A growth plan gives us a proven path for turning our goals into reality. As you consider a change that you would like to make in your life, I encourage you to channel that desire into the development of a personal growth plan for the next six months. These three steps will help you put feet to your desires:
Identify 1-3 areas of your life where you would like to see change
Where would you like to grow? It’s important that you are fairly specific. For example, you may want to grow spiritually over the next six months. That’s great! Yet, I would encourage you to think about a particular area of your spiritual life that you would like to grow. For me, I would like to strengthen my prayer life.
In this first step, we are simply expressing our good intentions. But in my experience, most people stop here. The next step is absolutely critical because it involves translating our good intentions into life change.
Develop 3-5 SMART action steps around each area where you would like to see change
As you think about action steps that you can take to develop the area you identified in step one, make sure that they are SMART:
- Specific (focused on one clearly defined area) – regarding my desire to strengthen my prayer life, I would like one of my action steps to focus specifically on personal prayer retreats.
- Measurable (you should be able to chart your progress and know when you have achieved the action step) – my first action step would involve going on two one-day prayer retreats over the next six months.
- Achievable (you should be able to achieve the action step by the end of the six months) – my initial thought was to do monthly prayer retreats. However, I think one retreat every three months is more doable. Action steps are kind of like baby steps. As you take them, you experience a sense of accomplishment, which creates momentum to take further steps.
- Realistic (you should actually be complete your action step even when considering your other commitments) – we can dream up all sorts of wonderful goals and resolutions. Most of them fall by the wayside simply because they are not realistic given who we are and our other commitments.
- Time-bound (you should include a completion date so that you have a clear target for completing the action step) – I would encourage you to put this target completion date in your calendar and insert reminders in the preceding weeks to make sure it’s on your radar.
My SMART action step is to set up (in the next week) two one-day prayer retreats that will take place over the next six months (one retreat every three months).
Set up supportive accountability
Share the area of your life you would like to change and the accompanying action steps with someone who will pray for you and encourage you. Growth can be hard work and we need this kind of support to take the necessary action steps.
[Randy Wollf is Associate Professor of Leadership Studies and Practical Theology and Director of the ACTS World Campus.