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New year, new you: how to make your dreams big and achievable

There’s a lot to be said about setting goals and challenging yourself to be better. But hitting those heights is often harder than you think. In the first of a new blog series from our People Team, Chief People Officer, Naomi Trickey, explains how to make your goals attainable and where your workplace can help.

Whenever a new year comes along, it’s easy to overthink what we should and shouldn’t be doing. With fitness challenges, health kicks and ‘new year, new me’ objectives, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to reinvent our normal routines. But as we all know far too well, it’s easier said than done.

Why? Because giving up chocolate is hard – otherwise we’d all have done it a lot sooner. It’s also a big ask to be in bed by nine o’clock sharp, every night. And sometimes when you’ve had a tough day at work, a glass of wine is all you need.

And, now we’re into February, you’ve probably become overwhelmed with all the minutiae of your real life, rather than your imagined perfect life in which you never touch chocolate and get 10 hours’ sleep a night.

Challenging yourself is great. But while planning to read one hundred books and run a thousand miles may seem a good way to kickstart the year, it may, in fact, be the wrong approach. Unrealistic goals, and failing to meet them, can leave you feeling anxious and unfulfilled.

What should we do instead?

Instead of creating lists of what you should or could do better, we suggest creating a future vision for yourself that looks beyond the constraints of time. To define the thing that matters, ask yourself “How would you spend your days differently if you didn’t care so much about seeing your actions reach fruition?”

Don’t just take our word for it

If one of your resolutions is to read more, though, we highly recommend Four Thousand Weeks: Time and How to Use it by Oliver Burkeman. Unlike most self-help books, it’s reassuring, conclusive and has a clear focal point from the start: “the problem with trying to make time for everything that feels important – or just for enough of what feels important – is that you definitely never will.” If that sounds familiar – or you don’t have time to read a whole book, you can listen to him on the Today in Focus podcast here.

How does this relate to the workplace and your people?

Here at Dext, we’re putting an increasing amount of thought into personal development (training, learning, or whatever else you call it). It’s what matters most to our people – beyond benefits and time off. 

We believe individuals should own their development, while an organisation is there to help you plot your course, and define your own career aspirations. At Dext, we call this a Personal Development Plan. And these plans are, in effect, your workplace purpose. 

Crucially, we ask people to think beyond the next week, month, even year. Of course, pay and promotions – the tangibles of development – are really important. But if you only focus on those, you lose sight of what really matters. 

Work life can become transactional, as explained by Jane Foster, appointed CEO of Citigroup last year: “Stop thinking about the roles that will get you to a more senior position and start thinking what are the roles that will give you the experiences so that you will be successful in that senior position.”

Creating your personal development plan

So where to start? The first question we ask when working with one of our team on their development plan is: where do you want to be in ten years’ time? Of course, there’s no straight, one-size-fits-all answer, but a series of coaching conversations will get your people to the point at which they can articulate a vision for their career and, more importantly, what development is going to get them there.

The best thing about a vision is that it’s not a rule book. No one is going to check on it. You own it. And how you get there, well, there’s probably hundreds of different paths you could take. You can change your mind whenever you like.

Another point that Burkeman makes is that trying to pin anything down with absolute certainty is “intrinsically hopeless – which means you have permission to stop engaging in it.” In reality, this means the best way to face uncertainty is to be open to possibilities and the variety of routes you may take to reach your 10 year goal.

Establishing attainable goals

Once you have the goal, work backwards: where do you need to be in 5 years? 2 Years? 1 year? Then, you can clearly start to plot your next steps and the ‘how’. Which training courses will enable you to add to your portfolio of skills? Can you find a mentor in your network who can help you develop? Or do you want to job-shadow someone for a day? We have a bunch of training options available to our people, including self-directed learning using online platform, Learnerbly. 

We challenge you to put this into action – have a conversation with your manager, and instead of setting unrealistic new year’s resolutions, plan out the exciting future you’re going to start building for yourself.