Do long-term goals that represent major changes intimidate you and leave you overwhelmed at where to begin? For some people, it’s like making a decision to get off the couch one day and being expected to run a 10km race the next. Better to stay on the couch where you can avoid the high probability of failure and more feelings of not measuring up.
The keys to achieving real change when broken down are much more manageable and most people are able to progress through change if guided and provided with tangible results that show movement in the right direction.
One of the first things required for change is ownership. If you yourself want changes in your life, that personal motivation to change originating from your own point of view will help sustain you when the time get tough. You’ll be able to look back at those times and remind yourself why you wanted change in the first place. On the other hand, if you are trying to initiate changes in your own life because other people think you should change, you are less likely to stay committed to change when you face challenges.
So if you want to change your unemployment status, or you want a better job; more security, higher income etc. drive the change from within and you’ve a much higher chance of sticking to change later on when you’ll be tempted to revert to your old routines and habits.
The second thing to realize is that the very nature of change is that things can’t remain the same. This is the very essence of change. In order for change to occur, previous actions need to be altered. If losing weight is a goal, your food intake needs a reduction, your activity level needs an increase. If employment is a goal, your daily rituals need adjusting, more priority time devoted to job search activities will have to replace your relaxation time, television or internet social time as examples.
Planning before you act has to occur; unless of course you deem planning as an action itself – and I’m okay with that! In other words, you just can’t say, “I want a job” and then poof it happens. Wanting a job is good, but planning on how to achieve it makes achieving it in the future much more likely. This stage is essential in order to assure yourself that the time and energy, the activities in which you engage; they are all focused and work toward the common goal of gaining employment.
Now planning is best done backwards. In other words, see yourself in the job you want. What does that look like to you? Got an image of yourself at the desk in the company you want to work with or on the assembly line, or at the summer camp you are employed with? Great. Now ask yourself what was happening just before that picture? Was it a phone call welcoming you to the team or a letter you got, possibly an email? Before the job offer, was it an interview or the 3rd interview you passed? Before that was it the research you were doing on the company, the position, the people who worked there you wanted to join? And before the research was it the resume and cover letter you penned that started the formal application process? Maybe even before the resume and cover letter your 3 years of school were required, the initial research into the field in general and an application for financial assistance with your school registration?
You see planning backwards keeps happening until you end up at today. Then when you look at the steps you’ve written down, you look at it from today moving forward and voila, you’ve got a workable plan that if followed will put you in the position you want. Of course I’m simplifying it, and you’d be wise to have others look at your plan who have the skills and knowledge to tell if you are missing anything significant.
Now your plan might have 9 or 10 steps; some of those steps (like school) taking 3 year’s to complete. Other steps (like registering for school) might take an hour. Don’t be discouraged at the length of your plan. Some people find out in their 50’s about planning for the first time and wish they’d had the foresight to plan when they were back in their 20’s.
Having a plan is great of course but the most important step is putting the plan into action. The beautiful thing about plans is that they provide a blueprint of getting to where you want to be from your starting place of where you are today, but be open to modifying your plan and re-evaluating it along the way. This doesn’t mean the plan loses its value or purpose, just that the plan is not set in stone and you can adjust it to suit your emerging and changing interests as you gather more information.
Without any plan, you may question your direction, your purpose in life, and what you ‘should’ be doing instead wherever you find yourself. You may feel aimless, lacking direction and focus, and planning can eliminate that. Always remind yourself that planning is just that – making a plan. Those who have one are not always happier, but they do know where they are going!
Change? Plan your plan then act on it!