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Create your own learning program and stay on track for the year

Another year has come to an end, and as habit drives us we start considering what’s been and what’s coming. We start thinking about what we wanted to do, what we did, and didn’t get to do. Then comes January 1st and we start with our new year resolutions. We create lists filled with dreams and plans and wishes of things we want to do better, start doing, stop doing or goals to achieve. 

Sadly these rarely seem to be realised and come March, April, we find ourselves getting by, day by day, with little recollection of our aspirations and no thoughts of purposefully living each day to its fullest to achieve our endless lists of desired accomplishments.

Sound familiar?

Research tells us that it is smart to set New Year’s Resolutions for four reasons:

  1. It sparks intention. Realising you want more is not a bad thing, on the contrary it creates the desire to try, stretch or improve. 
  2. It also creates hope, a hope of what could be and entices us to engage and aim for the impossible. 
  3. Creating a list, in addition, evokes responsibility. Once you’ve created the list, there is a responsibility to make it happen or at least try.
  4. Finally, lists of goals and dreams inspire us to do better, try harder and contribute more. It helps us reevaluate our worth, what we deserve, as well as our value, what we can give.

There is no doubt that traditions like these should continue, the question is simply how do we maintain and follow through with our good intentions.

Well, as Greg Reid once said – ‘A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.’

The key is, we need more than a list of ambitions. We need actionable steps. We need a development plan.

What is a self development plan

A personal or self development plan is a list of actionable steps that facilitate the process of learning new things and building new skills, with the purpose of increasing our chances of success, achieving our goals and realising our dreams.

Whether for the purpose of achieving our new year’s resolutions, personal or professional goals, creating a development or learning plan is one way to ensure our dreams become reality.

How to create a learning plan for self-development

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on creating an action plan in four easy steps, for your professional development, but these steps can be effectively applied to any area of development.

STEP 1: Conduct a SWOT analysis

A SWOT analysis is a simple yet effective way to identify areas in which you can grow as well as identify areas or characteristics that hinder growth. 

This step should be completed before putting your new year’s resolutions and professional aspirations to paper as it helps uncover true needs and realistic goals.

In conducting a SWOT analysis, we consider our Strengths, our Weaknesses, the available Opportunities and possible Threats.


When evaluating your strengths ask questions like:

What am I naturally good at?

What are my qualifications?

What do I enjoy doing?

What have I achieved that I’m proud of?

What resources do I have that others do not?

What are my strongest character traits?

If you are unsure about some of these answers, completing a personality profile could be useful.


For weaknesses, consider:

What skills do I struggle with?

In which areas do I need to improve?

What generally holds me back from achieving my goals?

What are my bad habits?

These could refer to physical abilities as well as interpersonal or soft skills.


When it comes to opportunities, ask yourself the following questions:

Is there room for growth in my current organisation?

Is there room for growth in my industry?

What skills or qualifications can help advance my career?


Finally in respect of threats provide honest answers to these questions:

What could derail my career?

Is there a possibility that my weaknesses could become threats that stand in the way of my success?

Are there external factors that could threaten my success?

Each area provides invaluable insight that should be taken into account in your development plan to ensure you ultimately reach your goals.

Use your strengths to your advantage.

Develop your weaknesses.

Pursue opportunities.

Plan to prevent or circumvent threats.

STEP 2: Set SMART goals

Now, having a holistic view of your current circumstances and potential opportunities, it’s time to identify and set your goals. This is essential when writing down your new year’s resolutions.

For this purpose, we suggest making use of the SMART acronym. Goals should be:


Be as specific as possible when setting your goals. Each goal should speak to one area of development only.


I want to get a promotion


I want to be promoted to team leader of the sales team


It should be clear when the goal is met and therefore achieved.


I want to finish a qualification


I want to finish a Masters in Business Administration


Importantly the goal must be realistic and possible to achieve.


I want to complete a 3-year degree in a year.


It’s important to prioritise goals that are relevant to your values and long-term plans. 

You may, for example, want to study photography as a hobby, but your current pursuit is to complete your MBA.

In this case, recognise that photography should perhaps only take priority once you’ve completed your MBA.


Setting dates creates a sense of urgency and helps prioritise tasks. You may find your goals slipping lower and lower down the to-do list if there is no date assigned.

STEP 3: Create an action plan

With your goals clearly defined, you can now develop your action plan. This includes breaking each goal down into smaller tasks essentially forming a to-do list of manageable steps. In this manner, by simply working through your to-do list, you will eventually achieve your goal.

STEP 4: Monitor your progress and celebrate victories

Reaching a goal, especially larger goals can seem like a never-ending process, which is why celebrating small victories are essential.

Find ways to reward yourself for a job well done, whether a pat on the back, a celebratory drink or simply scratching tasks from your to-do list. Keep yourself motivated by acknowledging the completion of tasks and recognising that each step is taken toward achieving a bigger goal.

What are the benefits of creating a self development plan

Denis Waitley noted that: ‘Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.’

In a study conducted by the International Coaching Federation, it was found that individuals who prioritised personal development experienced:

  • A more balanced life
  • Lower levels of stress
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved health and fitness
  • Enriched relationships
  • The ability to overcome bad habits

When creating a self development plan, you are taking steps to prioritise your self development thereby investing in yourself and your abilities to secure a better future.

Take your first steps in self development by investing in your soft skills

Soft skills are intertwined with every action we take and impact both our personal and professional capabilities as well as our ability to improve and develop each area.

Time management helps us organise and plan, manage stress, set and prioritise goals, all key skills needed to effectively manage our self development.

Communication and interpersonal skills allows us to interact with others in a variety of formats, thereby greatly enhancing our social influence.

Adaptability and problem solving gives us the capacity to handle change and navigate new environments, which is essential for both mental and emotional development.

Recognising our dependence on soft skills and how it affects our personal and professional achievements, Upskillist developed a soft skills gap analysis. This analysis aims to help you identify areas of development and in addition provides guidance on how to develop each area.

To ensure your new year’s resolutions are not forgotten by March 2023, start your development by focusing on your soft skills. Head to the Upskillist platform and sign up for the free trial period. Enjoy the resources available and see how an investment in your self development enhances your ability to perform and succeed in your personal and professional endeavours.

To learn more about how Upskillist can help you click the button below :

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