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Published on December 15, 2020

How To Create a Personal Strategic Plan That Aligns With Your Goals

How To Create a Personal Strategic Plan That Aligns With Your Goals

Creating a personal strategic plan is necessary to achieve your goals. Most companies do that. But for some reason, some talented, motivated individuals don’t. It makes no sense and yet, people broadly think about their goals but don’t create a personal strategy to achieve them.

In this article, I’m going to address that as it is one of the most critical single tasks you can do to change the course of your life.

Defining Your Personal Strategic Plan

Let’s start with the perfect example of John (pseudonym). As a child, he was never the best athlete. He played all of the different types of games, including football, baseball, and basketball. Guessing who it is yet?

At the age of 15, he tried to join the basketball team and failed. He was too short and managed to get in to carry the uniform of the star player. If you’re still not guessing it, you’re probably not a huge sports fan. The story continues as he continued to practice hard, waking up at 6 am each day, and after a year finally making it to the basketball team that lost the first three tournaments.

He continued practicing even harder and eventually became perhaps the most influential basketball player of all times—Michael Jordan.

You might argue that it is definitely a combination of raw talent and hard work for athletes. Still, no one can say that without practice and working hard for years on the same goal, this hard-working individual would have never achieved his achievements.

This is why it is crucial to define your strategy and then pursue it. It cannot guarantee that you’ll become a world-class athlete, but it can guarantee that you’ll have the best chances of getting to your goals with your unique set of capabilities. And we’re going to provide you with research-based proven methods of preparing your personal plan.

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What Is a Personal Strategic Plan?

According to an article in the Journal of Management Research, “effective personal strategy means being able to think in multiple time frames, clarifying what one is trying to achieve over time as well as what needs to be done in the short term to get there.”[1] In other words, it means setting a vision and a plan to execute it.

A growth mindset is essential when preparing a strategic plan. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be ambitious enough—and if you’re here thinking about your long term goals, it means that most chances are that you already have a growth mindset.

According to an essay in HBR (Harvard Business Review), “individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”[2]

The main trait that is associated with success is planning. It is sometimes more important than talent.[3]

There are tons of methods for building your personal strategy, and I’m going to cover some of them. They all share an understanding of a high-level vision, a sense of your values, and practical steps on how to get there.

Horizons of Focus

David Allen is one of the leading time management specialists globally with his famous book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. One aspect of time management is the understanding of what you need to get done. Some people tend to move forward in the younger categories without spending some time thinking about what they actually need to get done.

His method includes six horizons (including the ground horizon):

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Horizon 5 – Purpose and Principles

This is where you set your vision for life. Of course, this is a big thing that requires you to think about what you would be happy with accomplishing perhaps decades from now. Subquestions are which jobs, lines of industry, impact, and legacy are you interested in.

An excellent method to examine that is by using the “five why’s” process. In this simple method, you should ask yourself “why” to help you understand the real reasons for choosing your vision. =

For example: if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, you can ask yourself why’s that. If the cause is to make an impact, you can ask yourself additional questions, such as whether this is the best way to make an impact. If you decide that it is, you might wonder why you want an impact. Perhaps it is because there is something you deeply care about. That was a simple partial example of examining yourself and your vision.

Your vision shouldn’t be only on professional goals; it should be on every life goal you care about. A bad example would be: “to be the most successful businessman or woman ever!” It is not unique and does not address your inner wants and needs. A good one would be specific, non-generic for you and your personal goals.

By choosing a long-term goal specific for you, you can continue to the next step of figuring out how your new few years will be like.

The second part of this horizon is principles. By choosing your principles, you can re-examine your choices and see if they amount to your expectation from yourself.

Horizon 4 – Three- to Five-Year Vision

Now that you have clearly defined your goal in life, you can plan the next few years. Every ambitious goal takes time to accomplish and you should, on the one hand, plan how to get there and on the second, understand that flexibility is vital during these times as there are a lot of changes going on.

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This is when you decide on specific goals, such as career path. If you aim to be a writer and your goal is to become a columnist in the New York Times eventually, what would get you there? If your dream is to start a successful startup, what can you do to learn the right things to qualify you as a leading entrepreneur? And, if your goal is to be a world-class game designer, what should you do to get there. The examples can go on.

When considering the next specific moves you should take, it is always recommended to find a mentor to consult with. Someone you look up to and picture their life as ones that you would like to have. They are usually at least 10-15 years older and successful in achieving their goals.

