Most people talk about having goals, even if they haven’t set any. And while most would agree that goals are important, many haven’t been very successful in achieving them after setting them. There are a variety of reasons for that. One common shortcoming in our goal achievement process is not having learning goals. Let’s talk about what learning goals are, and how they will help you be more successful in most every way.
What are Learning Goals?
Simply stated, a learning goal is a clear definition of topic you want to learn more about or a skill you want to develop. Like any other goal they are most effective when they are clear, specific, measurable, achievable, have a timeline, and are relevant (some would point to the SMART goal acronym for guidance).
For our purposes let’s talk about two kinds of learning goals:
- Knowledge goals – what would you like to know more about? “I want to understand the causes of the Cold War”, “I want to know the science behind smoking brisket”, or “I want to know more about marketing” are examples. While none of these are complete learning goal statements, they are the starting point.
- Skill goals – what skills would you like to have or be better at? Examples here include, I want to know the basics of conversational Hungarian, I want to smoke brisket that I am proud to serve to others every time, I want to design successful marketing campaigns.
Why Have Them?
Ask most people and they have something they would like to learn. Ask people who are choosing to read these words and the odds are high you could make a list. Goals of any kind help us focus and by setting them we improve the chances we arrive at the desired destination.
Simply stated, by setting learning goals we improve the chances that we learn what we have decided we wanted to learn.
But that is just the start.
Think now about any goal you might set in your life. When you consider the steps that are or will be needed to reach it, there will be learning attached to it. When you stop and think about it, learning is at the core of achieving any goal. Here are some examples:
- It will be hard to start a start a restaurant without knowing something about marketing and being able to have effective marketing campaigns.
- It will be harder to have a barbecue restaurant without being able to smoke a brisket.
- It will be hard to have a barbecue restaurant in Budapest without understanding the Hungarian history and culture and being able to converse with the Customers.
These aren’t the only reasons for, or value in, learning more about marketing, smoking brisket or Hungary, but they could be powerful ones.
More completely stated, since you can’t reach any goal without learning, learning goals are necessary steps in achieving any goal.
Given the connection between learning and achievement, it makes sense to set learning goals, not only to satisfy our curiosity, but to help us achieve our goals – whether personal or professional.
When you look at the goals you have for yourself, both personal and professional, now you have a new way to look at your plan for achievement. Consider what you need to learn or know more about in order to reach your goals. From there you can form learning goals that support your desired success.
Short-Term and Long-Term Learning Goals
I suggest you consider both short-term (monthly or quarterly) and longer-term (annual or longer) learning goals.
This is partly a practical matter. If I am going to Hungary in three months, it doesn’t make sense for my learning goals related to my trip to be set for next year. If my overall goal is to grow my business, I might have longer-term goals around learning more about various phases of marketing.
But there is another important reason to set a learning goals with various lengths. When we achieve shorter-term learning goals, we are building our learning skills, setting the foundation to stack future learning on, and building our confidence too. If all of your learning goals are long-term you might not gain the momentum needed to succeed or have the chance to build a path to your ultimate goal as easily.
I am a believer in, and practitioner of both short- and long-term learning goals. When you connect them to your larger more traditional goals and objectives you speed up and improve your success rate in achieving those ultimate goals and gain great personal satisfaction in the process. I hope you consider this as a part of your overall plan for your success.
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