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What do you want to learn this year?

Spend 2021 setting goals, taking classes, making changes

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If the pandemic has given us one gift, it’s time to think. What have you been thinking about?

If your thoughts have been drifting toward changes for the better, don’t ignore them. They could be leading you toward a new career, a new lifestyle or a whole new you.

Even if you’re not in the mood for a big life change, it’s important to constantly improve and learn.

What do you want to learn in 2021?

Narrow it down

Maybe you’d like to learn how to do something fun, like scuba diving, or something useful, like speaking another language. How about dipping your toes into something that stimulates your creative side, like cake decorating or painting? Or maybe you’d simply like to learn once and for all how to get organized or how to manage your time better.

The first step toward learning something new is deciding what you want to know. It’s more fun to learn if you do it because you know it will get you closer to something you will enjoy or benefit from.

To help you decide what kind of an investment you will make in yourself this year, consider what you want to change.

If you’ve discovered that your chosen work field isn’t really for you, for example, perhaps you want to change your career. If that’s the case, you might need to go back to school to get a degree—or another one—or to earn a certificate or just take a few classes. Formal learning can earn you the credentials you need to make your big move. It also can give you enough information to decide if this is the change you really want to make.

On the other hand, if you’re looking to add some skills so you can pursue a hobby that you feel is out of your reach, you might want to enroll in a couple of non-credit, online classes at your local community college. You’ll find instruction in everything from journal writing to beer making to home decorating to photography and more. A bonus: A lot of those classes are one and done in a single evening, so you can dabble in lots of them just as a pleasant way to pass the time while you’re stuck at home on weekday evenings.

Those with the notion to change their circumstances, like where you live, who you spend time with or even how you look will find a lot of informative resources online. Search for reports about the best cities to live in; dating sites or online groups for people with interests similar to yours; or social media sites of the fashion influencers you admire.

If you can identify the change you want to make, you can find the resources you need to learn how to do it.

Make a plan

Once you know what you want, plan to get it. The more time you spend planning, the easier it will be to reach your goal.

Your plan should be based on research. Consider:

How well does the career, new city or hobby suit you? During the research phase of your plan, you might find that what you thought was a good fit might not be for you at all.

Is the training you need available online? Until it’s safe to gather in groups outside of your home, it’s a good idea to forgo any sessions that require your physical presence.

How much does the training cost? If it’s not free, can you afford it on your own? Does your employer offer tuition assistance or money for professional development? Are scholarships available? Then, find the paperwork you need, fill it out and submit it.

Do you have time for the training—and for what comes next, like a move to another home, a new job that requires travel or a very involved hobby?

Write your plan down. Write down each activity that you will need to take to reach your goal. When you write down your plans, you’re more likely to put them into motion. If you write down each action you need to take, you will accomplish each step far quicker than if you rely on your memory to keep you organized and to get everything done.

Set a goal

Don’t waste time on a plan if you aren’t going to include a timeframe for making it happen. A plan without a deadline is just paper.

Make your goals reasonable. Considering your job, family and social responsibilities, is it possible to squeeze in more than one class at a time? Will you have to save for a couple of months to get the money you need for tuition? Do you have other plans with a higher priority? Make each step and each deadline doable—or you’ll never do it.

Assign a target deadline for each action step on your plan.

Take action

Once you have your written plan, keep the momentum going by starting on your action items right away. Don’t put them off; you wouldn’t have made the plan if you weren’t serious about making the change and learning something new.

Keep a list of your action items visible to you. Tape it to your refrigerator or bathroom mirror, for instance, so you’ll see it several times a day.

Start over

Once you achieve your goal: to enroll in a course; apply for jobs; move; or whatever you planned for, define a new goal and start the process again.

Keep thinking about what you want; setting goals for learning and changing; making plans; and making things happen. By this time next year, you could be a whole new you.

Dr. Cindy McGovern, known as the “First Lady of Sales,” speaks and consults internationally on sales, interpersonal communication and leadership. She is the author of Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work. Dr. Cindy is the CEO of Orange Leaf Consulting, a sales management and consulting firm. For more information, please visit, www.drcindy.com and connect with her on Twitter @1stladyofsales and on LinkedIn.

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