The Best Way to Close Your Achievement Gap

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Last week I had the opportunity to lead 60 women and a few men through the process of creating a Personal Development Plan (PDP). We had so much fun working together and they found the time so valuable that I thought I’d share that process with all of you this week.

What do I mean by “your Achievement Gap”? I’m defining Achievement Gap for the sake of this post as simply the difference between where you are and where you want to be. Depending upon those two points some of your gaps will look and feel relatively simple and completely doable.

And some of them will look and feel a little more risky and complicated to achieve.

But in either of these cases, there is a starting point, or where you are today, and the point where you would like to end up in the future. When you know where you are and where you want to go, what needs to happen to get you there is usually pretty easy to create. Your PDP is the tool that bridges where you are and where you want to go.

It’s important to understand that a solid PDP will be based on awareness of your current situation, values, and reflection in addition to goal setting and planning. It is also important to note that a PDP covers all important areas of your life, not just your professional life. It can be done for health and wellness, relationships, spiritual aspirations, life-long learning – any area of your life where you feel there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be.

So, what are the components of a PDP? An effective PDP will cover:

1.       The Current Assessment

Your Current Assessment reviews multiple areas of where you are today. The first is “accomplishments”. This section should include those things you are proud of, things you do well, things that are going right in each area of your life you are seeking to address for improvement.

I will challenge you to really think about even the little things. Typically, this is the area that is most difficult to fill in. Most of us have very high expectations for ourselves and feel we don’t live up to those expectations. Learning how to celebrate our accomplishments is a huge piece of learning to live a meaningful and fulfilled life. So, go back and review this section several times if you need to.

In addition to writing down the “whats” that you are proud of, also write down and articulate “why” you are proud of these accomplishments. Tying “whys” to your “whats” through this entire process is important because it increases the likelihood of success.

Next, do the same thing for big picture goals or things you would like to improve in these areas. The challenge here is to make sure your goals are driven by you, your values, and your desires – not based upon what others think you should do or expect of you.

Don’t forget to include why these goals are important to you.

The next area of review for the Current Assessment is feedback. Take the feedback that you’ve received from others regarding the areas you want to improve or the goals you have in each area into consideration. The key is to not use feedback as literal instruction but instead as something to consider. Is the feedback in line with what you want to accomplish – following your dreams, desires, aspirations – not those of others? And is the feedback based in fact/truth or assumptions/perceptions. In other words, is it relevant to want you want to accomplish?

Next, you will want to prioritize if you have multiple areas you are attempting to address. You will need to do this first when looking at your columns/area. Then again when reviewing the big picture goals within that column/area.

Prioritizing does not mean that the other areas are less important. You just have to be realistic in how much you can accomplish at one time. Starting with those areas that will have the biggest impact and celebrating those accomplishments will create momentum with your plan.

2.       Your Desired State

If Step 1 is all about defining your starting point then Step 2 is all about defining where you want to end up. In this section, you will spend time taking the initial goals that you described in your assessment and going much deeper with them. I will challenge you to get very specific about what those goals are for the next 12 – 18 months.

Once you write down a few goals for your area, I want you to move on to the piece that most people miss in this process. I want you to articulate “why”. Why do you want to achieve these things? What will achieving these things give you? How will it help you? What will they mean to you? Will it mean something to other people? What will you feel like when you get there?

Fact: The more reasons you have for achieving a goal, the more driven you will be to achieve it.

3.       Steps & Resources

Step 3 becomes your actual plan of action. Start by writing down the steps you think you will need to take to achieve the goals you have selected.

TIP: Break them down into as tiny and manageable of steps as you possibly can. You can never have too many steps. The biggest thing standing between people and achieving their goals is the fact that the goal in and of itself seems too large. Breaking it down into tiny steps makes it feel doable and manageable.

Next, go back through your steps and identify all of the resources you will need to accomplish these steps. Time, money, people, opportunities, mentors, coaches, etc.

What are you finding as you list resources? Are there a lot in your control or outside of your direct control?

4.       Timelines & Schedules

Step 4 is creating your timeline and schedule. Start with your timeline. This is your broad view. Look at short term, mid-term and long term goals within your category. Then take a look at your steps and see if you have any fixed date steps. Any step that has a fixed date or deadline has to be written in your timeline so that you can work backwards to assign dates to all of your sub-steps.

Now look at developing an actual schedule. There are several things that come into play when creating your schedule. The first is how much time do you realistically have to apply to working on your goals each week.

The second is how much does your plan rely on resources that are outside of your control? You will always need to build in wiggle room especially when we are talking about human resources. Just because someone wants to help you doesn’t mean that you take top priority. So, again, be realistic when you have contingencies in your plan.

Finally, take a look at all of the things that pop up in your life that could keep you from getting things done when you want to get them done. Once you acknowledge those potential roadblocks, then you can brainstorm ways to handle them before they happen. That forward thinking will help keep them from getting you off track or discouraged.

5.       Accountability

The final step is accountability. To be honest, creating the timeline and schedule for your PDP is no different than project management. Except for the fact that a customer will demand that you will stay on track when doing project management.

In the case of a PDP, you are the customer. For some reason, we are more likely to let things slide when working for ourselves than when working for a customer. Things come up, things get in the way, life happens and we just shrug it off because we are the only person that it seems to impact.

So, again, go back to your why. My guess is that your goals and dreams impact more than just you which is why finding some external accountability is so important in helping us achieve what we are meant to achieve.

Accountability can come from a lot of places – family, friends, peers, Mastermind Groups, coaches.

Once you know who will hold you accountable, then agree on how often you should check in or provide updates. How you want those check ins to take place – does it need to be a face to face meeting, can it be done by phone or email?

And please don’t forget to include time for celebration. The best way to motivate each other is to lift each other up in celebration of their accomplishments.

If you would like an electronic outline of a PDP, just drop me a note at and I’ll be happy to email one over to you.


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