Greetings and welcome to day six of the virtual self-development conference. If this is the first article you read in this series, I recommend to go back to the introduction and to day 1 where I kick off the conference and establish some ground rules.
We are now “done” with the “I look into myself” part and will start with how we can take action from here on out. However, this process is not over. Self-development is nothing that you can “complete” during one day or one conference. Be it a digital or a physical one. Self-development is a life-long process and there might be no end to it. Which is nice. I can imagine that life would also be pretty boring when there is nothing I can work on =). But at least we can try to come close.
And in order to come close, we need to take action. That is why today’s topic is planning.
In the “River of Life” exercise we took a look into the future and envisioned what our perfect future should look like. But if we don’t plan our lives, getting there is up to chance. Sure, life is seldomly a straight path and we often stumble more than we walk, but with planning we design a life in which we are the captain of our own ship and feel more in control. It is also easier to see if we are making progress toward our goals. Planning is also important because it reduces uncertainty, which (the uncertainty) can be a barrier for some to even begin with something.
So let us start with goal-setting.
Maybe you heard it 100 times already, but there is a reason why SMART goals are so prevalent when it comes to planning. If you didn’t hear of SMART goals, here is a short explanation of this abbreviation:
S – Specific
M – Measurable
A – Attainable
R – Relevant / Realistic
T – Time bound
If you want to read more about it, I found a nice blog article. You will also find different wording regarding the abbreviation.
Setting SMART goals has several advantages. It will help us to stay motivated, we can measure and assess our progress, we make it more tangible, and it gives us direction.
This brings me to today’s exercise…
Materials needed: a pen and your notebook or blank paper
Let’s start with our goals. If you have a large or long-term goal, it is a good idea to break it down into smaller more manageable goals. Here is an example of a SMART goal, which I would break down into smaller sub-goals:
I want to write a book on strengths based on the VIA character strengths in one year’s time.
This checks all the boxes of a SMART goal for me. But writing a book in one year is both a rather big goal and also a long-term project. If I just keep it this way, I might get demotivated during the way. Setting a short-term goal and achieving it gives a much needed motivational and confidence boost. And we humans need the feeling of achieving something in order to stay motivated. Or you have a very very strong motivation and/or high self-regulation strength.
A sub-goal in this example could be:
I will work on my book every single day for at least 30 minutes.
So, first pick one goal. And yes, start with only one goal. When we put too much on our plate, we run at risk at achieving none of the goals. If you reached one of your goals or you feel that you are ready to take on another one, then add another one and see how it is going. Then, rephrase this goal in a SMART way. What helps to break your goal down into more manageable sub-goals I recommend to use backward planning.
In my case it could look like that:
My book will have 24 chapters. I will have to plan in a research period, a writing period, a design period and a finishing period. I will get support for the design of the book so there are three phases. I will need four months of doing research, six months of writing, and two months of finishing. In order to finish the first phase within four months, I need to have materials for each of the 24 chapters. Four months equal roughly 120 days. This means that I have 5 days for collecting materials for one chapter….
I hope this little example illustrates the point =).
This backward planning method also helps to assess whether our goal is achievable within the time frame we set ourselves. If you now realize that this is a bit much, or you realize it during the process, just come back to your plan and adjust it to make it more feasible for you and your current situation. This is not failure, but wise planning. If you try to strictly stick to a plan that you feel you cannot achieve or exhausts you, then you will likely stop at one point and you won’t feel great. But if you adjust you might take a little longer but you will achieve your goal.
Also, have a look at how your strengths can help you with reaching your goal(s).
That’s it for today. I hope this helps. If it does, or also if it doesn’t let me know in the comments or write me a mail and we can see what we can do together =).
Have a wonderful day and take care, Stephan