A pattern of personal success begins with a plan. Planning is, in fact, one of the core principles of leadership in any field. In Principle-Centered Leadership, Stephen Covey (1992) states, "careful planning helps us maintain a sense of perspective, purpose, and ordered priorities," (p. 77). Without perspective, purpose, and ordered priorities, one can become distracted, discouraged, and dismayed when their goals have yet to be met. Covey's flagship book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People includes several references to the importance of planning. In fact, several of the Seven Habits are related to the importance of planning and strategizing for success. The first set of habits is related to self-mastery and independence. Cultivating self-mastery and independence requires three core habits, according to Covey: being proactive, beginning with the end in mind, and putting first things first. A personal and professional development plan hinges on these three habits of highly successful people.
My personal and professional development plan is related to a career in nursing. I am in an advanced degree program, the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) because I have already been proactive in achieving my dream of being a nurse. Covey (1989) advises that we take a strong initiative in making our dreams happen, rather than depend on other people to pave the way for our success. Sometimes, we have to do the heavy lifting. Pursuing a higher education is not easy. It requires long hours, a lot of work, and an investment of money. Yet it is precisely because I have to work hard that I know I am practicing one of the seven habits of highly effective people. I am taking full responsibility for manifesting my dreams by taking these risks, being proactive, and pursuing the MSN degree. The degree is absolutely essential for me to achieve my goals, as it is impossible to become a nurse without an education.
Planning should be "centered on an overall purpose or vision and on a commitment to a set of principles, (Covey, 1992, p. 98). Within the context of pursuing a nursing degree and nursing career, the overall purpose or vision is that of helping others. Helping others requires a specific set of skills, applicable not only to patients but also to other professionals. My grand vision for the future extends beyond caring for patients, and toward caring for the more global outcomes of healthcare. Nurses and nurse leaders can have a major impact on the policies and procedures that govern health care and nursing practice. Therefore, "beginning with the end in mind," I am pursuing a MSN degree so that I can care for patients and so that I can make a difference in the future of health care delivery.
When creating a professional development plan, it is important to remember the importance of prioritization. Habit 3 of highly effective people, "putting first things first" helps me to narrow down what is important on the path to success and eliminate everything else. We have limited amounts of time and energy as human beings. As Kruse (2012) puts it, " You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -- pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say "no" to other things." Pursuing a degree has encouraged me to critically analyze my time management skills and strategies, which are related to my ability to put "first things first." Of course, family and personal health remain top priorities, because I cannot serve others as a nurse without taking care of my own health. The most astute personal development plan takes into account the need for balance. Covey (1989) followed Seven Habits of Highly Effective People with a litany of other texts that incorporated family life, children, and aspects of leadership and living that were not related to the corporate world, proving the importance of a holistic life.
As a nurse, I especially understand the importance of treating the whole person. In my own life, I can see how a holistic approach helps me to understand my priorities and pursue them effectively. Relationship building is a cornerstone of an effective holistic professional development plan. Especially in a human-centered profession like nursing, building strong and solid relationships can help me to have an enduring impact on my profession and my patients. In one of Covey's (2006) latest books called The SPEED of Trust, the author discusses the importance of trust in relationships. Covey (2006) advises his readers to create "trust accounts" with each and every person. "By behaving in ways that build trust with one, you build trust with many," (Covey, 2006, p. 135). In nursing, trust is developed at every step of the professional development plan. I trust myself first, for only I know what my personal boundaries, interests, proclivities, and comfort zones are. Then, I learn how to trust my mentors including instructors and professional leaders in my places of employment. I trust my family and my friends, and I also learn how to trust my patients as I work with them. Trust creates a bankable form of social equity that will help me to achieve my personal and professional goals.
One of the ways I have exhibited trust is by working closely with my academic advisors, who help me to achieve the MSN degree. A plan of study is an essential part of my professional development plan. Looking over the courses offered in my degree program, I can see which ones are required for graduation. Even though I find research methods and other technical courses difficult, I trust that these courses will provide me with the essential background to provide evidence-based practice as a professional practicing nurse. When I encounter difficulties like those presented in courses in research methods, I know that I need to further set my priorities and devote my time wisely to homework and learning. The "Stephen Covey Time Management Model" (n.d.) shows how deadline-driven activities, such as school assignments and other coursework, are listed in the Quadrant 1 section of urgency and importance. These are the times I need to shut off the television and avoid Facebook.
The creation of a professional development plan falls into the Quadrant 2 of the Stephen Covey Time Management Model. The key action here is focus, as I prepare and plan for the future, preventing distractions by empowering myself with the tools I need to succeed. Part of my plan of study includes an in-depth focus on the areas of nursing that are of especial interest to me. I have been drawn to the fields that are related to osteopathy, as an area of specialization within general geriatric care. However, I do not want to limit myself to geriatric nurse settings. Because I am interested in osteopathic health care, I have decided to embark on a plan of study that incorporates evidence-based practice learning into the curriculum. My independent research will ultimately converge with an internship in a health care institution in which I can work directly with nurses and other members of the health care team who are attending to the needs of patients with bone and other skeletal issues. I have already accomplished several of the core steps toward creating a plan of study that applies to my needs; this includes interviewing nurses in my intended area of specialization. Interviews and networking with professionals is in fact one of the habits of highly successful people, because Covey (1989) advises that people synergize energies of others for mutual success.
As Scivicque (2011) points out, "Your professional development is not the responsibility of anyone but you. Not your company, not your boss, not even your coach. Just you." Far from being a self-centered approach, the emphasis on my goals and me means that I will be a more effective nurse. If I do not know what my goals or priorities are, then I cannot possibly serve others in an effective way. The professional development plan I have outlined reveals my personal needs, and may not apply to my colleagues in the MSN program. Moreover, the professional development plan I outlined is flexible. While my goals might be more stable, the steps that I might take to achieve those goals can change due to unforeseen circumstances. Highly effective people are adaptable. We must not get caught up in details, losing sight of the big picture. "A professional development plan is never complete." (Scivicque, 2011).
Therefore, I will continue to alter my professional development plan as necessary and in response to the changing climate of the nursing profession. These changes may also come about as I discuss my professional development plan with coaches, mentors, supervisors, and academic advisors ("Profesional Development Plan," n.d.). My professional development plan reflects a commitment to nursing, and to helping others. A philosophy of nursing that is grounded in caring and evidence-based practice will continue to guide my principled pursuit of greatness in the nursing profession. Regardless of which institution or institutions I work for, I will be able to envision the continual…