I have just completed a course of swimming lessons which has meant I have improved my swimming for the first time since I left school. And this is a LONG time! At the end of the course, our teacher gave us a small piece of advice: always plan your swimming sessions. Don’t just turn up and start swimming. Have a plan for how many lengths you are going to do, what stroke, what you are practising. Otherwise you will almost certainly end up doing less than you want.
My response to this was to think of all the times I have taught motivation and the importance of goal setting. And how many people told me how useful it had been. And so I found (to my shame) thinking “I know ALL about this. There’s no need to tell me.”.
And then I remembered how I had just turned up to the pool on Tuesday without a plan and had ended up doing less training than I wanted even though I know how important it is to set goals and find ways to make yourself achieve them. Indeed, the reason I am swimming is that I have an event I want to take part in later in the year. So I had set the big goal (a 2.5K open water swim in July). I had then set another (sign up for swimming lessons even though this will make me feel rather uncomfortable). I had even downloaded an app to record the amount of swimming I was doing. But I had stopped there and missed a vitally important step. And my young swimming teacher had reminded me about this and I very nearly missed it.
I am by nature pretty scatty and resist formality (hence choosing to work as an academic I suspect!). But this means I need to remember to be planned and structured about things as it doesn’t come naturally.
I think this sort of thing happens quite a lot, so I wanted to pass on what I have learned here:
- Be watchful about complacency. Even when you are regarded as an expert, you need to make sure you are heeding the advice that you would give to others.
- Be planned. And if this doesn’t come naturally, remember to watch out for times when you revert to being unplanned.
- Surround yourself with people who compliment your skills. Easily the best way I have discovered of achieving this is first check your strengths using this tool. And then have your team do the same. And think carefully about what that tells you about where your strengths as a group are, where you compliment each other. And where your blind spots might be.
- Ask yourself this question right now: what am I learning at the moment? It is a fundamental human motivation to feel we are getting somewhere, that we are growing. And if you aren’t – either at work or outside – then challenge yourself to learn something. Anything!