A Vision and a Plan to Achieve It are Two Different Things

It’s interesting when I ask people about their future plans. They tell me things like “my plan is to be debt free in three years.” I respond by saying that’s a terrific vision, so what’s the plan to get there?

I often see a deer in the headlights kind of look. 

That indicates to me that most people don’t understand that merely having a vision does absolutely nothing to ensure you achieve it. A vision of your future come from dreams and the attainment of that vision comes from planning.

Almost all people believe having goals is important. Many actually have written their goals down. Few however, have any kind of a formal plan for how, and when, they will achieve those goals. They can only hope it will somehow magically happen. 

I suppose it’s possible but personally I’ve never seen hoping for magic actually lead to success. 

The development of a true plan requires a complete examination of your starting point, your “As Is” or current situation. You need to be very honest here and not sugar coat the starting point on your journey to success. If you try to fool yourself in this step every other part of your plan will be wrong. You’ll demotivate yourself before you even have a chance for success.

You also need to have a clear vision of your future. Where you are going and why you want to go there. This is the “Should Be” part of your plan. Keep in mind, this is not your goals, this is where you end up when your goals are achieved. 

Now that you have that end result in mind you need to decide what you’re willing to give up to have it. Life is a trade off. Many people think in terms of what they are willing to do to achieve their vision. They fill their plans with all the things they will do to make it happen.

But they forget they only have 1440 minutes a day. If they are busy people most of that time is already used up. If you’re going to do new things to achieve your vision then you’ll almost certainly have to let some of the things you had been doing go. Build those into your plan as well. Be realistic about the time you’re willing to commit, failing to do that will result in the failure of your plan. 

Now you can set some goals. These goals are the stepping stones on your path to success. You’ll want some short term goals, some medium term goals and some long range goals. All the goals must align, what that means is that the accomplishment of each short term goal should get you closer to one of your medium term goals. 

The accomplishment of each medium term goal should get you closer to a long range goal. The accomplishment of every goal should move you closer to your actual vision. Be careful when setting goals, if they stretch you too far you could give up on them. If they don’t stretch you far enough then you’ll likely never see that vision come to life. Be realistic!

Now the truly important part. The timetable! When will you begin? I mean exactly when will you begin? Spell this out down to the minute. Not next month or next week. The plan must say I will begin at 8:03am on Monday the 27th of June. Be precise. 

Every goal needs a precise start time and achievement date and time. I’ll begin working towards this particular goal on July 13th at 11:51am and I’ll have accomplished it by August 21st at 2:02pm. 

Your plan also must include the ultimate accomplishment date. When EXACTLY will the vision come to life. 

Imagine the motivation that comes from knowing exactly what you’re doing everyday and exactly why you’re doing it. That’s powerful. 

Now, here’s where most plans go off the rails. “Stuff” as they say happens. And that’s perfectly okay because part of your plan includes periodic reviews to adjust the time frames for the goals and maybe even adjust some of the goals. The most common mistake in planning is tossing the plan in the trash as soon as the first unplanned obstacle pops up. 

Adjust, adapt, innovate and keep moving towards your ultimate vision.

The most successful people are steadfast in the pursuit of their goals but they are flexible in that pursuit. Let the “stuff” happen, but don’t get stuck in it. 

On a another subject…I’m trying something new on Twitter. It’s called “Super Followers.” For $5 a month, that’s 17 cents a day, people can follow a part of my Twitter stream that is for subscribers only. It features short videos of me discussing leadership topics, sales tips and ideas for better overall relationships. I’m assuming there will be far fewer Super Followers than the million or so people who regularly follow me on Twitter. That will give me the opportunity to answer questions more throughly than I can on regular Twitter. Most of the answers will come in the evening cause we all have day jobs, right? Think of it as ”mentoring on demand!”