What would be the next 3-5 years step to get you to your vision? This is not an easy question to answer. But broadly speaking, you should envision a road that can’t be 100% clear sometimes and still takes you in the right direction.

Horizon 3: One- to Two-Year Goals and Objectives

So, what’s the next year’s going to look like? Let’s say that you chose a specific career path. Now, you should focus on what would be the main criteria and key performance indicators that would help you get there. That may seem far from your vision, but visions are, by nature, sometimes a bit far.

If you decided that you want to be a successful entrepreneur in five years to impact climate change positively but you still don’t feel that you have the knowledge to do that, a first step might be working for a startup that’s doing that. And when you take a look at the first year of working for that startup, it might be a good idea to understand your job requirements and prepare to be excellent doing them. By doing that, you’re on the right path to your dream.

Horizon 2: Areas of Focus and Accountability

After learning what you need to in order to plan the next few years, we’re now getting to the important daily stuff. What are the primary few things that are important for your success in achieving your goal?

This is the part when you understand your day to day responsibilities and excel at making them. I’m not elaborating on that because it is very specific to each goal.

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Horizon 1: Projects

That’s the small stuff—the open loops of your goals that need to be achieved. One example can editing that company movie. Another one might be finishing that report. That can also be personal stuff, such as organizing the birthday party for your brother. You have tons of these, and every once in a while, it is suggested to ensure that they align with the higher-level goals you have.

After these add everything to your calendar, the last step is to actually—like the book’s name—get it done. You can use tons of project management systems, such as Monday, Asana, Notion, and others. In Notion, they actually have a prepared template for this suggested method.

Additional Methods

The above method is just one out of many. Another one is called V2MOM, and Salesforce’s founder invented it. The idea is to ask yourself 5 questions—some of them were also asked above, which would help you clarify your vision and get it.

The five questions are:

  • Vision – what do you want to achieve?
  • Values – what’s important to you?
  • Methods – how do you get it?
  • Obstacles – what is preventing you from being successful?
  • Measures – how do you know you have it?

Summary

As mentioned, knowing where you want to go and preparing for it has a huge impact on your success in life. That may seem obvious, but some ambitious people don’t manage their lives in a way that helps them position themselves in the best way possible to succeed. I encourage everyone to spend a few hours thinking and coming up with a personal strategic plan.

More About Goal Planning Strategies

Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] ResearchGate: Personal Strategy and Change Readiness
[2] Harvard Business Review: What Having a “Growth Mindset” Actually Means
[3] NCBI: Strategic planning: a tool for personal and career growth

More by this author

Yair Nativ

Yair is an award-winning serial entrepreneur passionate about the opportunities that technology offers to improve people's lives.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2021

30 Goals To Set For Yourself Before Turning Into 40s

30 Goals To Set For Yourself Before Turning Into 40s

Some people believe that once they’ve passed the age of 30, they’re too old to do something new and exciting; that it’s time for them to settle down.

If you have found your dream job, and are clear about your purpose of life, then go ahead and live your best life! However, it’s never too late to dream a new dream and set some new goals.

The vast majority of the people focus on their careers and how much they need to earn, but there are certain things you should do to create unforgettable memories and make yourself proud of what you managed to accomplish.

Whereas there are countless ideas which vary on your attitude and lifestyle, the following list is full of things anyone should try.

1. Visit a new continent.

New continent means a whole new experience, different culture and tons of interesting people to meet. Everyone should visit another continent at least once in a lifetime, it’s a priceless experience.

2. Travel to at least 20 countries.

Each new country you visit is an original life lesson and unique memories. The more countries you travel to, the better you can compare them and draw conclusions from people’s behavior, culture, and rituals. By spending time in different environments, we can learn a lot about ourselves.

3. Make at least one friend in every country you visit.

Traveling somewhere without making a new friend there is a huge loss. By interacting with local people, you may have a chance to learn about the secret facts of that very location and explore some mysterious places. What’s more, creating a bond with the locals creates an opportunity to revisit the country cheaper by being hosted by the people you’ve met.

4. Take a spontaneous trip.

Without planning every single detail, pack all the necessary stuff and set off into the unknown. You don’t even have to leave your country, the key is to make it impromptu, face what life throws at you and see how you can deal with that. Once the trip is over, you’ll learn some incredible lessons that you wouldn’t have by booking an all-inclusive vacation.

Catching a last-minute flight to a random destination might be a starting point for a serious adventure.

