August Reflections: Goal Setting and Professional Development

Greg Knopp, Vice President at American Council of Engineering Companies and GAIN Advisory Board Member

Greg Knopp, Vice President at
American Council of Engineering Companies and GAIN Advisory Board Member

“We need to forget what we think we are, so we can become what we really are.”
-Paul Coelho

August is a relatively quiet time of the year, especially in Washington, D.C., since it’s the traditional congressional recess period (though some of us remember the days when it felt like the entire city emptied out during recess for extended stays at the beaches of the eastern shore).

For that reason, it’s also a good time for personal reflection and goal setting, including professional development. In fact, August is Professional Development Month for the Public Affairs Council, with free webinars focused on that topic. If you haven’t already taken advantage of these programs, you should do so. They will expand and open your mind to the possibilities of what you can – and want – to be.

But how do we grow and develop ourselves professionally and personally so we can take the next step in our lives and careers?  Management Guru Tom Peters, author of “In Search of Excellence,” said we need to be pro-active in our self-development; that “a passive approach to professional growth will leave you by the wayside.” My own favorite advice on developing yourself came from a mentor who simply said, “work hard.”

But don’t expect the self-development process to be easy or comfortable. Virginia “Ginni” Rometty, the current chairman, president, and CEO of IBM (and the first woman to head the company) said, “Someone once told me growth and comfort do not coexist. And I think it’s a really good thing to remember.”

Billionaire industrialist N. R. Narayana Murthy, echoed those thoughts when he noted that “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.”

So I strongly encourage you to take that first, if somewhat uncomfortable and sometimes painful step of getting outside your comfort zone – this month, this week, this day, this moment – and begin in earnest to pursue those dreams and aspirations you’ve kept to yourself, until now. True growth is a two-step process: first, deciding you really want to grow, and second, taking steps (even small ones) to make it happen.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that we are all on our own very personal and professional journeys with very personal timelines. Translation? Don’t compare. Trust yourself.  Author Henry Miller observed that “All growth is a leap in the dark, a spontaneous unpremeditated act without benefit of experience.”

So jump in and take the plunge. Even if it’s a little scary at first (and it will be). And if I (or any of your Political Involvement Network colleagues) can help in any way, let me know. Good luck!