Attempting to attain a high level of professional success by using the same short-sighted methods that, to date, have delivered only marginal – or no – results is simply an exercise in futility. The very successful people know this rule: Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans.
For individuals, if a plan is worth the time and effort required to create it, the final result must be actionable. It must take into consideration who you are, where you are, what you want.
Peter Drucker, the famed management author, guru and esteemed teacher said it best: "Lifting a person's vision to higher sights, is the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard.."
Over my 30-plus years in the business world I’ve found that virtually every successful individual I encountered – from corporate executives to government officials to people in small businesses - had a personal life action plan of some sort.
Far too many people are not as successful as they think they should be, or as wealthy as they’d hoped they would be as an ambitious youth looking forward. Not coincidently, very few of them have a personal life action plan – not a coincidence in my opinion. Most people simply get up each day, do whatever it is that they get paid to do, and then do whatever strikes them in the moment for their personal time.
In short, they let life happen to them as opposed to proactively managing the activities and, often in doing so, the outcomes.
Others, usually the very successful, take the proactive approach. I suggest using these people as role models – they’ve shown that people from all walks of life can have a life they are fully satisfied.
Even if it feels like your life and career are going well, it’s difficult to assess how much better it might be if you have never taken the time to determine what a “perfect life and career” would look like in a well considered and actionable personal plan.
Here are a few tips which will go a long way to putting you into the Winner’s Box:
- When establishing career goals and objectives, do them in a long-term context.
- Create goals for yourself that will push you to work hard, while still being attainable.
- Give yourself specific time deadlines which are just as demanding to achieve those goals.
- A good rule of thumb – each of your goals and target dates should have about an 80% chance of success if you push yourself.
- Be your own boss…and a strict one at that. I’ve found that the really satisfied people take the approach of, “I am my own business plan”.
Take this task seriously. Creating a personal action plan requires work, the same as when you create a plan for the company or organization where you are employed. The first time out, developing this tool can be challenging to anyone who’s never sat down and actually outlined, in detail, what they want from life. Without a clear vision of what you’d like and how you’d prefer to live, the first steps can be as hard or as easy as you make it. So creating a personal action plan requires a level of commitment to take it from concept to completion. The more detailed your life plan, the more readily you can identify areas of weakness and find actionable ways to overcome them. And, like doing a long term company plan, use timelines to allow you to track progress and make adjustments.
Keep tabs: Your plan should be updated on an annual basis to keep it evolving and, like insurance; you should review your life plan after any major life event. Getting married or divorced, starting a family, moving, being promoted, or experiencing significant illness - such events can render your life plan out of date.
Since a life plan is one of the most important tools to achieve your goals, make sure it remains current. Don’t treat it as a static document, as it’s much too critical to be relegated to the bottom drawer. Rather, it’s a fluid, continuous work in progress - as are you.
John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of BusinessSuccessCoach.net, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion dollar organizations and launching start-ups in both the U.S. and Canada. The author of two published books, he is frequently seen providing advice on TV, in magazines, and newspapers.