A goal without a plan is just a wish. If it matters, follow through, work the goal every single day, make it a priority, and success will be inevitable. Don’t let your speed bumps along the way turn into stop lights and stop you from accomplishing your goals.
Recently our school teams met with me to discuss mid-year progress towards our professional goals. In our school division, every staff member writes a Professional Growth Plan with specific goals to grow professionally and to better impact student performance. At Ashland Elementary, we write goals to target at-risk students and write goals to increase teacher skills. These are often very personal and self-created to make them more meaningful. We share the progress on these goals mid-year and at the end of the year. Unfortunately, most of us rush to get these written in the beginning of the year with little thought for implementation.
What struck me as a little bit of an ‘aha’ moment during these goal sharing sessions was the difference of what teachers did when their goal hit what I call a goal ‘speed bump.’ These speed bumps are often some type of struggle, obstacle, or need for a resource that slows them down, or in some cases, actually stops them altogether from moving forward.
Every teacher hit the speed bump at some point. Some teachers pushed the gas pedal down and drove over it while others treated that speed bump like a stop light that never turned from red. Sometimes they even totally stalled and put their goal in park.
Slowing down is normal, but do whatever you can to not stop. Could you imagine if while driving, everyone just stopped when they got to a speed bump? Traffic would jam, horns would be honking, yelling, mass chaos, pigs flying… Many times that’s what we are doing with our goals in our schools, we just don’t realize the impact. When you stop your progress, it affects others. It affects their motivation, their work, and their energy reserves. The opposite is also true. Think back when you or your colleagues are making great progress and how motivating that is to the whole team. Excitement builds, smiles get bigger, a little pep is added in your step, you look forward to coming into work.
There were a few takeaways from our meetings that I learned. I’ll try to explain these through the continued driving analogy in this post.
The Department of Motor Vehicles recommends keeping your eyes looking not just on the pavement in front of you but also looking up ahead while you drive. They recommend a 12-15 second safe zone for being able to stop or maneuver when things are coming your way. Look a block ahead while driving slower, such as in the city, and a quarter-mile ahead if driving on the highway. What great advice for working your goals as well! The faster you are moving, the farther ahead you will need to look for any obstacles or challenges coming your way!
Create a Plan
Just like if you are going to drive on a trip, make sure you have your directions, know how to get to your destination, and have an emergency kit. Challenges and struggles are not bad. They are normal. How we react is what matters. Make sure you know ahead of time who you can go to get help, before you actually need them. Even better, give them a heads up or ask when you start your goal so they know you may be coming. Have a plan for implementation and for learning. The teachers that were locked in and making great progress on their goals all had a solid plan, knew what they were trying to implement, and gave themselves benchmark goals along the way. Whatever you schedule will more likely get done.
Ask for Help
If you get lost or get confused along the way, ask for directions. Use your GPS. Often the answers or next steps are right there within your reach. Search online. The internet is amazing at providing resources through videos on YouTube and written tutorials from those that have already pave the way in that area. Take advantage of their work. If your are using a specific program, these often have online webinars or modules designed for this. Read books. Search online. Ask around. Ask to take an additional course or class. The teachers I heard on fire with their goals took a lot of initiative to get answers and implement this new learning. I could hear the confidence in their voices as they described what they learned.
Don’t Create Your Own Red Lights
Don’t turn your green light into red. If this goal matters, then act like it matters. Hustle. Work it. Do some action on it every single day. Do it first thing in the morning or put it on your agenda for the day. Don’t just think about it, do something, learn something, anything to move it forward. If you catch yourself not working on it regularly, it either doesn’t matter to you enough or you are not being serious about what it takes to make progress.
All progress tends to be erratic and sloppy. If it was that easy to do and that smooth, you would have already done it. What do you do when you hit these speed bumps? Do you expect that they will occur or do they come as a big surprise to you? If you’re driving with your eyes on the road ahead of you, then try to see these bumps coming and prepare to use more power to drive over and maintain momentum. Keep the light on green and don’t accidentally turn it red on your own without even realizing.
Next time you create a goal, think ahead for ways to prevent you from stopping at speed bumps. Write a clear plan and know what you are trying to achieve. Write a timeline of actions for each week or month. Put them on your calendar and make a list of others that you can go to get help. A little planning and follow through will go a long way. If it’s important to you, then take the extra time to do these steps. Turn your feeling of, “Ugh, it’s time to talk about my goals,” to “I got this!” and feel awesome about yourself.