Most of us, especially graduate business students, know the importance of a business plan. We’re told without it, our entrepreneurial idea will never take flight. But how many of us have a business plan for our lives?
“We all have dreams for our lives. There is no better way to gain clarity and specificity on achieving our dreams than to write them out in detail and develop action steps for achieving our goals,” said Connie Whitesell, a Life Coach. “That way we know step-by-step, day-by-day, quarter-by-quarter, even year-by-year, what we need to do to achieve the visions for our lives. It also allows our subconscious to work for us, honing in on opportunities we may never otherwise have considered.”
It makes sense. How can we go anywhere, or accomplish anything if we don’t first know what we really want and implement the steps to make it happen?
A life plan is uniquely individual. It helps us clarify who we are, what is important to us, what we want to accomplish personally, professionally and spirituality in this life. No two plans are going to look the same, but there are some universal tips to develop your individualized version.
- Write it Down: Most of us have some vague ideas floating in our heads about what we want such as get married, have kids, get a job, etc. Few of us, however, expand those ideas into a concrete written plan. Writing it down is imperative. In 2007, Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California studied students who tracked goal achievement comparing groups who wrote down their goals to those who didn’t. The written goals saw a 42% increase in goal achievement
- Know thy Self: As mentioned, your life plan is unique to you. It’s time to get really honest. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you love to do? What type of environment do you thrive in? Society might want you to get married or climb the corporate ladder, but if those things aren’t you, don’t force it. This is your life. Get real about the kind of life you want and need to live.
- Role Play: What roles do you play now and what do you want to play in the future. For example you might be a daughter, student and employee right now but in the future you see yourself as a wife, mother, world traveler and C-level executive. When you think about your roles, focus on WHY you want to play these parts. Is it something you feel you SHOULD do, or something you truly want? Prioritize your roles.
- Purpose: For each of your roles, think about what you want to accomplish. It sounds morose, but Stephen Covey suggests imagining your own funeral and to think about the people you touched in each of your roles and what you’d want them to say about you. For example under wife you might write, I want my husband to remember me as a supportive, faithful, fun partner who enriched his life immensely.
- Goals: For each role you want to play, set some specific goals. Instead of saying I want to travel the world, say I want to travel to Italy, Spain and France. If money is important to you, don’t say I want to be rich, say I want to make six figures by 2017. Goals should be a stretch, but accomplishable.
- Take Action: That big list of goals you have can look daunting before you even start. The only way to accomplish a sizable goal is to break it into smaller tasks. So if you want to earn six figures by 2017, your interim goals could include looking for high visibility projects at work; researching top paying companies to work for; graduating from NCU; updating your resume, networking both in-person and online, interviewing at targeted companies, starting new job, etc.
- Review: Take your life plan out every quarter or six months and review it. Are you on track? Do you need to add new priorities or take ones away? A life plan is a fluid document and we need to be nimble enough to react to changing circumstances and opportunities.