Whilst it can be fun to go with the flow and just see where life takes you, there are other times when it’s much better to have some structure.
That applies to your personal development planning as much as it does to other areas of your life.
Like most things, it’s easy to become a perpetual student in personal development. There are always so many new things to try out, so many directions to go in.
And all of them seem to promise that they’re the solution.
Once you visit a few sites, you’ll start to get ads related to personal development. They’ll show up in your Facebook feed, maybe on YouTube (depending on whether you’ve got fed up with the forced 5 second ads and installed an ad blocker) and quite likely a flood of messages in your inbox.
Because deep down, even though they’d like to help you improve your life, most self help offers (mine included) would also like to sell you something.
After all, that’s what allows them to carry on giving you the good stuff. Without attracting those sales, they wouldn’t be in business and wouldn’t be able to help you.
So it’s a trade off.
And often quite a beneficial one – you get access to all sorts of world experts for the price of a meal out.
But it’s still worth planning – at least a bit!
The law of attraction is often mentioned when personal development is mentioned.
That’s because we attract things into our life – intentionally or unintentionally.
If we don’t plan, the things we attract just happen.
If we do plan, more of the things we attract are actually what we’d like to attract.
Not necessarily all of them – that’s when you need to start fine tuning and really paying attention to the thoughts you’re thinking.
But certainly quite a few.
So take the time to plan.
Early in life, our plans are laid out for us.
We go to school, the teachers have planned the lessons, maybe with dictats from the government based on what they think it’s important we know, most of us follow the plan.
Then choice rears its head.
- Do you want to stay in the education system?
- If so, what subjects do you want to pursue?
- What career do you want after you leave?
All those kind of things.
Most careers now were the stuff of science fiction when I was at school – we didn’t have computers except in gigantic air conditioned rooms and they weren’t very practical things.
Typing was done on a typewriter – my first one looked a bit like the one in the picture, manual keyboard, no easy way of changing typos or mistakes.
My teachers would never have believed that I could type and publish near enough instantly and anyone in the world could read what I’d written.
That wasn’t really even dreamed of in science fiction – in Blake’s Seven, the equivalent of Google was a luggable portable computer called Orac. Although in some respects it was the same as Google – it was a bit stroppy and definitely knew it was superior – it was nothing like the internet.
And the film 2001 A Space Odyssey didn’t have flat screen monitors.
So things change and we can’t always know what they’ll change into.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a plan.
Personally, I think that plans should be split up:
- A long term aim or goal. Something you’d like to get in your life but that, short of winning the lottery, isn’t going to manifest any time soon no matter how diligently you try to attract it.
- Several medium term aims or goals. The stepping stones that you currently think make sense in your journey to your final destination (except it won’t really be final because when you get to your current long term goal, something else will almost certainly take its place)
- Quite a few short term aims or goals. These are the things that I like to concentrate on when I’m planning and I think you’ll find they work very nicely even though they can seem almost trivial at times.
The thing with short term goals is they’re achievable fast.
So not eating that chocolate cake, even though it’s almost waving at you from the coffee shop counter, is a quick win. Doing it often enough starts to shift how your mind thinks about things. And starts to tell your mind that you’re actually serious about that longer term goal of dropping some of that excess weight from your body even though most of the world and almost all the shops seem to have ganged up against you.
That’s the thing with short term goals – they mount up. There’s safety in numbers in lots of areas of life and the more you do lots of small things that edge you towards where you want to go, the more other things start to do the same.
We like to be consistent most of the time.
That includes the food we eat, the teams we support, what we do at work (and how we do it) and near enough everything else in our lives.
If we try to do something that’s not consistent, alarm bells start ringing in our heads and we usually stop doing whatever it was that was causing them to go off.
That’s why those almost insignificant short term aims are ultra important.
They help define our comfort zone and push us closer to the real objective.
But that doesn’t happen if you haven’t planned.
That one chocolate cake – on its own – doesn’t really make much difference. Sure, it might push your weight up slightly tomorrow. But if you don’t give in to the temptation the day after, you’ll be back on track.
But do that every day and the scales will tell the truth,
It’s exactly the same elsewhere, which is why a plan is so important.
If you’re not in the mood for full-on personal development planning (and sometimes that’s the case, even for those seemingly ultra-organised types) then just jot down one or two things that you’re going to make sure happen in the next 24 hours.
Things that will move you further ahead even if they’re not much in and of themselves.
Then do the same tomorrow and the next day and so on.
Maybe in a week or two’s time, make one of those small goals the idea of formalising what you’ve done so far. Sitting down with yourself or with a friend and scribbling away for 10, 20, 30 minutes so that your personal development plan starts to get fleshed out.
Because it could be the case that your new direction is so new, you don’t have a clue how to get there yet.
You just about know what you don’t want to be happening – which is one of the reasons you got into this personal development thing in the first place.
And if that’s the case for you, get some free samples of things so that you can narrow down what you want and how you want to get there. Even if – a bit counter intuitively – you broaden your horizons first.
But however you decide to do things and whatever you decide to plan, the really, really, really important thing to do is to start!