By Lindy Earl
In the business world, we are told to have a Business Plan. We are even taught how to write one, or at least download a template from the internet. But how many of us have a Business Plan for our personal lives?
As children, we all had great vision. We were going to grow up to be firemen and ballerinas, astronauts and chefs—such awesome career goals. We were going to live in a big house or on a farm—our household goals. We were going to marry and have anywhere from zero to 12 children—our family goals. Some of us were even going to live next door to our best friends and schedule our weddings and babies around each other. And all of us had dreams of having a lucrative life—our financial goals.
Many of those goals were created through our natural personalities. The athletes were given to having visions of professional sports, while the scholars were going to grow up to be scientists and engineers. We even had our dreams on a schedule: I’m going to make a million dollars before I’m 40. I’m going to retire early and enjoy life before I’m too old.
We were better at planning our lives when we were too young to do anything about them. Now that we’re older, it’s not too late to create a vision for the rest of your life. I’ll show you how. First, just like you did as a child, consider what characteristics about yourself you like or dislike, and which ones you want to encourage or discourage. If you’re good with money but bad at time management, create a vision that allows for both of those characteristics. Think back to some of the dreams you had a child and see if they still fit your desires.
I had always wanted to learn to make balloon animals. It’s a small goal, I know, but it was something I always held in the back of my mind. When I turned that beloved 4-0, I decided to do it. That was also the year I re-enrolled in ballet classes and finally made it to pointe shoes; parachuted from an airplane; and learned to play guitar (not well, but play). So I sat in my kitchen one night with a book, a bag of long balloons, but not with an air pump. I learned a great lesson that night—invest in your dreams. I did learn to create balloon animals that night, and still make balloon swords when I have a house full of boys, even teenage boys. I also invested in a small air pump, because my lungs are worth the investment!
Now that you have some ideas of your future self, consider a time schedule. It’s great to say that you always wanted to be a doctor, but if you’re 65 years old, it may be a dream best left to sleeping hours. But if you want to return to school and change careers, now is the time to start, especially in this economy. Consider how long some of these visions will take. Consider that it only took me one night to make my wish to create balloon animals come true, but multiple months to get to the point of admitting I play at the guitar.
The more often you can put numbers around your goals, the better. If you decide you want to learn to play golf, and you will play at least twice a month, for at least a year, you’re in a better position than just saying you want to learn a new sport. Don’t say lose weight, say limit your calories to 1200/day, at least 5 days a week, for one month. I’m not very good at the weight loss thing, so if those numbers are absurd, I apologize. The more specific and time specific your target, the better.
Especially if yours is a business vision, set up some realistic expectations. When setting your target market, don’t say everyone. That’s not going to happen. Proctor and Gamble, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson all have very specific target markets for every product they sell. Those are good companies to emulate. Be specific with what you’re going to sell, when and how, and to whom you’ll sell.
Once you have all these ideas in your head, please realize they’ve been in your head for a long time, possibly years. So, take the next step, and write them down. Even a short paragraph of what you have to do, in order, to achieve your vision, will give you direction if you start feeling negative or discouraged. It also helps to have an encouraging accountability partner.
Finally, check yourself regularly, preferably monthly or quarterly, to ensure you’re on track. Your vision of today can become your reality as soon as tomorrow!