My goal with SuperFollowers is to build a better connection, one where I can perhaps help more and have a greater impact. I’m hoping it gives me a chance to mentor to a wider audience. It’s still new, we’ll see how it works. It’s a $5 dollar investment that may be the extra “push” you need to get to where you want to be. I’d be honored to be able to help get you there. 

You can find more information by clicking the Super Follow button on my Twitter profile page IN THE TWITTER APP. http://twitter.com/leadtoday Give it a try if you’re so inclined, and if you are, be sure to let me know how I’m doing and how I can be of even more help.

Yes, You DO Have Time

There’s only one thing I don’t have time for. It’s people who tell me that they don’t have time. Everyone has enough time to accomplish all of their priorities. What many people don’t have is priorities. 

The reality is that without priorities time doesn’t matter. When everything is of equal importance then nothing is important. People without true priorities finish up their day and wonder where the time went. People with priorities and goals that align with them know exactly where their time went. It was used precisely where they intended to use it. 

So please don’t tell me you don’t have time. Tell me you can’t manage your time. Tell me you have no ability to prioritize. Tell me you just don’t know what to do next but don’t tell me you don’t have enough time.

Now I’m no time management expert. I don’t actually believe there is such a person. To manage time you would have to be able to stop it, to add to it, or borrow it from someone else. As far as I know, none of that is possible. 

So stop taking time management courses, most of the are just another waste of your time. Instead, start managing the events that use up your time. Managing the events that make up your day becomes much easier when you learn to use one word. It’s a tiny word, it’s a word than many people are offended by. It’s a word that many of us struggle to say, especially when we most need to. 

The word is NO. 

I say no to a hell of a lot of people and even more things. I, just like you, have 1440 minutes in each day. Unlike many of you, I alone decide how they will be used. I know that each day will have time devoted to family. Each day will have time devoted to work. Each day will have time set aside for fun. (Yep, each and every day) 

Some days I set aside time to do nothing. Some people don’t seem to be able to understand that particular concept. They call and ask what I’m doing on Saturday. I say I’m doing nothing. They say great, let’s do this. I reply that I can’t, I’m doing nothing on Saturday. They are very confused. For me, doing nothing is something and it’s pretty great.

I don’t blame them for being confused. One of the greatest stress producing beliefs that too many people have is that you must be doing something every waking minute of the day. Folks, I’m here to tell you that just ain’t so. 

I also have me time. My me time usually starts around 4:00am and ends around 5:00am. It’s only an hour but for me it’s an important hour. I’ll bet it would be for you too. In that hour I write stuff like this post. I do most I my social media efforts in that hour as well. I skim a few newspapers most days in that hour and it’s my time alone. No one is up in the house so I’m not taking time away from my family for me. My co-workers haven’t thought of getting out of bed yet so I’m not affecting them by focusing on me. 

5:00am to 5:30am I look at the days events and divide up my time according to the priorities my goals have set for me. Some days the number one priority might be a lunch with a colleague who needs my help. Other days it might be something I’d really rather not do but I know it must be done. There is even open time on my calendar that I allow other people to fill with their priorities because helping others is a priority for me.

Having a clear set of priorities each day will eliminate much of the day-to-day stress most people experience. Even on the days life throws you a curve and your priorities go out the window you’ll have less stress than others because you’re still in control of your time more days than not. 

So remember, when you start feeling stressed over time it’s likely of your own doing. Or more likely it’s because of what you didn’t do. You didn’t say NO!

The Absolute Unimportance of…Almost Everything 

A former colleague of mine used to get himself worked up over the littlest things. But just when you thought he was about to blow his top he would stop, take a breath, and say out loud, “Well, the heck with it, this won’t matter in a hundred years so why worry about it now.” 

After hearing him say that about 100 times it got me to thinking what exactly will matter 100 years from now. The answer I came up with was “almost nothing.” I mean that seriously, unless I find a cure for cancer or discover life on a planet in a distant solar system most anything I do today will be long forgotten in 100 years. 

