Why would anyone create a personal strategic plan? Some say, it will help align your career-related and other goals and actions with what matters most in your life, or that it will allow you to take action and stop wondering: how do I achieve this goal?
What I say, though, is that personal strategic planning is critical because it’s self-leadership. It’s values-driven, principal-based leadership. This is a very buzzwordy way of saying that when you establish a personal strategic plan, you’re deciding that your life matters enough to warrant thoughtful reflection, analysis, and design. It means that you recognize that an intentional approach and plan for your goals will yield a greater likelihood for success. And it means that you value the opportunities given to you – and your team – and that you’re planning to do something with those opportunities.
Ultimately, I believe you cannot hope to lead others well if you don’t lead yourself first.
Creating Your Plan – It’s Not That Complicated
If you’ve ever participated in the development of a large-scale strategic plan , you know that creating a strategic plan can be a monstrous undertaking that might last endless weeks or months. So, maybe the thought of creating a “personal strategic plan” seems equally daunting and intimidating.
But the fact is, a strategic plan doesn’t need to be a big, all-consuming thing that takes epic amounts of time to create. I’ve learned that simply by doing some thoughtful preparation, brainstorming, and identifying key elements, you can make the process smooth, quick, and valuable.
Your strategic plan is a combination of four essential things:
Your personal vision
Your personal mission
Your personal values
Your personal objectives or performance goals.
Your personal vision essentially articulates your ideal future and tells yourself, “this is where I’m going.” Your mission identifies where you are currently and gives the essentials about your purpose (what am I here for?), what you do, why you do it, and who you are.
Your values are the beliefs and the traits that you decide should guide how you pursue your mission and values. And the objectives establish how you’ll personally measure your performance of achieving your mission, values, and vision.
These four items put together provide the essential framework not only for how you’ll operate today, but why and what you intend to do in the future. Creating meaningful mission, vision, and values will help you navigate challenges and provides a pathway for success.
What’s Your Purpose?
When I do my personal strategy, I start with my purpose statement. I borrowed my process from personal development guru, Brendon Burchard.
Begin by asking yourself: What are your “being” and “doing” goals? Do you want to “be energetic and engaged”? Do you want to “do the work of becoming more informed about diversity, equity, and inclusion?” Think about who you want to be and what you want to be doing.
Next, create a statement about things that you need to do in your life that aren’t necessarily career focused. For example, for me it’s “empower and inspire others,” which isn't career-related, per se. If you do decide to make this about your career or professional ambitions, your “to be” ambition could be “develop and lead others.” Remember, purpose statements should be broad in scope so they can apply in multiple contexts.
The third step is to think about your “why” in a way that’s tied to your need to fulfill your purpose. This becomes a “so that” statement in your purpose statement. For example, I might say that I want to empower and inspire others “so that I can guide and serve people, making a real difference and significant contributions in their lives through real connection, example, and joyful interactions.”
Now, what you’re going to do is put your To Be and To Do statements together with your So That statement and now you’ve got a pretty tight purpose.
The purpose of my life is to be energetic and engaged, and to empower and inspire others so that I might guide and serve people through real connection, example, and joy and make a significant difference and contribution in the lives of the people around me.
Your Mission Statement
When I developed my mission statement, I followed Stephen Covey’s process. This may help you, as well.
We talked about this in my last Insights blog. Most strategic plans and projects are supposed to show how they track back to your values. So, what are yours? Personal values are the things that are important to us, the characteristics and behaviors that motivate us and guide our decisions. Some questions you can ask yourself when trying to identify your core values are:
What's important to you in life?
If you could have any career, without worrying about money or other practical constraints, what would you do?
When you’re reading news stories, what sort of story or behavior tends to inspire you?
What type of story or behavior makes you angry?
What do you want to change about the world or about yourself?
What are you most proud of?
When were you the happiest?
More on This to Come…
So, this looks like a ton of work and I’m tempted to say, “but it isn’t.” What I’m telling you instead is: So what? Aren’t your life, goals, purpose, and mission worth the time and introspection? If you spend two or three hours working on your personal strategy and it guides you for a year — through hard times and easy times, through challenges and opportunities, and to serve a higher purpose — isn’t it worth it?
I’d say yes. Yes, your life is worth the time. Yes, your dreams and goals are worth the consideration. And yes, your leadership – of yourself and your teams – is worth the time it takes to sit down and critically think about who you are, why all this matters, and what you’re going to do.
We’ll have more on this soon. Until then, if you have questions — drop me a line! I’m happy to share more resources that might help you develop your personal strategic plan.