Have you ever heard the quote “failing to plan is planning to fail?”
For anyone who lives by this quote, you know how profound that simple statement is.
Planning is one of my greatest strengths and I’ve learned to use this skill to achieve great things that I never would have done otherwise. As a natural strategic planner I always look to map out ways of getting from point A to point B, and today I am going to share with you the tremendous power that comes from putting an effective plan behind your goals.
To demonstrate the power of a plan, I am going to cover:
- Why you need a plan
- A case study from my own life
- 4 steps for creating effective plans to achieve your own goals
Why You Need a Plan
To start, I would contend that you need a plan for any goal you want to accomplish. The simple fact is that goals are powerless without a plan to make them reality.
Do you have the same problems today that you had a year ago? Being honest, are you going to recycle at least one New Year’s resolution from last year’s list when setting next year’s goals?
If you have lingering goals that never seem to get achieved, the missing ingredient might just be an effective plan.
Personal Case Study – My First Race
To illustrate the tremendous power of having a plan, I want to share a personal story with you about an achievement in my own life which wouldn’t have happened without a plan.
To give you some context, upon graduating from university almost 4 years ago, the combination of a generous meal plan and plenty of social outings left me carrying around an extra 30lbs in fat. Despite gaining a “freshman 15” during my first 3 years of college, I decided I wanted to run a marathon.
Prior to setting this goal I had no previous running experience. In elementary school I couldn’t run 1km in gym class without getting a side stitch, and I had just set a goal to run 44km. Knowing nothing about running I knew I needed a good plan to prepare for a marathon within a 5 month span. So, in my typical fashion, I did some research, found out who the experts were in the running field, and picked up a book by Hal Higdon entitled “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide”. From this book I learned everything I needed to know about training, nutrition, and where most runners failed in their preparation.
After following one of the training plans outlined in the book to a tee for 5 straight months, tracking my pace and heart rate on every run, and logging over 500km in training, I ran my first marathon and beat my goal time by 14 minutes. If I had started training without a plan and “winged it”, I would have been much more prone to injury, over training and may not have even finished the race.
The favorable outcome at the end of this experience taught me that hard work applied to a smart plan goes much further than hard work alone. I also learned that with an effective plan, I really can accomplish great things.
The 4 Steps of an Effective Plan
1. Set a clear goal
The first step in creating an effective plan is to determine where you want to go. What is your goal? Begin with the end in mind.
2. Determine where you are now
With a clear goal set before you, the second step is to be honest about where you are now. A plan is like a road map, but you need to know where you currently are for it to be an effective tool. The more accurate your assessment of your current situation, the easier it will be to create a plan that will get you from point A to point B.
3. Connect the dots
With an honest assessment of your current situation, the next step is to connect the dots by working backward from your goal to determine each of the steps you’ll need to take to get there. This third step may require some research, but the more accurate your plan, the easier your journey will be.
4. Follow through
The fourth and final step once you have a plan is to apply the discipline required to stick to it one day at a time.
Following these four steps, you’ll get the results you want and be impressed at how quickly your successes begin to pile up.
As I stated earlier, you need a plan to give your goals power. A goal without a plan for realizing that goal is just a wish. Planning empowers you and allows you to accomplish things you would never be able to do otherwise. The best part is that planning is easy and anyone can do it.
New Year’s Challenge
My challenge to you come January 1st is this: don’t allow yourself to make any empty New Year’s Resolutions.
If you are going to set a goal, set out an appropriate plan to achieve that goal. Give your goals power by creating a realistic plan that will get you from point A to point B. That way, you’ll be able to cross off last year’s items and choose a new goal for next year.
photo credit: anitakhart
If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email or RSS.