your current role and the short- or long-term goals you’ve set for yourself. (Or if you don’t have formal goals, think more broadly about how you’d like work to be different for you.) Then, ask yourself:
What do I need to be able to do or know to move in that direction?
Maybe you’d like to assume supervisory responsibilities at
some point and you need to be able to coach and train others. Maybe you’d like
to delve more deeply into some aspect of your work and need to develop greater
technical expertise. Maybe you’d like to expand your understanding of the
business as a whole and need more functional or business-line expertise. Or
maybe you’d just like to have more constructive relationships with others and
need to refine
your ability to share information and feedback.
Whatever your goal or need, rather than setting a traditional resolution about the end state, this year set a learning intention about how to get there.
Leaning into learning intentions
Clarifying your own goals and crystalizing what you need to be able to do or know to move in that direction is only the first step. But, stop there and your learning intentions will likely suffer the same fate as traditional resolutions. So, go a couple of steps further.
1. Paint a compelling picture of the organizational benefits. You’ve already established the personal benefits of your learning intention by basing it upon a future focus of importance to you. Now, if you expect to gain the support of your employer, it’s critical to determine how this learning benefits the organization. Consciously connect the dots between your growth and what it accomplishes for the business. For instance:
- Developing supervisory skills (even if there’s no promotion on the horizon) might help off-load some coaching and training responsibility from your manager.
- Deepening technical expertise might help solve business problems.
- Expanding functional or business-line expertise might build relationships with other departments that will facilitate ideas/best practices sharing.
- Refining communication skills might enhance teamwork and relationships throughout the department.
2. Gain support. Learning intentions require long-term attention, which in turn requires long-term support. You’ll dramatically improve your chances of success if you engage others - your boss, friends, and/or colleagues. Let others know of your intention and invite them to hold you accountable.
3. Take weekly action. The best learning happens over time, layering new skills and understanding upon a firm foundation. So, plan just one learning action each week to help build your new awareness or capacity. It doesn’t having to be a full-day seminar (although that might be appropriate depending upon your learning intention). Consciously observe someone with the skill you help to build, network with a colleague, participate in a meeting you might not usually attend, volunteer for a new task or assignment… and then put what you’ve learned into practice. This is how learning intentions take hold.
4. Reinforce effort. Because learning is an eternal pursuit, it’s less about the destination and more about the journey. Rather than creating a negative dynamic by beating yourself up for not having done what you’d intended, focus instead on the effort that you did put in. Applaud small steps. Recognize progress. This creates a more constructive environment that encourages continued attention.
So, as 2015 takes hold, it’s out with the old (traditional resolutions) and in with the new (learning intentions). Best of luck as you build learning into the cadence of your work… and work toward realizing extraordinary results.