One of my favorite quotes was penned by American author Henry David Thoreau:
“If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live a life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Thoreau’s words capture an element of surprise that seems counter intuitive when you’re thinking about planning and goal-setting. After all, isn’t the whole idea of planning about creating specific, pre-defined results for yourself, your team or your company?
That’s certainly the traditional approach to planning. Often, we put an immense amount of time into creating a detailed plan, only to find ourselves frustrated when life doesn’t follow the described formula. We think that the plan didn’t work and give up.
Yet Thoreau’s words actually hold much wisdom for those of us who want to become more strategic and productive with our actions.
Get clear about what you want.
Whether you are planning for an entire company, a specific division or even a special project, it’s important to have clarity about the future you intend to create.
What will your company look like in one year, three years or five years? What result would give your team a reason to celebrate? What opportunity does your special project create or what problem does it eliminate?
Direct your action.
If you looked at your calendar for the past week, month or year, how well would it align with what you say you want?
If you’ve envisioned more work-home balance, are your current actions, evidenced by your calendar, moving in that direction? If you want increased profitability for your small business, are you spending time on the activities that have highest pay-off potential?
Beyond yourself, who else is responsible for making your future possible? Are they clear about that role? Is their time being spent on the right actions?
For most people, consistent direction of action is the most challenging part of planning. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, and it’s often even easier to let our employees or teams do the same.
Expect to be surprised.
People are often amazed at new opportunities that arise once they begin working their plan. Sometimes those opportunities seem so disconnected from any direct action you’ve performed that you may have difficulty believing that the success was driven by your planning process.
Yet when you get clear about what you want and begin aligning your time, energy and resources in the proper direction, you naturally create an environment in which even unplanned successes can take root and grow.
Embrace such surprises. You’ve just experienced a “Thoreau moment.” TPW