I mean this seriously too…do not take what you do too seriously. Most of us are not that big of a deal. Most of what we do is just not very important. 

Most people would disagree with that because they confuse urgent things with the important things in life. A former United States President, Dwight Eisenhower once said he had two kinds of problems, urgent and important. About those problems he said, “The urgent are not important and the important are never urgent. 

Too many people spend their time on the urgent things of life. They do so at the expense of the important things of life. If you’re not sure of the difference let me tell you how I look at it. 

Important things are activities that have an outcome that leads to us achieving our goals, whether these are personal or professional. Urgent activities are those things that we think demand immediate attention. They are usually associated with achieving someone else’s goals.  They are often the ones we concentrate on and give immediate attention to because the consequences of not handling them can be immediate. 

The most successful people have a longer view of life. They balance the important with the urgent much more effectively than less successful people. Of course one of the reasons less successful people struggle in this area is because they lack formal goals to guide them in their decision making. 

Few things in life I can guarantee more than this…if you lack real goals in life then you will spend your life helping people who do have real goals achieve theirs. 

So here’s a few of questions I’d encourage you to ask yourself on a very regular basis. How much will what I’m about to do matter in 30 days? How much will it matter in a year? How much will it matter in five years? 

Then act accordingly.

Let me give you one little example that my wife taught me many years ago. You have company coming over. The company are some friends from work. Your two toddlers have made a mess of the house. You HAVE to get the house cleaned up before the company arrives. Your kids WANT you to read them a story.

Which one is urgent and which one is important? Which one will matter down the road? When you change jobs in a few years you may not ever see those work friends again. But you’ll never get those 30 minutes of story time back again. 

The mess in the house will wait. The kids will not. 

I am always fully aware of the absolute unimportance of almost everything I do. That in no way makes me less important as a person. It in no way demeans what I do. It does allow me to have better balance in my life. It allows me to consciously make decisions to at times sacrifice the important for the urgent. But I know I’m doing it and I know why. 

I know for a fact that this post won’t matter in 100 years. But I hope it matters to someone today and I hope for your sake, that someone is you. 

Take Charge of Your Life

Almost everyone I talk to says they would like “things” to improve in 2022. When asked to be more specific many of the people say, “you know, just things in general.”

Well, generally speaking “things” don’t improve until somebody improves them. I guess that’s where the “somebody ought to do something” phrase comes from.

People want improvement and they want somebody else to give it to them.

That would be nice if it worked that way and I suppose every once in a while it does. But waiting for “somebody” to do “something” to make your life “better” is kinda like waiting to win the lottery when you haven’t even purchased a ticket.

If you want to be sure of improvement this year then you need to realize that if it’s going to happen then YOU need to take responsibility for making it happen. Don’t wait on anything or anyone. Don’t hope for something good to happen, make something good happen.

Make a plan for self-improvement and then implement the plan. It can be professional improvement or improvement in your personal life. Maybe both. Be aware that some improvement will require that you start doing something that you may not particularly like doing. Other improvement will require that you perhaps stop doing something you like.

Oftentimes what we stop doing has more positive impact on our lives than what we start doing.

There are many things in your life that you don’t control but if you really want a better life then you must control the things you can…and they are many too. The most successful people accept responsibility for their lives.

They accept responsibility for what they do and what they didn’t do that they should have.

Change will happen in the New Year, the question is, will change happen to you or because of you? Will you be in control of your life in 2022 or allow “somebody” else to determine your life’s trajectory?

It’s a simple choice but it’s a choice that only you can make.

How You Doin’?

We’re a little bit past the middle of the year and some of you have already decided whether this is going to be a good year or not so good. For those of you who have struggled thus far let me remind you we’re a little bit past the half-way point. You have plenty of time to turn things around. For those of you who have done well so far let me remind you too, we have a whole lot of this year left. If your year has been good so far then there is no reason it needs to stay that way…you can change it into a great year.

