What is an IDP?

A tool to help you identify and plan your goals.

Individual Development Plan

Goal setting is an important predictor of success in university and can help you transition successfully into your chosen career. By planning and aligning your activities with your goals, and tracking your progress, you can enhance your wellbeing and greatly increase your chances of achieving your goals.


myPath’s mission is to help students and postdocs pursue their goals using an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Think of your IDP as a tailored roadmap that guides you from where you are now to where you want to be.

  • You can’t make a plan if you don’t know what you want! An IDP can help you identify, articulate and prioritize your goals through self-discovery and reflection.
  • Think you have it figured out already? Even if you already have a good sense of your overall goals, an IDP can help you identify the specific steps that you will need in order to attain your goals, and will allow you to track your progress

Your needs and interests will change over time, so it is important to revisit your IDP every 6 to 12 months. Creating your IDP is part of an iterative cycle that includes 3 phases:

Essentially, the IDP is a tool used to encourage the iterative process of reflection, defining goals, setting specific objectives, and taking action. myPath aims to provide students with a variety of approaches to the creation of their own personal IDP by offering a network of tools and programming that appeals to the eclectic range of needs, personalities, and learning styles of the McGill student population. Get started by exploring our Tools and Programming


Why Plan?

The Individual Development Plan taps into goal setting theory by encouraging graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to engage in the practices known to impact goal attainment. The literature on predictors of goal-setting and achievement indicates that recorded goal-setting around concrete objectives, as well as iterative adjustments to, and reflections on goals, are basic criteria underpinning achievement, providing the structure and ongoing engagement to sustain goal pursuit in the long-term (Harkin et al. 2016).

The basic proposition of goal-setting theory is that "conscious goals affect action" (Locke & Latham 2002: 705). As such, the IDP is both a process and a document:  it is the product of an ongoing iterative process that includes 1) self reflection, 2) exploring & planning future goals, 3) engaging and tracking progress.

The Value of Self Reflection

There is a well-supported linkage between intrinsic motivation, goal achievement, and subjective wellbeing. According to self-determination theory, “self-concordant goals” (i.e. goals that are intrinsically motivated and forged at the intersection of values and interests) are more easily sustained and attained, and thus lead to increased levels of subjective wellbeing and positive self-regard (Judge et al. 2005; Sheldon & Elliott 1998). Through self-reflection, anticipated goal achievement enhances feelings of self-efficacy and motivation, further driving goal attainment while also promoting mental health and academic wellbeing (i.e. in a feedback loop) (Judge et al. 2005; MacLeod et al. 2008; Morisano et al. 2010; Coates et al. 2008).

The positive affect derived from goal-setting is broadly split between what MacLeod calls (1) an "anticipatory affect" – the positive feelings stemming from "felt goal progress" – and (2) an "anticipated affect," captured in the positive feelings of achieving the goal itself (McLeod 2013: 38). Anticipatory affect is especially necessary for long-term goal success, as it energizes and prolongs goal commitment. In this way, monitoring and structuring goal progress along regular self reflection and benchmarks provides a natural outlet for anticipatory affect to occur and for goal pursuit to continue (Coates et al. 2008; McLeod 2013).


How is it different from myProgress and the Progress Tracking Form?

myProgress is an online platform that allows the students and the department to monitor completion of major milestones towards degree completion.

The annual Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking form is one of the specific milestones listed in myProgress for all doctoral students -who are required to submit this form on an annual basis. The Progress Tracking form can overlap with an IDP but is not actually the same. The Progress Tracking form is intended to help students to work with their supervisor to establish and agree upon research objectives that both parties agree to. As such, it will not likely include other kinds of goals (e.g. professional skills development, career planning, personal wellbeing) that we know are important for students’ success.

The Progress Tracking form is shared with supervisors because the aim is to ensure that the research expectations between the student and the supervisor are transparent, clearly articulated, and agreed upon. The IDP is a personal document that students complete independently because it is understood that students may not need or want to share personal and professional goals with their supervisor or department.

Reporting requirement for PhDs

We recommend that all students establish a new IDP at the start of each academic year and that they review and make adjustments at the start of each semester. Since this is a private document, students are not expected to submit their actual IDP. Additionally, we understand that not everyone *needs* an IDP, so students are not actually required to complete an IDP.

However, doctoral students admitted from fall 2019 onward are required to report on whether or not they completed one. The IDP Verification Report must be submitted by June 1st of each year. Currently this is being tracked in myCourses -students who are required to submit the IDP Verification Report are automatically enrolled and can submit the report as an assignment at any point in the academic year.

myPath was custom built by McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to help students and postdocs gain insight on themselves so that they can have a more meaningful experience at McGill. All of the exercises and activities in myPath are grounded in the literature on individual development, goal setting and student needs. Click here to view the references used to develop the myPath toolkit.

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