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“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin
All of us want something out of life. Whether it’s to write a book, start a company, raise a family, or just improve our golf game, there are always ideas that we have about who we want to be and what we want to be doing.
These ideas manifest themselves initially as images in our mind’s eye. They may be subtle and infrequent, or they may be detailed and frequent – something that we constantly think about and obsess over.
Regardless of the strength of our desire for any individual goal, we always need a personal development plan to achieve it.
A development plan that spans our entire life is important for a number of reasons:
- It helps to develop and define our goals
- It allows us to prioritize the steps to achieve our goals
- It can save us thousands of hours over the long-run
- It streamlines our decision-making process
- It keeps us motivated and on track
So today we’re going to help you create a personal development plan.
Here’s a 5-step personal development plan to help you succeed in life.
This plan is useful to approach from both a micro and macro level. You can go through all five steps in one day, while also making a more broad attempt to improve your life in each area sequentially.
1. Optimize your energy
A lot of the time when people talk about creating a life plan, they start with goal-setting. We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now, we need to work on something that’s even more fundamental; cultivating energy.
You can immediately optimize your energy by starting the day with a clean, healthy meal, and spending the next 24 hours drinking lots of water and getting a decent amount of sleep. Your sleep quality will be dramatically improved if you stay away from technology for at least two to three hours before you go to bed tonight.
In the long-term, you may want to make changes to your diet and lifestyle. Regular exercise is a must, as is consuming the right foods if you want to make sure you have the vitality to give your personal development plan 100% of your attention and effort.
Everyone has their own genetic makeup, so the foods that are most appropriate for individuals will vary, it’s nevertheless useful that you cut out excessive carbs, as well as processed foods high in sugars and saturated fats. You might even want to try your hand at intermittent-fasting, which allows your digestive tract ample time to rest and digest.
2. Know what you truly want
Once you’ve made sure that you have a decent level of energy, it’s time to establish purpose and direction by figuring out what you truly want. No plan can begin without goals and aims, so it’s important that you repeatedly consider not only what you want, but that you continue to clarify that by asking ‘why‘ you want it.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but it’s good advice so I’m going to say it again, just in case. You need to set SMART goals.
These are goals that are:
- Attainable, and
Start by asking yourself what you want from life in the following four areas. You can add to these areas or modify them any which way you would like, simply use them as a starting point.
- Career. We don’t need to be incredibly passionate about our jobs, but we do need to make sure we are continually growing. Setting SMART work-based goals can help us enjoy the day-to-day grind and also inform us of when it’s time to move on.
- Health. These goals pertain to your physical and mental health. Mental health goals can simply be to keep track of your emotional wellbeing and to work to improve it slightly every year through activities such as meditation, journaling or yoga. Physical health goals may include improving diet, playing regular team sports or running a race for charity.
- Wealth. Not all of us need to make it our number one priority to be millionaires, however, this doesn’t mean we should neglect our financial goals. Money is important as a tool to help facilitate your other goals.
- Spirituality. You don’t need to be religious to set spiritual goals. Spirituality is the relationship we maintain with anything greater than ourselves, and we can find that in anything from art to nature or simply our family.
Once you know what you want in each area of your life, sit down and think hard about how you’re going to get it. Break down each SMART goal into even smaller steps, with appropriate timelines and a contingency plan in place so you know what to do if things don’t go 100% according to plan.
3. Create structure
A structure is quite simply how you’re going to distribute your energy throughout the day. By knowing what you want and determining the action steps ahead of you, you should have a list of dozens of tasks that need to be completed over the short, medium, and long-term.
Creating a structure is important because it allows us to save energy that we would otherwise spend on the decision-making process. As human beings we’re incredibly ritualistic, so by knowing what we need to do every day and habitualizating the behavior, we are able to gather momentum that makes it much easy to carry out seemingly difficult tasks.
If we want to succeed in life, structure is one of, if not the most important piece of the puzzle. People who are high achievers in all areas of life have a structure that they follow for years. It doesn’t mean that they are not adaptive, but it does mean that they make changes only when necessary, and they rely on following and tweaking a process over time until it is perfected.
Structure is also important because our bodies run on circadian rhythms, so the maintenance of energy levels is largely governed by us getting up, going to bed and exerting energy at the same time every day. So if you want balance and momentum in your life, it’s important that you don’t take irregular afternoon naps!
4. Identify the meaning in every step
To some people, this step may come across as a little redundant.
I already know why I’m doing what I’m doing, so why re-identify the meaning in every step!?
You may believe you’re remembering why you’re following through with your SMART goals every day, but it’s very easy to forget what’s truly motivating you. Everything from sickness, to a disruption in our schedule, to simply being busy or tired and get in the way of our momentum.
Identifying the meaning in every step means to remind yourself how your ‘why’ connects to each action. You can do this by journal reflections, visualization techniques or mantras, but make sure you’re always drawing it because to your bigger goals and why you want them.
5. Reward yourself
This may seem counterintuitive to the previous point, but if you want to achieve your personal development plan, you need to see immediate as well as longer-term rewards.
The most basic way to do this is to keep a physical do to list and cross things off the list with a pen. When we complete tasks, our brain rewards us with dopamine, and we’re further motivated to complete tasks. Our brains are problem-solving machines, and completing tasks is like solving small pieces of the puzzle that is our life.
Obviously, the bigger and harder the task you complete, the greater should be the reward you offer yourself. However, there are two things to keep in mind with regards to giving yourself rewards.
Firstly, you want to make sure that they’re creative and that you are constantly changing them, even if only slightly. This prevents them from becomes stale and losing value.
Secondly, the rewards must be conducive to the overall goals. For example, if you are trying to get healthy, don’t reward yourself with chocolate, if you’re trying to save money, don’t reward yourself by excessive spending. Find something appropriate and motivating that adds fuel to the fire!
In conclusion, you can create immense positive change in your life with the help of a personal development plan. Follow the steps and you’ll see a huge difference in the meaning and momentum that is driving your day to day existence. Optimize your energy, figure out what you want and determine the path to get there, create a structure to follow and find meaning and rewards along the way. Good luck!