5. Learn a new language.

Do you know what’s the Bill Gates’ most regretted thing is? It’s not learning a second language. During your travel, it’s a great opportunity to practice your language skills with locals. While you are at home, you can learn the basics using books, attending a course or through online programs. And then, once you have a chance to speak with native speakers, this will be the moment when you learn the most. During just a few months of attending a German high school, I learned far more than spending two years of practice with books (though it was a good preparation).

6. Go Bungee Jumping.

This idea may seem crazy to you, but it’s just a warm up comparing to the next one. Bungee jumping is an insane way to face your fears and do something against common sense. As for me, it’s a valuable lesson which emphasizes the fact that even the scariest things turn out to be tolerable once you go through them.

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7. Skydive.

As I promised, this one is hardcore. Experience the unstoppable power of gravitation and see the world from a different perspective. Though I didn’t skydive yet, doing it at least once is definitely on my bucket list.

8. Face your worst fear.

Whatever you fear, most probably it’s a mental issue and not a real danger. There’re countless phobias people suffer from. I don’t know what’s yours, but I dare you to test your limits and see how far you can go.

9. Stand on top of a mountain.

And get there going on a foot. The view from the top is invaluable and unique. You literally feel the power of nature and see how small we actually are comparing to the natural forces.

10. Boost your financial stability.

Before you turning into 40, becoming financially independent is almost mandatory. To avoid getting lost in debt and make the money work for you and not vice versa, you should devote some time to learning finances. This 14-day plan is a great way to start.

11. Create your personal emergency fund.

Saving money regularly is a life-saving habit once you are in financial troubles. Most experts suggest your emergency fund should allow yourself to cover at least 3 months of living expenses. While you are busy making your dreams come true and doing crazy things, be aware that accidents do happen, so having a financial security is definitely helpful while you’ll be figuring out the alternative plan to solve your problems.

12. Create an online business on the side.

Nowadays, there are endless ways to make some extra money online. A legit method almost anyone can try out is monetizing your skills through creating an online course or ebook. It’s a great way to cover additional expenses and learn a bit of entrepreneurship from real life experience. Maybe you’ll even be able to leave your 9–5 and create your dream lifestyle making money from any place in the world like digital nomads do.

To learn more, check out these 24 easy ways to make money on the internet.

13. Develop a habit of daily exercising.

The older you are, the more likely you are to lead a sedentary lifestyle which is a horrible tendency. To avoid it, focus on creating healthy habits. There’s no excuse for not finding at least 20 minutes a day to train. You can try out bodyweight workouts or go for a quick run.

Your body will be incredibly grateful and serve you well for longer.

Although he has one of the most exacting jobs you can imagine, Barrack Obama works out for 45-minute every day. It’s a habit everyone should borrow.

14. Start eating healthy.

Diet-related problems are a huge concern in today’s world. More than one-third U.S. adults are obese. Mostly, because of unhealthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Taking care of your eating patterns is mandatory if you keep your health. The more you put it off, there more likely you are to never get started.

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In a nutshell, choose unprocessed, whole products and avoid junk food with huge amounts of sugar, salt, and fat.

15. Get in the best shape of your life.

There are some living miracles like C.T. Fletcher who achieved the best shape during his 50s. However, now is always the perfect moment to do that. Educate yourself about nutrition, maybe invest in a personal coach and commit to fully transform your body. There are countless 1-year transformations on Youtube which serve as a great source of inspiration.

Once you are in your life’s best shape, go on a photo session so you can proudly show your grandchildren how shredded you once were.

16. Become a disciplined person.

Self-discipline is an enormously useful skill when it comes to making your dreams become a reality. Without discipline, you can’t stick to your commitments and work toward your goals. Becoming a person with rules will have a positive impact on your future self.

The fact is, you can either control yourself or let yourself control you. If you dream of a meaningful life, you’ll definitely aim for the first option.

This free self-discipline book is a good resource to begin with.

17. Become a morning person.

The majority of the most successful people swear by the power of being an early riser. Whether it’s CEOs, world’s best athletes or other outstanding individuals, most of them have a morning routine which highly contributes to their success.

Morning ritual empowers your day and gives you an advantage over the rest of the world which still sleeps while you work to become a better self.

18. Read at leat 100 books.

Whatever your problem is, there is at least one decent book offering a solution. Books hide incredible value and knowledge. The sad fact is, however, more and more people prefer TV shows or video games.