The key to moving from not so good to good is the same as moving from good to great. You must know where you are today in order to know what you need to do to be someplace else tomorrow. 

Many people reading this have not yet invested any time this year to determine exactly where they are and how they got there. Now is the perfect time for some self-reflection. 

What have you been doing that is not working for you? What haven’t you been doing that you should be doing? When was the last time you sat quietly and reviewed your goals for the year and your goals for life? Are you spending time with people who feed you negativity or investing time with people who build you up?

NOW is the perfect time to ask yourself those questions. The opportunity to change direction remains yours to seize. The decision to speed up your progress is yours to make. 

Wherever you are at this point in time it’s vital that you understand that you put yourself there. Your decisions, choices and actions have consequences or benefits. If you’re blaming others or blaming your circumstances then you’ve lost control of your year…maybe even your life. 

The most successful people don’t blame their circumstances. They create circumstances that give them the best chance to succeed. They create those circumstances with thoughtful decisions, good choices and taking appropriate action to follow through on both. 

Self-reflection requires that you be honest with yourself. Sometimes brutally honest. It also requires an understanding that you are the master and creator of your future…if you choose to be. 

Invest some time today to take a mid-year assessment of your current situation and your desired situation. Adjust what you must and be fearless in jettisoning the things, actions and maybe people, who add no value to your life. 

You still have time to make this year exactly what you want it to be. Perhaps even better than you could have imagined. Just remember, if it’s to be it’s up to you to make it so.

Leaving Life to Chance

Most people would describe themselves as relatively cautious. They say that they are willing to take some risks but there must be something in return. They say any risks that they do take are considered in advance. Most people are “careful,” or so they say. 

But watch them a while and ask a few, and I mean very few, questions and you’ll discover that they are in fact huge risk takers. They make huge gambles all the time. Taking chances that no truly prudent person would ever consider. 

So how would you describe yourself? Are you a person who makes well considered decisions or are you a Willy Nilly type who mostly throws caution to the wind and takes life as it comes. Asked another way…do you control your life or does your life control you?

You are free to disagree with this but I would submit to you that if you do not have written goals for your life along with a fairly detailed plan for how you will achieve those goals then you DO NOT have control over your life. 

If you’re thinking to yourself that you do have goals but they aren’t written down then you may be kidding yourself. You likely have dreams, aspirations, wants, and hopes but you DO NOT have true goals and the control over your life that comes with them. 

Write down those dreams. Write out a detailed plan that includes how much effort you’re willing to invest to make those dreams come true. Write down the date that effort will begin. Write down how many minutes or hours a day you will invest in turning that dream into an actual goal. Write down the month, day, and year you will achieve that goal. 

If you won’t invest the time to even write down the dream then other people and other events are controlling your life. If you don’t have a plan that turns your dream into a goal those other people and the events that they control will frustrate you even more than you realize.

Don’t leave your life to chance. Stop gambling that the life you want will happen as a result of other people’s plan for their lives. Stop hoping that “everything” will somehow magically turn out fine. Write out your goals and invest the time to plan them into reality. You’ll wake up every morning knowing without a doubt that you are the master of your universe. 

Without goals and plans you might as well be buying lottery tickets. Your chances of controlling those ping pong balls are about as good as your chances of controlling your life. 

The Hopelessness of No Goals

I’ve always been a big believer in the power of goals. Goals that my wife and I set decades ago are still being achieved. Things we said would happen in 2021 are indeed happening, almost to the day we said they would years and years ago. Most of what we have and have achieved we owe to the power of setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them. Even though some of the plans spanned decades. 

So when I was invited recently to attend a full-day Goal Setting Seminar my instincts said to decline, especially considering the Seminar was being held on a Saturday. I figured I knew enough. But then I discovered that the day included 9 holes of golf and I was suddenly way more interested. 

I figured if nothing else I’d learn something I could add to the sessions I present on the subject of goal setting and play some golf too. So I signed up. 

