“There’s no difference between a pessimist who says, “Oh it’s hopeless, so don’t bother doing anything.” and an optimist who says, “Don’t bother doing anything, it’s going to turn out fine anyways. Either way, nothing happens.” – Yvon Chouinard, rock climber, environmentalist and founder of Patagonia
“Failures don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.” – Harvey MacKay
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
These quotes share a common thread and illuminate a problem that is far too common. I see it in companies struggling to implement knowledge management. I see it in communities of practice. You can find it in businesses, organizations, clubs, and even the personal lives of people we care about.
The problem? The absence of a plan.
Historically — and with comic certainty — the gyms overflow in January as we collectively resolve to shed those holiday pounds and get healthy. By the end of the month, the crowd subsides and it’s back to business as usual. What happens? Do people decide that they really don’t want to lose the weight they tacked on? Do they discover that their health really isn’t that important to them? No, the problem is that they have a goal in mind (i.e. lose weight), but only a vague idea of how to get there. What they lack is a plan.
Goals are good and necessary. Goals give us something to strive for, and achieving our goals — be they personal or professional — are largely how we measure success. To get from where you are to where you want to be, you need two things: a goal that is well-defined and measurable, and a plan that — if followed — will help you reach that goal.
The Power of Planning: A Personal Illustration
For years, I had a long-standing goal to hike the John Muir Trail for a second time (the first time being in 1980). This is an arduous undertaking requiring tremendous amounts of planning, preparation and training. I had my goal: hike the entire 211-mile trail, three decades after my first epic journey on the JMT. My goal was well-defined and measurable. And I created a plan that would help me reach my goal.
My plan required coordination my schedule with work; recruiting others to join me on the epic backpacking trip; training my body and getting in shape (I lost 40 lbs. in the process); creating a day-by-day itinerary; planning the meals; getting permits; coordinating transportation, and so on. It was not easy. But it was worthwhile, because it helped me succeed at achieving this longtime goal. In August 2010, 30 years from my first JMT trek, I completed the John Muir Trail for a second time.
Whether personal, professional or business goals, the key is to define your goals, write them down, and create a plan that will help you get there.
A Challenge to You
Here’s my challenge to you. Think of three goals you would like to achieve, either personally, professionally or for your business or organization. You might want to travel to Paris, launch a new initiative at work or go back to school. Whatever the goals, write them down, making sure they are well-defined. They should stretch you or your organization beyond what you know you can easily handle. Then sort out what it will take the achieve those goals. These steps must be something that you have control over, so if you’re counting on winning the lottery, think again. Write these steps down. This is your plan. Follow it, and you can reach your goals successfully.
What goals do you have for 2011 or beyond? Have you create a plan? I’d love to hear them.
Oh and by the way, one of my recruits for my 2010 JMT trek is now my sweetheart. Sometimes success brings unexpected rewards!