As the new year begins, we often reflect on our past year’s achievements and look for areas where we can practice self improvement. However, it’s near impossible for a New Year’s Resolution to be sustainable, much less possible, without a solid, attainable, and tailored Individual Development Plan. An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is described by the University of California San Diego as, “a tool to organize and target your professional and personal development. Its primary purpose is to help you reach short- and long-term career goals, as well as strengthen current job performance by providing a structured approach.”
Ideally, a well-crafted Individual Development Plan will contain the following five qualities:
1. A Well-Defined Goal:
Consider the scope of your goal. Does it involve the cooperation of multiple organizations, parties, or people? Or, does it only involve yourself? Are you trying to make sure you get an internship by next semester? Build muscle? Perhaps you want to focus on making new friends and getting involved with your community? While all of these pursuits are admirable, it is important to be realistic. Ask yourself what exactly you are striving for and look at who else will be involved in this endeavor.
For example, if your goal is to raise your GPA and do well in your classes, then this goal not only involves you, but also your TAs, tutors, and professors. If your goal is to build muscle, however, that involves primarily yourself because you are making a modification to your own body.
We all know that anything is possible for women and that there is absolutely no goal or bar that can be set too high for ourselves. However, we can avoid obstacles and self discouragement by allocating the proper time and resources towards attaining our goals.
Sustainable change and improvement often occurs slowly. Once you have a goal in mind, consider whether it is short or long term. If your goal is to obtain a PhD, it is reasonable to give yourself 4-7 years. However, if your goal is to read more books, it’s perfectly sensible to tell yourself, “I am going to read one book a month.”
3. Consideration of Threats/Obstacles:
When creating an IDP, it’s important to recognize and anticipate challenges. If you aim to socialize more by joining groups on campus, you should consider your current classwork load and whether a job or other external obligation could inhibit your chance to socialize.
Knowledge of potential threats or obstacles should not discourage you from creating and establishing your goals. However, it does make you more aware of what you're up against and can help you plan accordingly. Anything worth accomplishing in life won’t necessarily be easy and not everything will go as planned, but if you create a few methods for yourself to carry you through hard times, you’ll have a better chance at attaining your goals.
4. Appropriate Deadlines:
Just as you have deadlines for assignments, you should also have deadlines for your goals! Don’t think that having a deadline means you can wait until the night before to complete it – instead, think of a deadline as a tracker or a measure of progress that creates space for accountability. Deadlines don’t have to be strict, but use them as an indicator of how well your Individual Development Plan is going and whether adjustments are needed.
We are critical of ourselves because we know ourselves best. It is imperative that you have patience with yourself. As mentioned earlier in this article, sometimes things don’t go as planned or the things we want aren’t actually the things we need. Also, sometimes hard work and effort does not achieve what we consider “success.” Patience is of the utmost importance; it can carry you through tough times and give you the chance to succeed.
In conclusion, as much as we would like crafting an IDP to be as simple as, “here is a timeline and it’s as easy as X, Y, and Z,” we have to be aware that this process is deeply personal and has to be tailored to your needs at your own discretion. When creating your personalized IDP, make sure to consider and include the above five qualities! Every day is a great day to reflect on your life, goals, and how to become the person you want to be in life.
Andi Packheiser was born in Dallas, TX and went to the University of Texas-Austin to get a BA in English. Although Andi is not a scientist/scientista in a traditional sense- she embraces core values, such as critical thinking and the scientific method as some of the best approaches towards life. Andi is a Freelance Technical Writer as well as an Animal Care Specialist at an animal shelter here in Cheyenne, Wyoming. When Andi is not pretending to be a dog wrangler or lion tamer; she is going on road trips, reading books, catching shows and probably making a bad joke somehow somewhere for everyone to hear.