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.
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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.
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.” 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).”
The main trait that is associated with success is planning. It is sometimes more important than talent.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
- How to Start Setting Strategic Goals for a Successful Life
- How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Personal Goals
- Why Having a Goals Strategy Can Help You Achieve More
Featured photo credit: Glenn Carstens-Peters via unsplash.com