By Carol Cassara – Contributor & Midlife Wrangler
Wishing and hoping won’t get us there, but a plan will.
Shakespeare was wrong. The play isn’t the thing. The PLAN’S the thing.
It’s true that serendipity sometimes drops miraculous things into people’s laps without them having to do a thing. It can happen.
But let’s get serious: how often does making a dream come true happen without some sort of plan?
There’s something so satisfying about making a plan. A list of to-do items. I love making plans. I have a drawerful. But actually using them? That’s another story. That’s my weak point and I know it only too well.
So, as I teach my business students, it’s helpful to view a plan as a roadmap that gets us where we want to go. Why is that important? It’s important for focus. Our chance of getting there is far greater if we have thought through our route. How we’ll get there. And then, actually followed it.
It’s been three months since I started my plan to set up workshops and I haven’t written my plan. That’s because life got in the way. End of semester grades. Two major vacation trips. An expected detached retina. Those were my excuses. I mean, ahem, my reasons.
But, here’s the thing: life is always going to get in the way. If we want to make our dreams come true, we have to get back on track as fast as possible. Written plans help.
Planning for my workshop business began with thinking through all the steps I had to take to make it happen: Identify my target audience and how to reach them. Develop content. An in-person workshop for my pilot or a web-based even? Find the right web technology or a site. Set prices.
I began by writing all these tasks down, then sorting them in some sort of logical order. And then, I attached due dates.
Now, that’s hard for me. I have a full life. You probably do, too. But I determined the week I thought I’d like to kick off my workshops and worked backwards with a hard copy calendar. There’s something about seeing entire months at a glance and actually being able to READ them that makes it more real.
I set a goal for every work day. But not just any kind of goal. SMART goals.
S for Specific. It’s easy to skate by a general goal. But a specific goal? It helps hold our feet to the fire. We’re more likely to achieve it. For example, for my “find a site” goal, I wrote: “Do online research on local sites, develop a list of sites and schedule visits to three sites.” That’s pretty specific.
Specific goals identify exactly what we want to do, who is involved, where it will happen and all the other details that make the task very, very clear.
M is for Measurable, because if we can’t determine if we’ve done it, we can’t cross it off the list. Notice that I wrote “schedule visits to three sites.” I didn’t say “visit sites.” It’s a lot easier to cross something off my list if I can measure whether or not it’s been completed.
A stands for Attainable. Or Achievable. For example, if I schedule a goal for the day before I’m going on vacation, I know for a fact I won’t achieve it. Learning to code software is something I’ll never do, so I’d be better off to set a goal that involves finding someone to do that for me. I ask myself, do I have the time, funding, skills?
R is for Realistic. This is a big one, because we often over-estimate how realistic our idea is. If I’m teaching three courses in a semester, is it realistic to think I can actually start a new business in that time frame? Is this even the right time? Would I be better off to do this in the summer when I’m not teaching? My answer to that was “yes, summer.”
Finally, T is for timeline—which is a must. Some of my dreams have hung around for years simply because my timeline was “some day.”
SMART goals are the key. So is a monthly review of how we’re doing with them.
Here’s the truth—this is really hard for me. Sometimes it’s enough for a dream to be just that—a dream—and the reality stay in “some day.”
I turn 62 in a month and I have never been more aware of the limitations of time. There are a few things I still want to accomplish in this life, and the clock is ticking. A plan, with SMART goals, is the only way I’ll get there.
The question is, Will I? How about you? Will you?