It's too often that we go about planning all wrong. For some of us, making plans is like trying to bake a cake by putting an empty form in the oven. That’s not how you do it. To have a beautiful and delicious cake, you have to know all sorts of things. Like what you feel like having, what the occasion is, what ingredients you need, are you or your family allergic, and if you go shopping, and so on.
It's exactly the same with planning. You don’t need anybody’s approval, really. The most important thing is for you to KNOW.
Know your VISION.
And while it is not easy, it surely is SIMPLE. You need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
who do you want to be in x years? – but more like at the peak of your life (you’re probably not going to be a ballerina, but who’s to tell you you can’t do it as a hobby?)
what life do you want to live? (family life/ traveling without strings attached etc.)
what are the values that are so crucial for you will embed them in your life? (You might be a religious person or have a mission of helping others or you want to travel, or be known for something specific, and so on.)
what is it that you don’t want for your life? (working for somebody for instance/working till you’re 70, having an office job/having kids/being financially dependent on someone, and so on.)
what are you good at?
what do you love?
what does the world need?
what are people willing to pay you for? (those last 4 points come from the concept called IKIGAI. A Japanese concept about finding your goal in life. You can read more about it here:
You can give it some time to come up with your concept. It doesn’t happen overnight, but do start, do give it some time to brainstorm, to start uncovering YOUR vision. You can always tweak it, add something, or remove something. But deep down inside, you know what your vision is; you just need to give it a shape.
Once you know your vision, you’re almost home because one of the biggest mistakes people make is making random plans. Based on nothing. Once you have solid foundations, you’re halfway there.
Usual mistakes one can make when planning:
plan something that goes against your overall vision,
“plan” – that is understood as merely “wish”. Plans will not come true by themselves. There is this great saying that dreams written down and scheduled become plans. There's plenty of research that proves that people will more often succeed with whatever they are planning if they write it down.
having a plan without actionable steps. It’s great if you want to, for example, write a book. But you will not do it overnight. You need to make a daily appointment with yourself to sit at your desk regularly to produce words that are good enough. And you need to have this concept in your head every day; otherwise, you will forget. That’s what happens to our “plans” that are not scheduled.
You will also need a strategy for what happens when there's a hiccup - when you don't feel like doing it anymore, or when you doubt if it's a good idea altogether.
Your goals need to have solid foundations.
So the next step after you’ve got your vision is planning your goals. Let’s say you want to live your life in Italy, enjoying the sun, the wine, and the climate. You want to be freelancing as a writer, or writing your book. With your family of 5. Financially independent, location independent, surrounded by people – this is your vision. (And for the purpose of this article I will assume that you thought it through, reflected on it, consulted with those whose opinions are important to you, it's not an escape, or trying to hide from life, etc.) If so – your goals would be:
to have a happy family
to move to in Italy
to learn Italian
to have clients willing to pay you for your writing
Those goals are huge, therefore, they may feel overwhelming and too difficult to tackle. That is precisely why you need to divide them into tasks. The smaller, the better. Like learning Italian. The tasks for this goal could look like this:
find a proper language course,
buy the books and download the apps,
commit to passing the first exam by the end of the next six months,
set a reminder to study every single day apart from the classes you take.
This is actionable and doable once you know you’re moving towards your vision, which is enjoying that Italian life. Even if you don’t feel like going through the grammar this mundane Tuesday, you will do it the next day and the next, because this is not some random thing you decided to try. It leads you to live your life to the fullest.
Last but not least:
One thing that is as important as planning is evaluating the plans you had before. You have to recognize what you managed to accomplish and where, why, and how you failed. Not to be judgmental, not to use it as a reason for self-hate, but to get smarter about your next goals. Ask yourself some valid questions about what went wrong and use that knowledge to facilitate the whole process better in the future.
And some final points to keep in mind:
You are not a robot. Even with substantial amounts of motivation resulting from you following your vision, you may have worse days. And it’s ok, as long as you keep moving towards what you chose for yourself.
It is ok to change your mind. You may reevaluate some of the goals you have. Because the circumstances changed, because you changed – it’s ok too. The key thing is to keep the dialogue with yourself open. You can then adjust whatever is going on in your life accordingly.
It may help you enormously to have some support. Like a group that’s focused around the same goal (say – Italian language class;) or a person with whom you keep each other accountable. It’s really helpful to have somebody with a similar mindset that you’re able to talk to when needed.