Fail To Plan, Plan To Fail (written July, 2004)

You can assure your business success with a “Life Plan.” Commit to making (and sticking to) a “Life Plan.” Doing so will help you balance your “whole life” and assure that you are ready to take on new workplace challenges as they are presented. It will also guarantee that you execute them well.

Just as in life, when establishing business goals and objectives, you must do so in a long term context. 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. Norman Vincent Peale said it best: “We tend to get what we expect.” These insights are offered on the value of mission critical Life Planning:

*Passivity will get you nowhere. Far too many are not as happy as they would like to be, 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 us have a personal “Life Plan.” 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 their activities and often in doing so their subsequent outcomes.

*Take the task seriously. Creating a life plan does requires work. The first time out, developing this toll can be challenging, particularly for anyone who has 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 “Life Plan” requires a level of commitment to take it from concept to completions. The more detailed your life plan, the more readily you can identify areas of weakness and find actionable ways to overcome them.

*Get to know the “real” you. Many individuals have outward signs of success such as job titles, corner office, and expensive homes, cars and other material possessions. Few have overall satisfaction with their life. They’ve learned firsthand the age old truth that money does not buy happiness. Before you start making a life plan, make certain that you know what truly makes you happy so that you can steer your ship accordingly. Creating a plan without taking into account the ‘real’ you can lead to a life which may appear successful outwardly while providing no sense of satisfaction or happiness inside. We all know stories of people who have a lot of possessions but are still not satisfied.

*Cover all the bases. A good “Life Plan” takes into account three different facets of life: the professional self – the one who goes out each day to make a living; the personal self – the one who does things which replenish them for and with those they love; and the financial self – who understands and manages money for the long haul. Addressing each of these life elements assures that you will address, think through and plan for all critical areas that ultimately intertwine.

*Challenge yourself. 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 “Life Plan.” The most successful people create goals for themselves that push them to work hard while still being attainable. They give themselves specific time deadlines which are just as demanding to achieve as those goals. A good rule of thumb – if you push yourself, each of your goals and target dates should have about an 80% chance of success. Be your own boss – and a strict one at that.

*Keep tabs. The “Life Plan” should be updated on an annual basis to keep it evolving and like your 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. Just like you, it’s a fluid, continuous work in progress.

Virtually every successful individual – from corporate executives to government officials to people in small businesses – have a personal “Life Plan” of some sort. Their plans might not always be written down but it will usually be fairly detailed with deadlines and clear actionable goals. In short these individuals have a business plan for their career and their life. Feel free to approach any individual that you know who is very successful and ask them if they have a plan which they work toward – most of the time their answer will be “yes!” Simply put if you want something have a plan to get it.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.