As we start a new year, it can be a time of excitement for what is to come. What are our goals for the year? How do we, our team, or our organization need to be different a year from now? The new year is also an opportunity to look back on the past year. Did we reach our goals for that year? Did we do everything we could to make sure we progressed in our careers or as a leader? If you can answer these questions with a positive answer, then you probably are a lifelong learner.
Newsletter articles like this can be a small part of that lifelong learning but there needs to be structure to truly be a successful learner and to continuously improve as a person and leader. For those of you who were less positive in answering those questions, there are some easy steps to make sure you can answer those questions more positively next year. It’s not too late to develop a plan that can help you learn, grow, and advance in your career or to move your team and/or organization forward.
Let’s focus on you. Where and how do you need to grow in your life? I’m not talking about more New Year’s Resolutions! I’m talking about a more systematic way to identify and prioritize what’s important to you. Why do we need a Life Plan? Most of us probably consider ourselves relatively intelligent, after all, we may have attended college and various trainings along the way. In the Harvard Business Review, Samuel Arbesman (2014), rightfully said, “it turns out knowledge is a lot like radioactive atoms because it decays over time.” If you are relying on that intelligence and that knowledge that you learned during your college years or that accomplishment you did two years ago, you have already fallen behind the pack. The good news is that by developing a Life Plan, you can advance yourself in many areas of your life including acquiring the up to date knowledge that you need to succeed.
A Life Plan is a plan to succeed in areas that are important to your personal and professional life. Examples include career development, marriage, health, friends, leisure, and spiritual. I often use a tool commonly referred to as The Wheel of Life. This simple tool helps one prioritize areas in your personal and professional life. If one important area is out of balance it can undermine one’s success. After you have identified your priorities, you must define them. What is your purpose for each priority? In a sentence, define the results you are seeking.
Once you have defined these priorities, clarify your vision for each of these priorities. What do you see when you consider your own future? If you don’t have a vision of where you want to be, you cannot develop a plan to get there. Think of gardening as an example of this principle. Let’s say you have decided that in the future you want to eat homegrown tomatoes from your garden rather than the produce you find in stores. By clarifying what the result looks like, you can easily define the steps you need to make that happen.
This brings us to the next step in our Life Plan. Articulate an action plan for each of the priorities. In my coaching work, I would ask you questions like:
- Ideally, what do you want this area to look like a year (or some other timeframe) from now?
- How is that different from now?
- What do you find compelling about this goal?
- What are the steps you would need to take to reach that goal?
Open-ended questions like these help you process your thoughts, give life to your visions, and help you make your ideas doable.
Identify and record specific action steps on how you plan to accomplish each priority so that you can experience life to the fullest. What are 2 – 4 actions that most excite you—that have the greatest potential to make your vision a reality? Make sure these action plans are specific in terms of what you will do and when.
The last step in making this Life Plan for 2020 and beyond is scheduling these action steps. You need to hold yourself accountable by adding “appointments” after the action steps as deadlines, dates for follow-up, reminders, etc. In order to accomplish your plan, what appointments do you need to put into your calendar? Remember, they are your life priorities! You need to be able to schedule and track your progress and success. These appointments will help you create your Daily Routine. By living out this schedule, you will be creating the life you desire!
Here’s a personal example. Four months ago, I determined to lose some weight. Nearly every morning, I stepped on the scale. Over the months, the scale revealed I had lost about 13 pounds. This was a priority for me. I was able to track my progress and determine if what I was doing moved me in the right direction. While I didn’t put daily workouts on my calendar, an app on my phone recorded how much exercise I was getting each day.
If you want to stay at the top of your game, then you need to continuously improve. Developing a Life Plan is a great way to start the year off. The Japanese have a word called Kaizen. You may be familiar with it if you have studied Lean or Six Sigma methodologies. Kaizen, from the online dictionary, is defined as a Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. This philosophy has become extremely successful in the manufacturing world, but it can help you be more successful in your life by always seeking to be better today than you were yesterday.
Need help with the process or someone to be an accountability partner? We can help! We have five ICF credentialled coaches who are skilled in helping people move forward and realize their goals. Make 2020 a year of success! Give us a call at 916-788-1094.
Arbesman, S. (2014, August 7). Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying. Retrieved January 6, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2012/11/be-forewarned-your-knowledge-i.
For the Faith-based:
Have you ever noticed when you read a Bible story over again, you often take away something new or different? You are continuously learning new things, seeing different meanings, understanding better, or even changing views the deeper you go into the Bible. God intended this so we as Christians continuously learn. Proverbs 1:5 says, “let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Learning is like riding a bicycle uphill. As long as we keep peddling, we keep moving up. When we stop peddling, we fall behind. The same can be said for learning.
As leaders, we know that continuous learning is critical to our team’s success. We probably even require continued learning for our team members. However, for whatever reason, continuous learning is not always a prioritized part of a leader’s schedule. As leaders, we must keep in mind, “The mind of the discerning acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks it,” (Proverbs 18:15). Therefore, if we pray Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths,” we humble our hearts to be open to lifelong learning. Proverbs 9:9 clearly states, “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.” If we know that continuous learning is critical for our team, then we must apply this advice to ourselves.