A GOAL WITHOUT A PLAN IS A WISH

by | Feb 18, 2017 | Accomplishing Something, Challenge Yourself, Work Hard

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A few months ago, I wrote a blog about how we should all make 2017 the Year of Going Big. Why not? Sure, the turmoil and uncertainly in the world may be frightening but now is not the time to hunker down and make yourself as small as possible. Big change can (and needs) happen. So you’ve made a bold, courageous resolution and you are ready to pursue it with gusto. Now what? As famous French writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” If you don’t know how to get to where you going, how do you ever get there?

I’d like to share a takeaway from the book “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.” It’s an exercise on how to put together a plan of action to reach a big goal. This exercise is similar to developing a marathon training plan. You know you need to be able to run 26.2 miles at the end of 20 weeks. You also know that you can’t start with 20-mile runs in week 1. Therefore you must develop a plan that works backward week by week, lining out how you will log your training miles. This is the only way to keep yourself on track to the build motivation, strength, and stamina required as you increase your mileage each week. Without this kind of plan, you may run too much too early and hurt yourself or you may not run enough and fail to cross the finish line. The plan is key.

You can use the marathon model to plan any goal you want to achieve. Let’s say that your goal is to get a promotion at the end of the year. You have 10 months to earn it; how do you get there? Start planning backward. It looks something like this…

  • December: Get Promoted
  • November: Be prepared for my annual review. This includes preparing an outline of my accomplishments with details on how they helped the team and company execute our strategy, demonstrating how I made teamwork and helpfulness a priority (must be corroborated by my coworkers), exhibiting my willingness to ask for and take action on feedback, providing evidence of how I prepared myself for the new role by taking a seminar and reading 3 books on the topic, and developing a plan on how I will be successful in the new role.
  • October: Create my success plan for the new role
  • September: Take a local seminar in the area of expertise I will need in this new role; implement suggestions based on feedback from my peers.
  • August: Ask for feedback on my work product; help a coworker finish a project early.
  • July: Read the third book on my list.
  • June: Ask my boss for an extra project to work on; deliver my work product 3 days early and ask for feedback on it
  • May: Read the second book on my list; collaborate with a coworker on how we can make XYZ process more effective; jointly pitch the proposed solution to our boss.
  • April: Ask my boss for an extra project; stay late to help a peer finish a project to meet a deadline.
  • March: Ask my boss and peers for feedback on what I need to do to improve; develop an action plan around this feedback; read first book on my reading list.
  • Now: Make a plan to get promoted by December 2017; make sure I understand why I want this promotion; create a reading list.


This is a simplified example, yes, but you get the idea. I recently did this exercise for a 16-year goal I’ve set for myself and it was incredibly eye-opening and helpful. I feel empowered and excited because I have an outline for success. There is no way I could achieve a goal that’s 16 years out without a solid plan now.

You may find that you need to deviate from the plan you’ve created and that’s okay; course-correcting along the way is necessary to achieve a goal. This exercise merely helps you think through all the things you need to do to get to where you want to be. Make adjustments as you execute your plan; use this as a tool to ensure you are working on the RIGHT things and taking the RIGHT actions to reach your “big thinking” goal.

Good luck and go for it! Like more blogs like this? Check out this one on going the extra mile.

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