Personal vs. Learning Goals – do you know your target audience?

Did you ever see that musical South Pacific? For some reason the song “Happy Talk” came to my mind right before writing this post this morning. The first few lines of lyrics go something like this:

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk,
Talk about things you’d like to do,
You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

photo of a sign with no words with a beach backdrop
You gotta have a goal, if you don’t have a goal….

In my mind this morning, I replaced the word “dream” with “goal.”

Yes, some of you may be dreamers, but most of our lives we are taught to stop dreaming and make some tangible goals.

I remember getting tutored as a very young girl in goal setting by my father. In fact, I had a monthly interview with him starting at 7-8 years old. He would come to my bedroom and sit with me on the bed and ask me questions about what I planned to do in different areas of my life. It is kind of hilarious to think of it now. A little girl with this massively tall man sitting and talking about things that I’m not sure I was quite aware of.

As a goal baseline, he used a chart that he had learned about at church. Luckily, I found an old graphic from a preparedness article on the Internet that looked familiar. This is the graphic!

a circle depicting areas of personal and family preparedness
The Personal and Family Preparedness circle

It’s a great set of categories that demonstrate pursuing goals in every key area of life. Amazingly, I was listening to an Entreleadership podcast from Chris LoCurto the other day and he referenced Zig Ziglar’s Wheel of Life. It looks a bit familiar.

The Wheel of Life by Zig Ziglar
The Wheel of Life by Zig Ziglar

As Chris pointed out, Ziglar always talked about how if certain areas of this wheel were unattended, the person would go “flat” like a tire. We have to spend time honing skills in all areas, not just one or we get a bit lopsided. I think most of us are a little “flat” as we struggle to balance work, family, church, hobbies, travel, and keeping socially connected on and offline.

The same people, all of us, that have personal goals also go to work and are informed that we must make work goals at the office as well. This should be easy, right? Just re-use whatever personal learning goals you’ve created at home.

So, the first question I’d ask is – do you have personal goals written down at home? Maybe or maybe not, but you probably have some in your head.

Secondly, how many of them have to do with your specific job or place of employment? Most of mine don’t have a lot to do with some of the projects I have at the office. Others are perhaps related. What about places that require certification or compliance training? These are learning experiences that aren’t even on some of our radars when we are thinking “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

Third, do you want to share your personal goals with your boss (or the talent management system)? Perhaps, but maybe not. You may be in your environment as a stepping stone and don’t want your real desires out there, especially if it includes heading up the organization someday. Way to quash your dream before it has a chance to get past your boss.

In any case, asking these questions can bring to the surface a few important factors to consider in designing training and performance solutions:

  • Design considering the personal goals of the target audience – let’s face it. YOUR training or performance solution probably isn’t at the top of most learners lists. They often have to “get through it” vs. use is as a meaningful growing experience. At least, in their minds. So, the trick becomes creating something that either 1.) helps them get through quickly in their current state of mind and/or 2.) creates such an experience that their mind shifts quickly to find relevance and meaning in the situation. I was taking a course just last week online that is a certification requirement. They built-in a lot of drag and drop and clicking to extraneous information that was not just unnecessary, but annoying. With consideration to the fact that the entire target audience is forced through this training, best to keep it simple. We are annoyed we have to sign up. Don’t increase the annoyance factor further!
  • Create opportunities to leverage personal goals – leverage personal goals in activities and exercises by asking learners to reference these as they work through problems and resolutions. Recently, I was taking a training on earned value management. I get the concept, but all those equations? Yikes. I was skimming through it until there was an example that helped me realize how I could keep just a few more details in my MSProject plans and gain further insight into where I’m spending my time and help me demonstrate how much work I’m accomplishing to my boss. It was an a-ha moment for me. Suddenly, earned value management was related to MY job and MY life. You know, because it is all about me. (-: Actually, for each learner, and each of us – it really is.
  • Build in spaced learning opportunities – it is coming up more and more in the mobile learning circles, but providing opportunities to learn in smaller chunks over time not only improves performance, but embeds the learning and performance support function into the daily life of the learner. One great method is through text messaging. How effective is it to have periodic text messages come to me related to what I’m learning? It embeds that into my life. I can’t help but make it part of my awareness, my actions and perhaps …my personal goals? I have a great story, but it’s a little long for this post. However, at minute 2:12 on the video below, you can listen to it.

The bottom line is that we aren’t all operating from the same set of goals and values. Each learner has different goals and needs. You can have bells, whistles and dancing pigs, but at the end of the day it comes to this – if an adult learner doesn’t care about it, they aren’t going to learn it. They might even get 100% on the test, but they haven’t learned it. They’ve learned the test…and will go back to performing their job just as they had before they entered the learning experience.

Just recently I took a course on logistics. It was required for program management certification, but I was actually excited to take it because I’ve always felt I had a skill in organizing events, quickly organizing people in emergencies and actually packing moving vans properly. Ha. Yes, this is what I had in my mind when I heard “logistics.” Imagine my surprise when the first five lessons of the course lead me through a boring history of what policies and directives had been passed concerning logistics. Really? Snore. How was that going to help me understand logistics or get better at it for that matter? Big miss. Logistics has not been added to my personal goals as a result of this class.

Time if valuable and so it becomes even more important to be relevant in a world of plenty distraction. Imagine if our training not only motivated people to perform their jobs better, but ultimately helped them create even more challenging and fulfilling PERSONAL GOALS! 

Perhaps that is just a dream, but…

You gotta have a dream, if you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?

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