It Starts With A Dream
- "You got to have a dream. If you don't have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?": South Pacific (an old Broadway musical)
- "The average person goes to the end of their life with their music still in them" Zig Ziglar
When organizations develop strategic plans, they try to develop a single, unifying, overriding vision from which everything else flows. This vision is the ultimate reason for everything they will do for the next 5-10 years. This approach also works for some people -- at least at some point in their lives; the desire to become a prima ballerina, or NFL quarterback, or neurosurgeon can be all-consuming. However, I find that most people have more than one dream.
Sources of Dreams, and Passion
To begin your personal strategic plan, think about the major aspects of your life -- family, friends, career and/or education, finances, home, fun, community (not necessarily geographic), physical, mental & spiritual health .... Which of these areas are the sources of your inspiration, your passion? Which of these areas is the source of your "music"? In which areas do you have dreams that are powerful enough to light a fire under you? You want mental images that are so strong, so inspirational, that you can't wait to start working toward them each day.
Perhaps more importantly, you want dreams that will sustain you through the inevitable low points in your journey to success. Success is hard work. It often requires hour upon hour of drudgery -- sometime even pain -- for years (not that it's all drudgery). When their bodies are fighting exhaustion, when things seem hopeless, when no one seems to believe in them, future prima ballerinas and NFL quarterbacks and neurosurgeons have a vision of the future that keeps them from giving up hope -- that gives them the energy to persevere. You want dreams like those, dreams so powerful they will inspire you to keep going even when the going gets tough.
Those dreams should be your primary "drivers" for the next 5 years -- the ultimate reasons for almost everything you do! For each of your 1-5 critical areas, take a few minutes now to draft a "vision" describing your dream -- not a detailed description, just enough detail so that you remember what it is. For example, "Be valedictorian of my class," "Lose 75 pounds," "Buy a house," "Help my son get off drugs," or "Become Vice-President of my company."
I think of the remaining areas as support areas; right now, they're important to you only because they help you achieve your real dreams. For some people, the financial vision is a critical one; for others, money only matters because they need enough so that they can paint -- or dance. For most 20-year-olds, health is not a priority; they don't start each day thinking how can I improve my health today. However, if you had a heart attack 6 months ago, health is probably one of your critical areas.
Feel free to combine areas or even to add new ones. Note also that there is nothing magic about 5 years. Look for a natural ending point. For example, if you're just starting college, a 4-year plan may make more sense; if you have young children, you might want to plan through the date when the youngest will complete his education. The point is, there is no one right answer; they're your dreams.
Start Planning to Have YOUR Dreams Come True
So, what are your dreams? To be debt-free and living within your income? To be accepted by, and graduate from, an Ivy League medical school? To find your soul-mate for life? To play first violin in the New York Philharmonic? Don't get to the end of your life with your music still in you!
To begin planning to have your dreams come true, start Identifying Your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOTs).
Core Posts In This 3-Step Process:1. *This post*: The first step in the planning process -- identifying your dreams.
2. Identifying Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats (SWOTs) -- the next post in this series; developing the key data needed to create your plan.
3. Creating Your Personal Strategic Plan: Using the SWOTs to develop goals and strategies, and to write your first plan.
Need More Motivation? Try:Mission, Vision & Values: For readers willing to spend more time in order to develop a more robust foundation for their plan, and those developing family strategic plans.
Regrets of the Dying, a blog post by Bronnie Ware. Five poignant lessons she learned during her years of work in palliative care that transformed her life. Insight into the things that matter most in life.
Regina Brett's 45 life lessons and 5 to grow on: Her widely-circulated and reprinted column from the Cleveland Plain Dealer. More "upbeat" than the previous one! :-)
Setting Goals: a 5 minute video by recently-deceased Zig Ziglar. A still more upbeat presentation that will get you going.
If those don't convince you that it's worth taking a few hours of your time to sort through your priorities, and develop a plan, I don't know what else to say....
For a nice schematic that illustrates the relationship between all of my personal strategic planning posts, see Personal Strategic Planning Schematic
Last updated 12/11/2012
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