US Air Force Col. Jonathan Cartwright writes about leadership, the military, and organizational development. In the following article, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright discusses personal development techniques that yield measurable results.
Personal development is the process of assessing your skills and abilities, setting goals and achieving them. CA Col. Jonathan Cartwright says it involves activities that enhance your self-awareness and identity, develop your talents and potential, build your confidence and self-esteem, and help you plan strategically for the future. It takes learned skills and reflection to grow and improve effectively.
Colonel Jonathan Cartwright believes in the concept of student-athlete for life. In the US Air Force, we conduct annual physical fitness tests, regardless of career field. Service members undergo regular computer and classroom training to improve their skills in their specific career areas to stay ahead of our adversaries. This holistic approach to personal development applies to the talents and individual activities of Corporate America. An active, healthy employee takes fewer sick days and is more alert at work. Investing in employee training and development leads to continuous innovation, improved business processes, internal controls, safety and efficiency. As individuals, we work an important part of our lives, we must strive to stay healthy and sharp until retirement to truly enjoy our retirement.
Measurable personal development can take months or even years, but with patience and dedication, it is possible to transform into a fully updated version of yourself. Here, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright explores effective approaches to personal development and pathways to growth.
Set realistic and achievable goals
Colonel Jonathan Cartwright explains that one of the most important aspects of personal development is setting realistic and achievable goals. It may seem obvious, but too often people set goals that are either unreachable or too vague to be meaningful.
Colonel Jonathan Cartwright’s advice is: “A goal like ‘I want to be rich’ or ‘I want to be fit’ is far too vague to be effective. In contrast, a goal like “I want to earn an annual salary of $100,000” or “I want to lose 20 pounds this year” is much more specific and therefore more likely to be achieved.
When setting personal development goals, it is important to be specific and quantifiable. Write down goals, then break complex goals down into smaller, more manageable pieces. Col. Jonathan Cartwright says, “If your goal is to get in shape, you can break down the big picture into a measurable goal of ‘I want to lose 20 pounds’ or ‘I want to complete a 5k run.’ Next, you need to determine if you have a deadline. “I want to lose 20 pounds in 2022.” If this is your New Year’s resolution to achieve by the end of the year, you can have sub-goals or milestones to lose those 20 pounds measured at an average of 1.7 pounds per month. Colonel Jonathan Cartwright recommends monthly or quarterly milestones. “People tend to lose weight rapidly during the first month of training and this slowly decreases. They also tend to gain muscle during training, a positive outcome that can skew weight loss. All of this contributes to achieve your milestones Generalized goals of “I want to be rich” or “I want to lose weight” are just ideas until you put effort into defining your real goal, chart a path to achieve it , then follow through with consistent efforts to achieve it,” says Colonel Jonathan Cartwright.
Most importantly, make sure your goals are achievable. US Air Force Col. Jonathan Cartwright says that if you’re not used to exercising, it’s unrealistic to expect to be able to complete a marathon in the next six months. There is also the increased risk of long-term injury. Start small, then progress to bigger goals as you become more confident and capable. Create padding for small failures and setbacks. Failures happen, but don’t allow them to be catastrophic.
Create a support system
Personal development doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor. In order to achieve a goal, it is important to have a support network of family and friends. These people can encourage and motivate you when you feel down or discouraged, especially after setbacks.
US Air Force Col. Jonathan Cartwright says it’s also a good idea to seek out a mentor or coach. A mentor is someone who has been successful in the area you are trying to improve. For example, if you want to get in shape, you can seek out a mentor who is a personal trainer or has experience in the fitness industry. With today’s technology, mentors around the world are just a click away. In our organization, we have employees with mentors on both coasts and in austere deployed environments. The use of Microsoft TEAMS, Zoom, Slack, etc. has exponentially expanded the possibilities of communication across time zones.
A coach is similar to a mentor, but is more about helping you develop specific skills. For example, US Air Force Colonel Jonathan Cartwright says that if you want to improve your public speaking skills, you can seek out a coach who can help you overcome your fear of public speaking. Mentors and coaches can offer valuable information and advice. Therefore, if you are serious about personal development, it is worth investing in support.
Monitor progress and celebrate achievements
Colonel Jonathan Cartwright says personal development isn’t a one-way street. In order to grow and improve, you need feedback to track progress. Feedback allows you to assess notable changes and identify areas for improvement.
There are several ways to get feedback, such as asking your family, friends, and teammates at work for their opinion. You can also seek professional feedback from a mentor, coach, or advisor. Another option is to take an objective personality test or skills assessment. These tests can provide valuable information about your strengths and weaknesses.
Whichever method you choose, Air Force Col. Jonathan Cartwright recommends making sure you’re open and actively listening to feedback. Don’t get defensive and don’t take it personally. Just use feedback to identify areas for improvement and be ready to change. After all, personal development is about letting go of old habits and beliefs that no longer serve you. There is a difference between constructive and critical feedback. While we want constructive feedback, people are sometimes tactless and don’t know how to articulate it effectively, so focus on the details that add value.
Col. Jonathan Cartwright says, “In my USPFO organization, we have our annual goals on posters on office walls. We keep a “Top 20 Goals” with three categories: Combat Readiness and Civil Support (Mission), People (Talent), and Effective Organizations and Innovation. Each year, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright reminds his team of the goals of leadership. Then employees across the state email or anonymously contribute their ideas for our purposes. Each employee has the opportunity to give their opinion, usually 50 to 100 ideas come up. Then supervisors and division heads have the option of narrowing down the list to a Top 35-50. Finally, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright and the command group finalize the top 20-25 goals for this list and publish them. This ensures that employee guidelines are understood, includes all employees in the process, and allows leaders to have the final say. It is an inclusive process with buy-in at all levels. Goals are tracked monthly but provide status to the organization on a quarterly basis. At the end of the year, Colonel Jonathan Cartwright and everyone involved in the goal-setting process celebrate the accomplishments at a town hall meeting.
Self-love is one of the most important, yet often overlooked, aspects of personal development. To grow and improve, you need to take care of yourself and take care of yourself. It means taking time to do things that make you happy, like taking a relaxing bath, going for a walk in nature, or spending time with friends and family.
US Air Force Col. Jonathan Cartwright says it’s a good time for self-reflection and means accepting and forgiving yourself. We all make mistakes, and when we do, it’s important to learn from them and move on. The saying goes: fail fast and fail often, but move forward. Holding on to feelings of guilt and shame will only keep you from growing and reaching your goals. When you take care of your mental and spiritual health, you will have more energy and motivation to pursue your goals.
Colonel Jonathan Cartwright notes that personal development is a lifelong journey. It’s not something you achieve overnight, or the goals were too easy. However, by following the steps above, you can set yourself on the path to measurable growth and transformation. Remember to be patient and consistent, and change will come. Be a student-athlete for life.