Do you know where you’re going? Treat your life like a business and create a plan. Here’s how to do it.
If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s going to be hard to get there.
But it’s not always easy to figure out what you want from your career beyond the traditional measures of achievement: a great salary, promotions and professional recognition. What path will allow you to use your talents, enjoy the journey and bring you soul-satisfying success?
Every successful business requires a mission and a plan, and no business is more essential than the business of your life. (Click here to Tweet this thought.) You have a long career ahead of you.
And, like a business, you need a mission and a plan to remain passionately engaged in your work. If the idea of creating a strategic plan for your life leaves you thinking, “I’d rather have a colonoscopy,” rest assured this can be a streamlined, enjoyable process that lets you focus on what’s really important.
Here’s an eight-step program to help you create your strategic plan for a balanced life and joyful career:
1. Define your mission
Your mission is where your talents and passions collide with the needs of others and the world. — Matthew Kelly
Step one is to identify your skills, figure out what you love doing and think about how you can combine those to meet a need.
2. Imagine the sweet smell (sound, look and feel) of success
Next, create a vision of what your life looks like when you’re fully using your gifts, doing what you love most and accomplishing what you set out to do. Your personal definition of success should include ingredients that bring pleasure into your day.
3. Name your critical success factors
Once you’ve defined your purpose and what success means for you, it’s time to go from dreaming to doing. To start, make a list of the elements you need to bring your vision to life. This step marks real progress toward creating your personal plan and builds forward momentum.
4. Find your sweet SWOT
With your list in hand, ask, “Do I have what it takes to get there?” Answer by identifying your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to size up what you have to work with — or work around — as you move into action.
5. Set goals for success
A vision is just a pretty picture until you breathe life into it. Determine what you need to do to make real, steady progress toward living your envisioned life. Create a set of prioritized goals so you can spend your time getting the results you want.
6. Perform a time and emotion study
Money can’t buy love or more time. A strategic plan for your life requires mindfulness to spend your limited time on your priorities. In this step, look at a typical day on your calendar and assess:
- How well your current use of time aligns with your goals.
- Where your actions and priorities don’t line up.
- How to clear the clutter and make room for what matters.
7. Select successful strategies
Designing a business plan for your life allows you to live with integrity — where your actions reflect who you are and what you value. Select the actions most likely to help you achieve your goals.
8. Get going
The idea of starting to live the life of your dreams may be so overwhelming you feel paralyzed. Take one small step at a time until you build momentum and become an unstoppable force. Nothing begets success like success.
If you think creating a business plan is too daunting, you’ll be relieved to know it can take as little as a few hours to create. That’s a worthy investment to set your career path in an inspiring, joyful direction. As the Japanese proverb states, “Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.” With some thoughtful planning, your sweet dreams can come true.
Allison Rimm (@allisonrimm) is a management consultant, executive coach and author of The Joy of Strategy: A Business Plan for Life. She shares her insights and experiences from her years as a Senior Vice President at Massachusetts General Hospital through her Joy Strategies blog and articles for Harvard Business Review and WBUR’s Cognoscenti Blog.