Personal Strategic Planning

I participated in my first strategic planning session almost 30 years ago. As many as I have been a part of since then – as both facilitator and participant – I continue to be amazed at the wealth and depth of understanding that arises from a well crafted planning process. Some 20 years ago, I decided I would experiment with applying what I had learned in organizational settings to my own personal and professional development. I crafted a personal mission statement, examined my values, set goals, assessed both resources and roadblocks, and laid out strategic steps. When I assessed my initial set of goals a year later (in what had been a five year plan), I was stunned to find I had already accomplished 7 of my 8 goals (and I decided the unaccomplished goal, in retrospect, had not been clearly stated).

Below, I lay out those steps within the context of our internship seminar in the auspices of planning for your during and after-AUNE personal and professional goals. If you don’t feel prepared or equipped to use a larger frame (five years and both personal and professional goals), you might scale this to one year and your practicum/job search aspirations. Feel free to use this Sakai site and the monthly postings as a forum for exploring your planning.  Use this exercise to help maximize your learning and optimize your practicum experience – or not ;-)

Briefly, here are the steps

  • Draft your personal mission statement, something you feel succinctly and cogently encompasses your personal and professional vision and aspirations. The statement should be inspiring to you and short enough to remember. Mine, for example, is ‘Fostering connection through a life of creative integrity.” As an aid to crafting your statement, I suggest mind-mapping your interest areas, passions, skills, and hopes. Look for patterns and relations between and among these. A strong mission statement will succinctly cover the most important aspects of your personal/professional life, while offering a clear lens – to you and others – of what you want to do with what matters most to you.
  • Lay out your set of goals, in clear language and active verbs. Each one should relate directly (or at least indirectly) to your mission. These may be related to your professional domain, or may relate to your aspirations to own a home, live in a particular area, cultivate new habits (or cease others). As an example, one of my first goals was to “Earn more income for less effort.” Within a year I took a job with a 12,000 raise at 20% less time. Depending on your time frame (1, 3 5 years are common planning windows), set a reasonable and achievable number of goals (say 6 – 10). Brainstorm a bunch and prioritize those which matter most to you.
  • While declaring your intention through a clear and bold goal statement goes a surprisingly long way towards achieving that goal, you must be able to carefully assess the resources you have at hand to accomplish your goal (time, funds, friends, talents), as well as honestly evaluate the roadblocks in the way of your desired outcome (procrastination, low self-esteem, inexperience, lack of funds). Enumerate both resources and roadblocks); overall (as they relate to your mission), and in particular (in support or to the detriment of each of your goals).
  • At this juncture in the planning process, I have found a key though unusual step for both organizations and individuals is to creatively examine those items you have designated as roadblocks and re-frame them as potential resources. There are often hidden gifts even in what we see in a negative light. For example, procrastination may be reframed as a tool for enabling a kind of spaciousness in life; perhaps a bass-ackwards way of fulfilling a desire for time where nothing has to be done on no one else’s timeline. In identifying this need, you might be able to planfully build such times into your schedule – your tendency for procrastination can point you towards the resource of fallow times.
  • Examine each of your goals. Mindful of your overall mission and of the resources you potentially bring to bear on each goal (and of the roadblocks you must creatively navigate in getting there), lay out the strategies you would use to accomplish your goals. These should all be action items, emphasizing tangible and reasonable tasks you can carry out within the time frame you have set for your planning window. When you have a well-fleshed out set of strategies, set these up in a timeline, scaled to your needs and abilities. Set reasonable target dates and hold yourself accountable to them.
  • At periodic junctures (3 months, 6 months, annually), revisit your goals and strategies, evaluate your progress, and revise/add as necessary.