I am amazed how many high achievers expect that they need to set goals and make plans at work, but resist doing anything similar with their personal lives. It is as if planning is reserved for the work-brain, and the rest of life happens best unplanned.
From my observation, a lot of the stresses and angst of modern life is related to this – the mad panic caused by forgetting a child’s school project is due, not having enough food in the house requiring a mad dash to the shops before guests arrive, running out of money and taking the credit cards to the limit again, missing out on that holiday place you love because you did not book early enough, etc.
I have learned over time that the person with a plan usually wins. Just ask the employee who has planned their 4-week holiday in Europe and puts in their leave application 12 months in advance. With 12 months’ notice they will almost always be granted the dates they want. The person who decides on a whim to book a cruise in 3 weeks may be disappointed when they find they are required to be at work. Others are already away and they cannot get the time off.
Planning is good
Can I encourage you to look at your life and decide what kind of person you want to be, and what kind of lifestyle you want to live. Once you have that clear, the next step is to create a plan that enables you to make your dream a reality. If you are willing to learn and grow, and to work hard, and to be consistent over time, you can achieve almost anything.
Those who learn the process of setting goals like this and creating plans to make them happen are the people who really do win in life.
Whole of life planning
I am a great believer in whole of life planning. This requires setting goals for the year ahead across 8 key areas of life – business/career, wealth creation, life partner, friends and family, health & fitness, fun & leisure, personal growth & learning, and physical environment (the property where I live). My wife and I set goals for the next 12 months in October each year across these 8 areas. These goals help us focus on the ways we want to take our lives forward in the coming year. Then we make a plan each quarter (every 90 days). We break this plan down further into monthly and weekly plans that are scheduled into our calendar.
This whole process (goals and plans) helps us to focus on the things we want to happen across the important areas of our lives. After 9 years of doing this together, we have built businesses that provide a lifestyle we enjoy, and which enable us to be the kind of people we want to be.
5 Important things to note about plans:
- A plan indicates that you have a goal – that you have an outcome in mind. You have taken the time to think deeply and to set your course, and you now have a strategy to achieve your goal. A goal without a plan remains a wish, which will usually stay unfulfilled.
- A plan requires fore-thought – you research your subject and factor in time to gather any resources required, and to train and prepare yourself properly to maximise the opportunity and the experience.
- A plan requires accurate self-knowledge – requires that you know yourself well and have a good idea of what you need to keep you going. Some people need regular little wins to celebrate, others can stick at one thing for a long time until they achieve, others need support around them to make it, etc.
- Following a plan helps you track progress – progress is essential for emotional health and resilience. E.g. When I climbed Mt Kinabalu (4100m) in East Malaysia I needed to look back regularly to see how far we had come. If you are in territory you have never covered before you need to seek advice and factor in regular review to make sure you are making progress.
- Every plan needs to be flexible and responsive to circumstances – Mike Tyson famously stated that ‘a plan is great until you get punched in the mouth’. A written plan helps you to regather yourself after a set-back, so you can regroup and adjust the plan. This is why goals are best set annually and plans are best made every 90-days.
If you want true freedom you need to learn to plan. To build a life where things work for you almost all the time, learn to plan for the things you really want in life. To achieve the most audacious goals, requires planning and preparation. If you would like to learn a 90-day planning process that has worked very well for my wife and I, and which I teach to my clients, please check out my Quarterly Planning Workshop.