How To Know What Resolutions To Make In The New Year? SWOT It Out!
Use This Popular Strategic Planning Tool to Your Advantage in 2021!
It’s almost that time of year again. The new year, when everyone around you makes resolutions, promises themselves to start good habits (or banish bad ones) in the coming year. Maybe you want to be one of those people, but you don’t know what you want to do. Or you might have a vague idea what you want to do but no idea how to get there.
While most resolutions are about personal growth, there a lot of skills and habits for you to develop that can help you in just about any part of your life.
If you are a sales professional, for instance, you might want to develop stronger relationships with your clients. Or maybe you are a supervisor who would like to learn to lead instead of just managing people. Realize that the skills needed to improve your work life can spill over into your personal life. If you learn how to communicate better with your colleagues, your enhanced communication skills can also improve your personal relationships.
So, once you have resolved to learn new skills, the next step is to determine what skills you want to learn. You can also think in terms of what good habits do you want to develop. Maybe one objective would be to get in the habit of learning something new every day. Or practicing the skills you are learning every day.
In any case, the first step is to determine what these skills and habits are. And to do that, you first need to take inventory. One way to do that is with a personal SWOT analysis.
When organizations, big or small, want to make strategic changes, they first need to know where they already stand. What many of them use is a process called SWOT. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. This has been used at many levels — corporations, departments, small non-profit organizations, even clubs and recreational associations — but, most importantly, can be used for individeuals. Individuals like, say, you. A good SWOT analysis of where you are now in terms of what you are already good at (strengths), what you’re not so good at (weaknesses), possibilities for growth (opportunities), and potential road blocks to continued growth (threats) will help you determine exactly what you need to know and be able to do, what personal improvements are necessary and practical. Your analysis will possibly hint at the scope of the impact what you desire to learn will have on your life.
Your first step in this process is to take a piece of 8” X 11” paper (or a Word document), turn it sideways (landscape orientation in Word), and write SWOT across the top. Put at least a couple inches between each letter and then write vertical lines so that there are columns under each letter. (If doing this in Word, you can build a table). Then, fill in the chart.
So what do the four parts of the SWOT analysis look like in action? Let’s take a look.
It’s important to start with the strengths. What do you already do well? Think of the skills and abilities at which you feel you are advanced or expert level. For me these have traditionally been writing, reading, speaking, and a habit of learning, among other things. Learning is a habit I developed, just like any skill or habit. I’m constantly looking for something new to learn, and I feel that it keeps me young. At 55, I recently learned how to make cigar box guitars and ukulele’s and am learning how to play them. I have not reached mastery at either of them yet, but I practice playing every day and never pass up a chance to play (my wife and I have recently been playing and singing Christmas and Yule songs together).
Consider what strengths you have. Are you good at persuading people to do something? Are you a good listener? Do people often come to you for advice? Do you have the ability to break down difficult concepts so others can easily understand them? Do you easily get along well with others? Consider what they are and write them down in your “S” column.
This probably speaks for itself. What are you not so good at? Especially think of the things you would like to be better at. For a long time, I had convinced myself that I couldn’t sing. Then I started singing in a choir and taking lessons. I realized these negative scripts in my head most of my life were wrong. But the most important part was that I learned to practice and try to sing better. My teacher/choir director gave me the tools, but I was the one who had to use them. If I were making out a SWOT analysis years ago, I might have included not being able to sing or not knowing how to sing as one of my weaknesses. In a sense, that’s what happened. I was not exactly in love with the sound of my voice and wanted to strengthen it while also making it sound less deep and scratchy. My voice was one of my weaknesses in terms of working one on one with people and in terms of speaking, which I often would do for my job. The singing helped me learn to project and to hit the high notes. Practicing and then performing in front of others also provided the confidence I would need to speak to a crowd or at least a bunch of coworkers.
In a sense, this is one of the hardest of the steps in this process, because no one likes to think about their weaknesses. If you get stuck, think of the kinds of things you do or want to do and the skills or abilities you don’t have that would be useful to do those things. My voice was in the way of successful speaking and interacting verbally with others. Another one that I am perpetually working on is time management. As someone with ADHD, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to structure my time so that I will be more productive. I can’t learn anything about time management, though, until I identify that as an ability I need to develop.
Think now about your weaknesses. If “weaknesses” sounds harsh, think specifically about what you want to be able to do and currently do not do well. Put these in the “W” column.
This column is all about possibilities. What is happening that provides opportunities? Maybe one of the items you placed in the Weaknesses column was public speaking. What if you were in an occupation that provided chances to speak frequently? For instance, I used to work as a teacher. Later, I helped with seminars in curriculum development at the college where I worked. My workplace also had a Toastmasters chapter. I took advantage of the various opportunities to practice my speaking. At the time, I was not as proficient at speaking as I am now, but I recognized the opportunities to improve.
Consider what you have in your Weaknesses column. What opportunities do you have in terms of them? What possibilities for improvement are out there for you? Write them in your Opportunities column.
This is also a difficult one because it is often hard to know what we don’t know. Very few people can predict the future with even a small measure of accuracy. About a year ago, my professional goals at my day job included several things that would not turn out to be doable in the environment of 2020. I couldn’t very well attend conferences that weren’t held or take courses that weren’t offered. However, because change is a constant at my job (as it is with just about everyone), I would definitely have put “changing circumstances” as a possible threat to those goals. And that would have been right, even if those circumstances changed in ways I never would have predicted.
You do not need to be an expert fortune teller, then, to determine your threats. Identify just the roadblocks to learning and developing these new skills and abilities that you are able to see. If I am honest with myself, I would always start a Threats column with my attention deficit and my tendency to procrastinate. Because I have a job that keeps me busy, I would also include limited time in that list.
Think about your roadblocks and write them in the Threats column.
OK, Now What?
Now that you have your SWOT analysis, you might be wondering what to do next. Before we talk about what to do with the analysis, I want to point out what (hopefully) has already happened. Just doing this exercise can be useful the process prompts you to think analytically about who you are, where you are at in terms of your skills and abilities, at this point in time. It is a snapshot, but one that probably stimulated deeper thinking about yourself in the process. This is a good form of self-discovery. I might discover something new in my weaknesses column after first placing something more obvious there.
Now that you have discovered these things about yourself, once you’ve taken this snapshot, where should you go from here? The eventual goal of all this is to identify and make a plan for developing new skills, abilities, and habits, so this is a good start for identifying what you will work on. In an upcoming article, I will talk about how to refine these goals into something more specific.
Feel free to share the results of your personal SWOT analysis in the comments below. What did you learn about yourself from doing it? What do you want to work on? What opportunities are there to work on them? What roadblocks do you foresee? I look forward to hearing from you!