“If you don’t know where you want to go,
it doesn’t matter much which road you take.”
(paraphrase of Alice in Wonderland's the Cheshire Cat)
Many people spend more time planning an annual vacation than they do planning their life. The vacation, a prized time to get away from it all and not only relax but fully enjoy the experience, and for this the details must be perfect. Whether it is booking airlines, cruises, using points or mapping a road trip, planning the trip is exciting, and anticipating those glorious days off are fuel for optimism. But then, all too quickly the time is gone, and it is back to grind, right? But why does that happen? Why would we spend so much time planning a week or two, and then just react to life the other 95% of our year? It is time to apply that planning to life! ...In fact it is way past due.
It may sound funny to plan your life like you plan your holiday, yet applying that level of detail to your life can produce just as much excitement as planning a vacation. It requires attention to detail and critical thought but if you decide to embark on the journey, it is well worth the trip. We will allow for some flexibility in scheduling to allow for the detours of life, and the unexpected encounters along the way that are just too beautiful to hurry past. Ok, get your pencil out and let's start mapping the journey with 4 key steps:
1) Choose your destination
The first part of developing a life plan is to determine where you want to go. Last month in this blog we discussed doing a personal review of where you are in your life, and how you got here. So this month we are looking at where you want to go from here, and how you intend to get there. Do you have life goals? Are they written down? Do you even know what you want to accomplish in the various areas of your life? How about a bucket list? Sometimes we get so busy reacting to life, we forget to set a new course, adjust the sails to life's winds, and go where we want to go, instead of just going wherever the wind takes us. So, each year I try to establish goals for myself in the following areas of my life. Here are a few samples:
- Financial – Typical goals may be: “I will save X amount of money by 12/31/15 and invest it for retirement,” or "I am going to pay off X amount of debt this year.”
- Professional – “I will attend two professional development seminars to expand my knowledge in the industry this year,” or “I will read one book each quarter to learn something new!”
- Spiritual – “I will volunteer at some activity for my religious/community group this year” or “I will increase my study time by one hour each week. ”
- Familial – “I need to spend more time with family this year and really be there, engaging with them instead of thinking about all I have to do at work/elsewhere.”
- Health – If you don't move it, you lose it... so for some that may be just getting active, or for others the goal is: “Lose weight – NOW!” (I’m not sharing my number with you today, but I have one... trust me!)
- Personal – “I need to stop and mentally think of 2-3 things I'm thankful for each day.”
This is just a sample list of things I think through each year. My actual list is of course a little more detailed, however I wanted to share some ideas of how you might begin towards your own destination. You may have a different system for setting your life goals, but what is most important is that you decide what you want to accomplish and when. As Zig Ziglar used to say, “A goal without measurement and a timeframe, is just a wish.” Quit wishing and start planning!
2) Plan Your Route
Now that you know what you want to accomplish, it is time to map your route to getting to your destination. Knowing where we want to go enables us to make good choices on how we intend to get there. If you are looking to get a better job, or get a promotion, you may need to get additional training or education. Sometimes, identifying your goal will make it very clear what the route may be. If your financial goal is to get out of debt, you may have to reduce your expenses, or you may realize that you can’t cut any more expenses, and you have to have more income! That may require taking a second job, or conducting some garage or eBay sales. There are many routes to a destination, but you must develop the plan and the route that works for you! ...not your neighbor, not your parents, not your friends, but you!
3) Listen to your GPS
Some of you might remember using the old paper highway maps when planning a trip. They were difficult to read, even more difficult follow, and completely impossible to re-fold into their original shape. Life can be like that too. Sometimes, I navigate by just “driving around,” much to my family's chagrin, but contrary to popular belief, I do stop and ask for directions, occasionally. Today, we of course have the wonderful Global Positioning System at our disposal in our cars, phones, tablets, you name it. We can plug in destinations and the GPS will tell us where we are, where to turn, what direction to go, and even when we're off course!
I think we can use the same approach for our life. Once we decide where we want to go, we can begin to monitor what route we will take and what turns are required to get there. It is also important to continually monitor if we are on course, or if we need to “recalculate” to get back on course. Sometimes, we do have to “re-route” due to unexpected turns, or roads that may be closed, but when you know where you want to go, and you know how your going to get there,
4)Build your Traveling Team
We've decided what you want to accomplish and planned a route, but before you set off on this new journey, you need to gather your traveling team. You need to surround yourself with people who are going to share the journey with you. Sharing your dreams, goals, and your plan with others will provide you will perspective, encouragement, accountability and guidance too! People who know you and care about you can provide the much needed “weather advisories” along the way, or provide the “pep talk” when the going gets rough. Life is a team sport, not an individual sport and any success that you achieve will be much sweeter when it can be shared with others, and I hope you will share it with me as we journey together through 2015. Don’t go it alone, share your plan, and then work your plan… it is the only way to get moving in the right direction. Remember the old saying, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Until Next Time…