The early session was about what you’d expect if you’ve ever taken a class on setting goals. Lots of talk about setting SMART goals and having goals for different parts of your life, career goals, financial goals, personal goals, health goals and the like. 

The second session was a little more unusual; it covered the motivational aspects of having goals and how we can actually lose interest in life without goals. It was okay but it was a little blah blah blah for me. No examples or evidence, only an instructor telling you goals were important. Duh! 

But then the best part of the day…a boxed lunch and off to the golf carts for some fun. The Golf Course was in the community were I live so I was very familiar with it. Something didn’t feel exactly right as we left the conference room and headed outside. It was a Saturday, and normally a busy golfing day. 

We were only playing nine holes. There should have been plenty of tee times available for other golfers. But the place was completely empty other than those of us participating in the seminar. 

I asked what was going on and was told the course was preparing for some renovation work.  We would be the last group playing before it closed for a couple of months. That’s not unusual in the Phoenix area for a course to do major work in the summer, golf actually slows down when the temps reach 100 degrees day after day. While that all turned out to be true it wasn’t the only reason there weren’t other people on the course. We’d discover the other reason soon enough. 

So off we went. My first drive was a little right on a hole that bends to the right, not ideal. I’d have to make a decision to either play back out into the fairway or take a shortcut over the trees to the green. I decided on the shortcut. The shot I hit felt pretty good but I couldn’t see the green so I’d have to wait until I got the the green to see how the shot turned out. I knew I made it over the trees and I knew I went in the general direction of the green so I was pretty hopeful.

As we approached the green I was focused on seeing whether my ball was on the green or not, so focused that I didn’t see what I normally would have. When I got right up by the green I noticed there was no flagstick. For those of you who don’t play golf the flagstick indicates the location of the hole on the green.

Then I discovered why there was no flagstick. It was because there was no hole. It was absolutely the weirdest feeling I’ve ever had. I hit balls on the range like I usually do. I studied my yardage, carefully selected my clubs and hit the best shot I could, all with the goal in mind of making par or better on the hole. 

But there was no hole. The would be no par, no birdie, not even a bogey. I would have been mad except I figured out almost instantly what was going on. The evidence that was missing from the second session was now staring me in the face. The goal of golf is to get the ball in the hole with the fewest strokes possible. With no hole for the ball to go into the rest of the game becomes pointless in a hurry. 

The roaming instructor showed up and told us to go ahead and pick up the ball and move to the next hole, maybe there would be a hole on that green…or maybe there wouldn’t. 

I couldn’t win at this game of golf, I couldn’t lose. I couldn’t measure my results against other rounds I’d played in the past. I couldn’t measure myself against the other players. I lost interest in the game before I got to the second green. It was no fun at all. And when I did get to the green there was no damn hole again. The roaming instructor said “maybe next time.”

It was hopeless. It was pointless. 

It was also the best example of what a life devoid of goals must be like. I suppose if you’ve never had real goals you wouldn’t know what you’re missing. If I’d never played golf I might not have known there was supposed to be a hole in the green. 

But I did indeed learn something that day. I learned a life without goals can get hopeless even quicker than I thought. I was disappointed, frustrated, confused, even mad when I reached a place where I should have been able to accomplish a goal. The only reason I couldn’t was because a goal didn’t exist. 

Are you disappointed, confused, even mad at the end of a day? Do you wonder what the point is of going to work day after day for a mere paycheck? Could it be that you don’t have clearly definable goals you’re working towards each day? 

Setting goals and developing a plan to achieve them will make everything in your life more meaningful. Goals give you purpose. Goals provide you with motivation, even on very difficult days. Goals become the roadmap to success, in your career, in your relationships, in every part of your life. 

Don’t go one more day without knowing exactly what you want out of life and exactly how you’re going to get it. Invest time to set goals and invest more to build a solid plan to achieve them. 

It will truly change your life.