Once I became a regular reader, I realized how much you miss out if you refuse to read. The impact books have made (and still make) on my life is gigantic.

Start to finish reading at least one book a month, and you will have completed 12 book a year!

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If you don’t know which books to choose, check out this post.

19. Write a book.

81% of the population feels they could write a book, but only the minority takes action and starts writing. The truth is, once you begin to write, you are a writer. Finishing a book is challenging but the sense of satisfaction afterward is definitely worth it.

Pick a topic and devote 30 minutes a day to writing. In a year or even sooner, you’ll not only drastically improve your language skills but also finish your first book.

Nowadays, when self-publishing becomes more and more popular, you can release your work avoiding the middlemen and maybe even discover that your calling turns out to be a writer. You don’t know until you try…

20. Write a letter to your future self.

Make sure to include your dreams, expectations and plans. Decide how much time needs to go by until you open your letter. Once you do it, it will be the moment of truth and a chance to see whether you became who you wanted to be.

If you prefer modern technology, you can write an email to your future self using free services like futureme.org.

21. Go offline for a whole month.

Imagine no Facebook, Internet, Reddit or Lifehack for the whole month. This 30-day challenge tests your ability to entertain yourself in the world ruled by technology, avoiding the Internet and computers completely. To make it even more spicy, cut off the television.

It’s a great opportunity to spend more time with your friends and family, focus on your passions and read more books.

22. Take a picture every day for a whole year.

I doubt there are many mementos better than this. Once the year is over, you create a time-lapse which shows portrait by portrait how you changed during the 365 days.

Watching it 20 years later will probably make you cry.

23. Make a list of things that truly make you happy.

And make sure to do these activities as often as possible. You can have all the money in the world and a career that society considers the most successful, yet you can feel miserable. It’s because the real happiness comes from experiences, self-realization, and contribution. While you discover the world checking off the things from this list, try to find out which environment makes you the happiest person in the world.

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Whenever you face a hard moment, take out your happiness-list and start doing one of the things from it. As a result, the bad emotion fades away much quicker.

24. Complete the integrity challenge.

Integrity challenge is an idea from I borrowed from Joel Runyon. Oftentimes our actions don’t represent our thoughts and commitments. This weird phenomenon is most visible when a new year begins and most of the people fail to stick to their resolutions. The way it works is simple. Choose one thing, ideally an uncomfortable task like daily jogging for 30 minutes, determine the timeframe (e.g. 90 days) and then just do your thing every single day without failing even once until you arrive at the finish line.

This test points out your weaknesses and questions your willpower. However, once you accomplish it successfully, it gives you a huge motivation boost to pursue more complex goals which every 20-something should aim at.

25. Help a homeless person to get back to a normal life.

Our life isn’t only about ourselves but also about the people around us. There are many folks who really need help but are ignored by the majority of the society. Imagine supporting a homeless person with the goal in mind to make them a self-sufficient member of the community again.

If you feel miserable, be aware that giving back is one of the fastest methods to make yourself incredibly happy.

26. Donate to a local foundation.

The amount of your donation doesn’t matter, the fact of doing it does. Imagine if everyone (who’s financially independent) donated a dollar a month to a foundation of choice. It seems small but once you add up all the donations, the sum can make a huge difference in other people’s lives.

27. Stop looking for other people’s approval.

This is an especially useful yet rare skill. We definitely care way too much about how others perceive us which in result lowers your self-esteem and confidence as well as makes you overthink the simple choices. Abandoning the validation completely is tough, but it’s worth working toward it.

Once you accept the inevitable disapproval, you can become your true and authentic self. To get started, have a look at this post.

28. Learn to say no.

Saying no at the right moment is a habit which guarantees you a better life. However, the tendency in most people is quite the opposite. They say yes way too much and end up with unnecessary commitments and responsibilities which don’t add any value to their lives.

Now is when you should finally grasp that. There are plenty of things you don’t need to say yes to all the time.

29. Make a DIY furniture.

Do it yourself” movement grows in popularity and some of the ideas people come up with are seriously unbelievable. Creating your own piece of furniture boosts your creativity, tests your manual skills and saves you money. The satisfaction after putting your favorite books on a hand-made shelf beats every commercial furniture.

30. Spend a night under the stars.

As for me, watching the sky in the night is the best way to get the existential buzz. It’s a beautiful scenario to contemplate about your life, plans, and the future. Pitch a tent in the nature, make a bonfire, invite your loved ones and fire your imagination with the stars.

Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

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