In the modern life, your plans, goals, and aspirations evolve. To successfully carry out changes in our lives, we need personal plans. A plan simplifies the change and makes achieving it manageable. It increases chances of success and saves you time you would have wasted on unimportant tasks.
Take the story of Clayton Daniel, the writer of “Fund Your Ideal Lifestyle.” After high school, he followed his dream and joined a band. Four years later, when he was 22, the band broke up. He found himself without a job and with no skills to entice any employer to take him. So he decided to spend the next 5 years studying accounting.
After this, it was when he realised why we all need personal plans. If he had made one at 18, perhaps, the next four years of his life would have been different.
The problem, however, is that a lot of people have no idea about creating personal plans. As such, most do not bother to create them. But as you will see in this article, creating a personal plan is easy. Here goes step #1.
1. State Your Purpose
If you had no purpose in life, you would go through the motions of the day without awareness. But you get up every morning because you find something worth pursuing in life. You need to be clear about what this something is. It is the foundation of your personal plan.
To prove that a purpose is important, researchers divided 20 tree logging operators into two groups. The first group had a 1-day training program in goal setting while the control group did not.
The first group increased its performance, cutting wood estimated to be worth a quarter of a million dollars in just three months.
So how would one know the biggest purpose of his life? There are a few questions and tricks you can use.
The Deathbed test is a favorite of mine. Imagine that you are on your deathbed. Think of the most important thing that will make you happy to have achieved. Imagine your obituary. Would you be happy with it? Think of the things you will regret not doing while you still had the chance.
This little trick puts your life into perspective.
2. Define the End
Goals represent the change you want in your life. Again, you need to be clear about what this change is. Also, ensure that the change is in line with your purpose.
For a goal to be effective, it needs to be SMART:
Specific – ambiguity is a recipe for disaster. Don’t write down I want to be rich; define what’s ‘rich life’ for you. Don’t write I want to have a better job; state the type of a job you want in what kind of organization with finer details like the salary, growth, responsibilities, and the like.
Without clarity, you will leave room for leeway. And you will procrastinate and hurt your chances of achieving the goal.
Measurable – this allows you to know the progress you are making towards your goal. And you can apply corrective measures in time if you happen to be sidetracking.
The best way to measure a goal is by assigning a value to it. It can be a money value, a percentage, or anything. Don’t say I want to have a successful business. You will find it difficult to measure this. Instead, say I want to have a business that brings $5,000 a month. You can at least measure that.
Achievable – without this, your goal will not motivate you. And it will waste the time you would have spent doing other things. If you know you can’t build a business that brings $5,000 a month, then don’t make that your goal.
Relevant – a goal needs to be in line with your life purpose. Like I already said, the purpose is the foundation of all your goals. You need to think of the purpose as the umbrella. Your goals must be under it.
Timed – have a deadline by which the goal must be achieved. This will motivate you to work hard to achieve it. In the absence of deadlines, your goals risk being replaced by other random goals.
Here are examples of good goals:
I would like to be $1m richer in two years from now.
I want to be working at Apple as an engineer in three years from now.
Sometimes, you will find that you have 5 – 10 goals. Unfortunately, you cannot expect to achieve all of these successfully. You will stretch yourself too thin, and you will achieve nothing. This quote sums it up nicely:
Be like a postage stamp—stick to one thing until you get there.
You need to get rid of some of your goals. This will help you focus your energy on what matters.
3. Chunk it Down
The goals you have just made need to be broken down. You need to have goals you can achieve even today.
In 1981, researchers Albert Bandura and Dale Schunk tested the power of chunking goals and how it affects chances of success. They surveyed children aged between 7 and 10. Half of them were advised to set a goal of completing six pages of math problems per session while the other half were advised to set a goal of completing 42 pages of math problems over seven sessions.
The children with smaller goals completed their work faster and gave more accurate answers.
As such, you too should break down your goal. You need to have sub-goals that can be achieved in 2 years, 1 year, 6 months, this month, this week, and today.
For a goal of changing career, you can chunk it in the following ways:
Acquire the necessary knowledge and skills.
Find mentors working in the industry you want to enter.
Work on your CV.
Break down your goals. You need to have goals you can achieve even today.
4. Choose the Right Action
Goals are nothing but wishes if you do not act. Action can only bring change.
For every goal that you have, there will be over a dozen actions for achieving it. Some of these will work well when combined with others while others will be good on their own. Others will be more appropriate than others. You must decide on the best action in your situation.
If the goal is to get rich, you have several options at your fingertips. Here are some of those ways:
Start a business.
Invest in the stock market.
Invest in real estate.
Find a high paying job.
While each of these ways will help, you need to choose the best action in your case. If you don’t like taking the lead, then business is not for you. You may be better off investing or finding a job. For others, however, they like to be their bosses. So business is the way to go.
The key to success is action, and the essential in action is perseverance.
5. Get Your Tools Ready
You will need resources to achieve your goal. So in your plan, you must list what these resources are so you have them handy. Here is how you can identify the resources you will need:
List the goals you have chosen to pursue in step 2. You should have each goal on a different piece of paper.
Now visualize yourself doing the goal. Make sure you include as much detail as you can in this process. As you do this, pay close attention to the resources you think you will need. Write these on the paper.
