The Problem With Planning – Part One

Most people don’t have plans. You probably disagree with that or at least disagree for yourself. You have plans! Most everyone says they have plans but the reality is that most people don’t have plans. You probably don’t really have plans either. 

You may have ideas, dreams and wishes but none of those are plans. You may even have goals, those goals may even be written down. But goals aren’t plans either. In fact, one of the primary reasons people fail to achieve their goals is that they don’t have a plan to achieve them. Real plans require real work.

That’s the problem with planning!

If you’re not spending at least a part of nearly everyday, yes everyday, on planning them you’re not doing enough planning. It’s no coincidence that the most successful people also happen to be the best planners. Successful people have a plan for every area of their life and they also have a plan for when their original plan goes wrong. 

Ever since my years with the Dale Carnegie Organization I’ve used the 8-step planning process taught in their classes.

It begins with a clear and honest understanding of your present situation. What we call the “as is.” Surprisingly this is where most plans get off track. If you don’t know where you are today, or more likely, won’t admit where you are today, then it will be very difficult to get to where you want to go. If you can’t be clear-minded and honest with yourself about your present situation then you can’t be honest with anyone. People will find it very challenging to help you if you can’t or won’t be honest with them.

The next step is called the “should be” or desired situation. This is a realistic take on where you want to be or what you want to achieve. The key word here is “realistic,” no plan succeeds when it’s so far outside the realm of possibility that it becomes almost silly. Push yourself yes, aim high, don’t listen to the people who say it can’t be done. But always remain grounded in realism.

The next step is to determine the investment you’re willing to make in your plan. This may include a cash investment and it most certainly will include a time investment. No matter how cash strapped you may be the time investment is the biggest obstacle for most people. You can scrimp, save and borrow to get the cash. The time is much much harder to come by and no one can borrow you any and you don’t get to save it up. If you’re not committed to making an investment in your plan then you’re not committed to your plan.

Next you need to set some realistic goals. You’ll need 3 types of goals; short range, usually less than 30 days, you’ll need medium range goals, 30 days to a year and long range goals that can go from a year to 10 years or longer. It would be easy to write several posts on the process of goal setting alone but let me give you just a few thoughts here. 

You’ll notice we started this step with “realistic” goals. You should only set goals in areas where you have complete control. If you set goals in areas where “things need to fall into place” in order for you to achieve your goals then you’ll give up the minute “things” fall the wrong way. You should also set goals that are achievable. I don’t mean easy goals, we want our goals to stretch us but the goals must be possibly. It must be able to come about through your actions and effort. Setting a goal of driving your Honda to the moon is a bad goal because nothing you can do will cause that goal to be achieved.  

The goal setting step in this process is critical. When you have attainable goals set you have the motivation required to execute your plan. When you achieve a short range goal you also achieve the motivation to push on to a medium range goal. Without goals to achieve there really is no need for a plan at all and you likely will not feel the urgency to invest the time required to make one. 

The goal setting step is the longest step, the one requiring the greatest investment of time. It is also the most valuable and perhaps the most enjoyable. It’s the most enjoyable because you get to dream a bit in this step. Remember to dream big because big success comes from big dreams. 

In part two of this post we’ll explore the next four steps in this process. Those four steps will help turn your dreams into reality. 

5 thoughts on “The Problem With Planning – Part One

  1. Steve,

    I appreciate how you broke down the difference between goal setting and planning. They really are two separate components.

    Your post is a great reminder that when we help our employees set career goals, we check in with them throughout the year (quarterly, if not monthly) to see if they are on track and reaching planned milestones.

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