Your life can’t go according to plan if you have no plan

Happy New Year! Before you start making resolutions, why not make a plan? After all, your life can’t go according to plan if you have no plan. Without goals and plans to reach them, you are like a traveler lost in the wilderness without a map. It’s time to map out your future, for success comes to those who plan. What happens to those who don’t? Well, Ben Franklin (1706 ~ 1790) has the answer, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

A poor plan, however, can do more harm than good, so don’t act too quickly.
For as Matthew Prior (1664 ~ 1721) wrote, “Who walks the fastest, but walks astray, is only furthest from his way.” Therefore, take your time and be thorough. On the other hand, don’t get stuck in the planning stage. Don’t become paralyzed because your plan isn’t perfect. Just make sure you have a clear destination in mind and have listed all the steps you have to take to get you where you want to go. To help you get started on your way, here are some goal setting tips.

1. Write down your goals. Doing so helps you to focus on them. As you write them down and refer to them in the future, they will clarify in your mind and lead to new insights. Always ask yourself what you want from life, what is preventing you from getting it, and what are you going to do about it. Use the power of questions to develop your plan.

2. Define your goals. Get down to specifics. Be precise. Avoid vagueness. For example, “I want to be rich” is a poor goal because your subconscious does not know how to define “rich.” Your subconscious can be a powerful ally in helping you achieve your goals, but it needs to be told precisely what you want. “I want to earn more money” is another example of a poor goal. Why? Because merely earning one dollar a month more than previously would result in successfully achieving your goal! So once you did so, your subconscious may stop looking for more ways to earn money. Here is an example of a good goal, “I want to earn $170,000 a year by age 40.” Make all of your goals equally clear.

3. Set goals that make you stretch.
If you’re overweight, trying to lose one pound a year is an example of a poor goal. To be worthwhile your goals should lead to significant improvement. But don’t overreach either. Trying to lose ten pounds a week, for example, would most likely lead to failure. Far better to set your goal to one pound a week. Overreaching ends in failure, while goals that are too easy prevent growth. Strive for balance. Your goal should stretch you, yet be attainable.

4. How will you benefit from achieving your goal? Why is it important? Write down the answers to these questions and keep them handy. Why? Well, there are two voices in your head, and both are saying, “I want.” One is saying “I want to do what feels good” and the other is saying “I want to do what is best for me, even if I have to make an effort to do so.” Both voices are competing for your attention. One is focused on immediate gratification. It is the voice that urges you to avoid your responsibilities and seek pleasure. For instance, if it is time to go to the health club to exercise, the voice may say, “I can go next week. Instead of exercising, I want to watch TV, or go drinking with friends, or go shopping, or take a nap.” To avoid listening to the wrong voice, refer to your answers to the two questions mentioned above. Focus on the benefits and remind yourself why it is important to maintain your exercise program. Focusing on the reasons to change will help you to stay motivated.

5. Set deadlines. Without a date, it’s not a goal, but a wish. Each step you have to take to reach your goal should have a completion date. Each task is a mini-goal, and as one is completed, the next one begins. Each task or step you take brings you closer to your goal. As long as you keep taking steps, it is impossible not to reach your destination.

6. Subject each goal to a reality check.
Are you fully committed? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to succeed? Do you understand that anything worthwhile needs some effort to achieve? Are you willing to pay the price? If not, instead of wasting time, switch to a goal that you can commit to.

7. Make sure your goal is measurable.
That is, you need to have a way of measuring success. For instance, your goal may be to lose 1 ~ 2 pounds a week, drink 8 glasses of water a day, walk 10 miles a day, or read 10 pages of a book each day.

8. What are the obstacles you have to overcome? How will you overcome these roadblocks? What other hurdles could appear and how will you get over them? Anticipating and preparing for the obstacles you are likely to face will increase your likelihood of success.

9. Plan your work; then work your plan. If your plan is completed, carry it out. Put it into action. Implement it. No matter how small, do something each day to bring you closer to achieving your goal. Check off each task as you complete it. Seeing your own progress will inspire you to continue.

10. Regularly monitor your progress. Life is synonymous with change. Expect the unexpected. Changing circumstances may make it impossible to stick to your original plan. Remain flexible. Look for options, solutions, and opportunities. If you can’t do the best thing, do the next best thing. Adjust and adapt your plan when necessary. You can change your direction as often as you wish, as long as you keep moving forward (closer to what you want or what is possible). Review your goals daily to remain focused on them.

11. Persist. If you persist, it is impossible to fail. In fact, failure doesn’t exist, only learning experiences exist. If you learn from your mistakes, they become stepping-stones to success.

12. Nothing succeeds like success. Let your achievements fan the flames, keep you motivated, and spur you on to bigger and greater goals.

It may seem like many steps to take, but the prize is most certainly worth the effort. Also, the job of planning your life can be made much easier with the help of some software. A good example can be found at:

Finally, I’d like to leave you with these words of inspiration, “Plan more than you can do, then do it. Bite off more than you can chew, then chew it. Hitch your wagon to a star, keep your seat, and there you are.” Just do it!