In addition to this visualization technique, do a Google search of what may be needed to do a certain task. This will be much handier if you are not already are familiar with the task in question.
For instance, if you decide to start a business to get rich, you will need:
Equipment - vehicle, computers, office, furniture, stationery, etc.
Materials - these are used in making the products to sell, or the may be finished goods you resell. A bakery will need flour. A car dealer will need cars.
Labor - you may need others to help you in your business.
Entrepreneurship skills - you can acquire theoretical knowledge to started from books or enrolling in business courses.
6. Find Mentors
Tell others what you are trying to achieve. This will make you feel accountable. And you will feel pressurized to work on your goal.
Often, most of us create plans we fail to stick to. Research from the University of Scranton showed that 92% of people fail to achieve their New Year's goals. Mainly, this happens because we do not commit to the plans we lay out for ourselves. And as a result, those plans are forgotten, and we stay the same.
So how do you choose a mentor?
Here is how:
Consider the role the mentor will play. Will he advise you on academic issues, health issues, or personal issues?
Consider the qualities you need in a mentor. Achievements in the field you are looking for is a necessity. For example, if looking for an academic mentor, ensure the person has excelled academically. Relatives who did well in school can be considered. Older students in your school can also be an option. You may also think of professors and lecturers. The mentor should also be interested in seeing you succeed and be ready to dedicate time to coaching you.
Approach would-be mentors and talk to them. Some will say “no” and others “yes.”
Make the relationship beneficial. Offer to help your mentor in areas where you can. And remember to thank them each time they help you.
Here are a few more tricks to enforce the change you are about to make in your life:
Write and read the goal daily – you need to put your plan on paper so you can see it from time to time. Research has shown that this greatly increases chances of success.
Visualize – visualization is a powerful technique when trying to achieve any goal in life. That’s because the brain can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality. So find a quiet place and see yourself doing your goal. Include as much detail as you can. A study, for example, showed that visualizing taking free throws in basketball greatly improves performance than just practicing.
7. Monitor and Review
Now that you know what you want to do, you need to monitor to ensure that you are indeed doing that thing.
Have you managed to achieve the goal you wanted to achieve this week, this month, this year?
If not, what went wrong?
How would you ensure that such things do not happen again?
For a goal to start a business, have you started the business? Have you hired the people you planned to employ? Have you managed to get the number of customers you said you would get in 6 months? Have you managed to make the profit you planned to make after one year?
Research published by the American Psychological Association shows monitoring the progress of your goal greatly increases your chances of achieving it.
8. Revise If Necessary
Changing your life is not something you do once and forget. It is a continuing process that should become a part of your life. Some of your goals will fail to be achieved because of factors you could not foresee during planning. As such, do not be afraid to change your plan based on the current conditions in your life.
For the goal to start a business, you may fail to make the profit you planned to make. You need to find out why this happened and revise your plan.
The best way to know why you failed is by using the 5 Whys. The problem may be, “I failed to make $$$$ profit this year.”
Answer: I did not manage to get enough customers.
Ask why again.
Answer: Customers were not aware of my products.
Ask why again.
Answer: I did not put up enough advertisements.
Ask why again.
Answer: I could not afford the high cost of advertising in newspapers.
Ask why again.
Answer: The cost of hiring employees was way higher than I had planned and so, my money was depleted.
Having uncovered the problem, you can revise your plan to advertise using social media, which may be cheaper or find employees that are cheaper than the ones you already have.
The 5 Whys technique was developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation to help understand the root causes of problems. However, this technique has grown from that and can be used in just about every part of life. Check out this infographic on how you can use the 5 Whys.
Personal Plan Template
Here is a template of a personal plan based on everything we discussed above. You can model it and go after what you want to achieve in your life!
Step 1: Your Life Purpose
Example: Be financially independent and have more free time to spend with family.
Step 2: Your SMART Goals
Example: Create a business in the next 5 years capable of bringing me $100,000 per year.
Step 3: Chunk the Goal
Example: In 6 months, establish the business and get at least 100 customers per month.
In year 1, build the customer base to 500 customers per month.
In year 2, grow the business to become the third biggest business in the area.
In year 3, become the biggest business in the area.
Step 4: Choose an Action Plan
Example: Have a social media page and grow a following.
Provide discounts and other promotional incentives at the end of each month.
Build an email subscriber list.
Step 5: Tools Needed
Example:Money to buy equipment and run the business.
People to help me manage the business.
Step 6: Find Mentors
Example:Name of mentor 1: Name here.
Role: Specify how this person will help you.
Step 7: Monitor and Review
Example: Goal #1: In 6 months, establish the business and get at least 100 customers per month.
Did I accomplish this goal? Yes
Goal #2: In year 1, build the customer base to 500 customers per month.
Did I accomplish this goal? No
Why did I fail? Provide your answer here.
How can I avoid having such a failure again? Provide your answer here.
Step 8: Revise the Plan
Example: Since I failed to achieve Goal #2, how does this affect all other goals that followed it?
Making big changes is life is not easy. That is the reason many people do not succeed in fulfilling the plans they lay for themselves.
However, you must acknowledge that if you are ever going to improve, you will need to change. And you can only do that successfully if you have a solid plan that details how you must roll out those changes.
The steps in this article can greatly help you. But first, you need to answer one important question:What things have you been trying to change in your life?