Life is like a book. The phases you go through are the chapters that define who you become. Developing the chapters of your life can be a rewarding and exciting activity if you develop a plan and follow the process. Much like the strategic plan that you develop for your firm, a personal strategic plan will allow you to turn your hopes and dreams into reality. Let’s walk through the process of developing yours.
Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths
Create a list of the Dangers, Opportunities and Strengths (DOS) in your life right now. Think big and broad, not just about work and your career but about your health, financial situation, family, community, faith and any other part of your life that is important to you. Start by making a list of these various categories and then write the dangers, opportunities and strengths you have in each area. Organize the information you develop in a way that is most comfortable for you. You can use 3×5 cards, a spreadsheet or a Word document. The important part of this exercise is to think deeply about yourself and be completely honest.
As you analyze your Danger, Opportunities and Strengths, the next step is to visualize your life twenty years from today. Write down how old you will be in twenty years. After you gasp and frown, then think about what you want to be true when you are that age. How much money do you want to have? How is your family unit functioning? What are you doing in your community? What is your health status? What is your career situation? Develop the list of what you believe will be real at that time in your life. This vision is imperative for writing your own future. Each of future elements will help you develop today’s goals.
Today’s SMART Goals
The next step is to create goals for today that will lead to your twenty-year vision. Have you ever felt like life just happens and you are just along for the ride? This feeling occurs when you aren’t working towards plans and goals. For each of your twenty-year dreams, identify the two or three major goals that are the keys in that area. These should be challenging, yet attainable goals that, when accomplished, will make that dream a reality! As you develop your goals, ensure they are:
- Stretching (challenging)
- Measurable (so that you know whether or not they have been achieved)
Focus Your Plan
If this is your first personal strategic plan, keep it simple and focused. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Initially, limit yourself to three focus areas, picking one as your top priority. Once you’ve had some success, you can expand into other areas.
Create a one-page summary version of your plan to help you focus. A great place to start is by creating a summary plan that includes your twenty-year vision statements on the right side of the page and today’s goal for that vision statement on the left side of the page. The left side is your roadmap for today.
I also encourage you to print two copies of your plan, one to post in your office and one to carry with you. Keep the plan in front of you every day. You may not actually read it each day, but studies have shown that writing goals and revisiting them often helps you build the future you want and allows you to thrive on your successes.
The Dream Board
Another useful tool for reminding yourself of your dreams, especially for visual people, is a Dream Board. The idea is to create a collage of pictures of your dreams — photos that evoke the feeling of achieving your goals. Dream boards can be extraordinarily powerful tools. Include at least one picture for each dream. You can include images for major goals as well.
You may find those images in magazines or on the internet. Some people mount their pictures on poster boards, a bulletin board or even an entire wall. Whatever works for you to see your dream.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to get input from people you love and trust. Often, they can provide insight into your strengths, weaknesses and possibilities that escape you.
No man is an island! Becoming the person you ultimately want to be requires help from others. In the business world, these are called “stakeholders” — others that are somehow involved in the successful implementation of your plan. Get their perspectives on your plan. Their feedback and encouragement can be invaluable. Plus, sharing your plan with others increases your own commitment.
Your personal strategic plan is just a roadmap. You still have to make the journey. You still need HARD WORK. To help you transition from planning to action, I recommend using a calendar and weekly or daily to-do list. Keep a simple to-do list using paper and pencil, a smartphone app, or your computer. Don’t make this complicated, use your current time management system and incorporate your personal goals into your system.
Update your plan annually. This may mean making minor changes at the strategic level rather than at the goal or dream level. Re-do your plan from scratch as you approach the end of the planning period – about every five years.
About the Author
Sandra Wiley, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., has been lauded for her industry expertise in human resources and training. She is often called the “go-to person” for solutions to the profession’s staffing crisis, citing her wise advice on hiring – and keeping – employees for the rest of their careers.